Which banned book would you give your younger self?


If I could go back and give my younger self a book, it would be Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane. [Of course it wasn’t yet written when I was “young.”] I read this book right after Peace Corps. It would have been good to read this as a teenager to show just how that fabled other half lives.

Not many kids in suburban America in the 1970s knew about South Africa. Fewer still knew that in the late 20th century there were mothers who stood in line at the abattoir for a bucket of blood to boil to feed her starving children. That, had a big impact on me even AFTER living in Southern Africa. I cannot imagine how it would have rocked my world a decade earlier.

We would have understood the separation of the races known as Apartheid. The 1970s saw even more racial problems with court-ordered busing, so we would have at least had a little inkling of that. But eating boiled blood? No one would have known of that.

Sadly, this is one of the reason this book is challenged. Too graphic. That old “not appropriate for age group” label. What age group is it appropriate for? Little children are living that life still today. High School kids need lessons like this.

I’d also give myself his sequel, Kaffir Boy in America. Passing up a scholarship to Princeton because he lacked the sophistication to determine why one college was better than another was only the start of his problems. Sadly, the problems he experienced in this book are also still happening.

Which banned book would you give your younger self?


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