Study Guide

Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy Summary

Mark Mathabane is born into a poverty-stricken black family in South Africa during the apartheid years. Throughout his childhood, Mark suffers hunger, witnesses violence, and learns to hate and fear whites.

At his mother's insistence, he starts school and promises to stay there. Though he hates it at first, he grows to love learning; it opens another world for him. He is obviously an intelligent young man and quickly rises to the top of the class, despite the fact that the school metes out frequent punishments to Mark because his family is often late paying school fees and can't afford the uniforms and books. When Mark graduates from primary school at the top of the class, he earns a scholarship to pay for secondary school, enabling him to continue his education.

When Mark's grandmother starts working as a gardener for a kind white family, it opens two important doors for Mark: books and tennis. The Smiths send comic books and classics like Treasure Island home with Granny for her grandson. Mark's voracious reading teaches him English. With the tennis racket that the Smiths send, Mark starts hitting a ball around at tennis courts in Alexandra. Soon enough he becomes friends with a black tennis player who starts to train him.

Mark joins the high school tennis team and one of the players introduces him to Wilfred Horn, the owner of the exclusive Tennis Ranch. Mark starts playing tennis at the club and Horn becomes his unofficial sponsor, paying for Mark's entrance fees in tournaments. The Tennis Ranch is dominated by Germans and other European expatriates, rather than white South Africans. It is technically illegal for Mark to be playing there, but everybody ignores the rule. The opportunity gives Mark the chance to become comfortable in the world of whites, to recognize his own fundamental equality with them, and to even confront some of the stereotypes circulating about blacks in white society.

The renowned tennis player Stan Smith takes Mark under his wing when the two meet at tennis courts. (Stan was in the country playing at a tournament.) Stan pays for Mark to participate in the South African Breweries' Open. Mark's decision to play is both personal and political. Because the apartheid government is under pressure to make changes in its policy towards blacks, it tries to make some cosmetic changes by "integrating" sports. Black tennis players decide to boycott the Open, saying they won't be part of efforts to make the apartheid system appear acceptable.

Mark doesn't want to be used by whites either, he wants to make an informed decision. He seeks the opinion of people he respects, and is ultimately advised to participate because it will open doors for him. The black tennis association bans Mark from playing in black tennis for life because he breaks the boycott, but it turns out to be one of the more important decisions Mark makes. Though Mark is censured by the black community for his decision, and though he is breaking the law by traveling to white sections of Johannesburg to play tennis with whites, Mark continues doing what he's doing. Part of the reason he continues is because he knows that earning a tennis scholarship to a college in the U.S. is his only ticket out of South Africa. Though he finds a lucrative job at a bank following graduation, he knows he wants to live in a land where he's free.

Stan Smith talks to his tennis coach at the University of Southern California, who writes to colleges around the U.S. on Mark's behalf. Mark earns a tennis scholarship to Limestone College in South Carolina and leaves for the U.S. in 1978.

  • Chapter 1

    • The chapter begins with the text of a sign posted at the entrance of Alexandra, the black ghetto where Mark Mathabane grew up.
    • The sign declares that any person who passes into the area without a permit may be prosecuted for breaking the Bantu (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act of 1946. It meant that whites weren't allowed to enter by law.
    • Mark points out that 90% of white South Africans never see how blacks live, yet will declare that his blacks in South Africa are better off than Africans living in independent nations to the north and the east.
    • In 1984, as Mathabane wrote his book, Bishop Desmond Tutu prevented the government from razing all of Alexandra, though half of it had already been destroyed.
    • Mathabane describes the segregated neighborhood. Indians lived on First Avenue—the upper crust of the ghetto. Second, Third, and Fourth Avenues were where people of mixed-race ("Coloreds") lived, the second tier in social classes. And Fifth through Twenty-Third Avenues were left for the blacks, who were as "poor as church mice" (1.8).
    • The Alexandra that Mathabane grew up in was an old neighborhood, where Africans had been living ever since gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand.
    • In those days, there were plenty of opportunities for work, and Africans bought land and settled there, adopting Western culture and religion.
    • By the 1950s, there were 100,000 blacks, Coloreds, and Indians in the area.
    • Mathabane's father was Venda and his mother Tsonga. They met and married in Alexandra.
    • Mathabane was born shortly before the Sharpeville massacre, when 69 unarmed protestors were murdered by the South African police during a peaceful demonstration against the pass laws.
    • Those Pass laws were the essence of life under apartheid.
  • Chapter 2

    • Early in the morning on a cold day in 1965, Mark, five years old, has a nightmare in which he sees the bodies of dead Africans, lying in pools of blood. He wakes up and is unable to go back to sleep.
    • His father wakes, and begins to get ready for work. He's angry that Mama had forgotten to fix him a lunch for work.
    • Mama takes the chamber pot and heads to the outhouse. She tells Mark to go back to sleep.
    • Suddenly, she returns, shouting at Mark to wake up.
    • He bangs his head on the table, then crawls through the darkness, wondering what's going on.
    • But then he hears the sirens and whispers, wondering where his mother has gone. She whispers that she's "over here" but she's hiding, and as Mark continues to wonder what's going on, she tells him that "Peri-Urban" are here.
    • The Peri-Urban, the police who enforce the pass laws. They come in the middle of the night to see if people are living illegally in the ghetto. Without a pass saying that you have a job, or have a few days yet to look for one, you are not supposed to be living there.
    • Mark begins to dress, but as the commotion from the raid continues, he wets his pants.
    • Mama tells him to take good care of his brother and sister, and then she asks where her pass book is.
    • Mark doesn't know where and she begins to panic, shaking him.
    • Outside, they hear the noise of the police and people running. Suddenly, Mark remembers that he had shown his mother's picture to his friends under the table. She retrieves it and turns to go to her hiding place. The police light shines into their living room.
    • George, Mark's little brother, starts to scream. Mama tells Mark to go get his little brother. But Mark is rooted to the spot, afraid of the police.
    • Mama sneaks out the door while George screams. Mark locks the door and blows out the candle, but then he remembers how last time, the police smashed down the door.
    • Mark decides he should barricade it this time. He yells at his brother to shut up, there's a white man (the bogeyman) outside. He tries to stick George's thumb in his mouth, but George bites his thumb. Mark spanks him and he continues to bawl.
    • His little sister Florah wakes up and also starts crying for Mama, finally wetting the bed.
    • Mark looks out the window during all the confusion and sees two black policemen coming out of a shack across the street.
    • The Peri-Urban point towards Mark's house. He hears them talking about how many people without passbooks live there.
    • Mark hears a thud, but it's not the police – it's George. He's fallen off the bed. The police hear his screams.
    • Then Florah starts to scream, and she bawls for Mark to come see all the blood.
    • Mark hears the police saying the parents probably left the children alone. If there's nobody there but children, it's pointless to go in. So they leave.
    • George has a deep gash on his forehead. The three of them wait until Mama returns from her hiding place – a nearby ditch.
  • Chapter 3

    • That day, everybody whispers the rumor that Peri-Urban will return that night.
    • Mama, scared, insists they should leave before daybreak, but Papa dismisses the rumor.
    • But the police do come that night, at midnight.
    • And they come straight to the Mathabane house, banging on the door and yelling. Even as Florah cries, Mark wets their bed (a mixture of cardboard, newspapers, and blankets.)
    • Mark makes it to the bedroom, where he hears his parents whispering frantically about how they are going to escape. They decide to hide and tell Mark to wait until they were hidden before he opened the door.
    • He opens the door and the police swarm in. One of them kicks Mark and he crashes into a crate in the back. He kicks Mark again and Mark hits the blunt end of an axe as he falls. He starts screaming, and wets himself again.
    • The police demand to know where his parents are, but he says he doesn't know. So the police go in search. After ransacking the kitchen, they head to the bedroom.
    • They break the door down and find Papa under the bed. They question him, asking where his wife is. Mark's father lies, saying she's at work. She's a kitchen girl, he insists, and sleeps with her employers.
    • They ask for his pass, which isn't in order. He hasn't paid his toll tax. And p. 15 says he's supposed to have a wife with him, not at the employer's house.
    • The police continue to berate him, shaming him in front of his children.
    • Mark, who has always feared his violent father, suddenly sees his weakness. Though he wants to cry, he fights back the tears – he doesn't want to cry in front of "these black beasts" (3.82). Even as he watches, he realizes that he is learning how to hate.
    • The policemen are looking for a bribe.
    • If Papa gives them money, they will overlook all the errors in the passbook. But Papa has no money, and so they handcuff him and take him away.
    • Mark follows, wondering where they're taking him. In the streets, he sees other men and women, handcuffed, many of them only half-dressed, being led away by the police.
    • Children stand outside, pleading with their parents not to go away. In one yard, he sees the police shoving an old man; in another, he watches as they kick an old woman.
    • Mark watches as a cop brings an old man, completely naked, out of the outhouse and into the street. The man pleads that they allow him to dress, but they just laugh. Another man runs over and offers the man his pants. The policeman allows him to pick them up and dress in the street.
    • After they leave, Mark listens as children talk about how their family members were picked up and carted away. Mark suddenly remembers his mother.
    • He runs home and begins looking for her. She's in the wardrobe, and it's locked.
    • Mark searches for the key and, after praying to the ancestors for help and trying to ignore his mother's yelling at him to find it, finally locates it in a crack on the floor. He lets Mama out.
    • His father did two months of hard labor on a white man's farm for not having his pass book in order.
  • Chapter 4

    • The area of Alexandra where Mark lived had been designated a "hot" spot. In other words, the police were intended to constantly raid it.
    • Like other children his age, Mark learned how to understand subtle cues to know if there was danger.
    • He learned how to lie convincingly. But he was terrified. Seeing the police made him forget everything he knew. Other children might run to warn their parents, calling out, "Police! Police!" but Mark couldn't do it.
    • Fortuitously, Mama seemed to know when the police were coming and would escape just in time. She claimed to have premonitions of coming danger, premonitions that Papa scoffed at.
    • Mark didn't understand why Papa and other men wouldn't run when the police approached, but one day he overheard some women mention that the men thought it was cowardly and unmanly to run. Instead, they would pay bribes to avoid arrest.
    • Those who were arrested several times would end up in a maximum-security prison, Modderbee, where they would turn into violent men.
    • At night, Mark would overhear Mama pray that Papa would never be sent to Modderbee.
    • Will prayers do anything to stop the police from sending him to Modderbee? Mark asks his Mama one night, and wonders why she keeps praying when she replies, probably not.
    • Despite the police presence, life in Alexandra ran along predictable rhythms.
    • On Mondays, adults would still be recovering from their weekend hangovers.
    • On Tuesdays, butchers would come by with their meat and women would sell roasted maize from their stalls.
    • On Wednesdays, a Chinese man would come by to pick up bets and announce winners for the numbers game known as fah-fee.
    • On Thursdays, the kitchen girls and boys would come to town on their day off.
    • On Fridays, black men and women would come home from their jobs with their wages and the tsotsis (gangsters) would lie in wait to rob them, sometimes murder them, for the pittance they were paid.
    • On weekends, folks would drink heavily, trying to forget their hard lives.
  • Chapter 5

    • After their shack collapses, the Mathabane family moves to another, even worse, shack.
    • Here, Mama weans George by smearing hot pepper on her breasts. The family celebrates with friends, killing and roasting a white chicken and brewing beer.
    • Papa begins to teach George traditional ways of life.
    • Papa, a Venda, believed strongly that one day the whites would disappear from South Africa and they would return to their old way of living. So even though the family lived a thoroughly modern life, he ruled them through tribal law, insisting that they follow the rituals.
    • Though Mark participated, it was because he feared his father. He didn't believe the rituals worked.
    • One day, he deliberately broke one of the laws – he spoke while eating. Papa whips him viciously.
    • The next day, Mark tells Mama that he hates Papa and will kill him someday.
    • Mama tells him to shut up, and adds that he will grow up to be just like his father someday.
    • Mark declares that he won't be like his dad. He insists that Papa should stop doing his rituals, because they don't live with the tribes in the rural areas.
    • Mama tells him to have patience. Someday, he will understand the importance of his heritage and of keeping the rituals alive.
    • But Mark continues to hate it. Outside of the home, Mark begins to speak more than just Venda –he speaks Zulu, Sotho, and Tsonga. But then Papa hears about it. After telling Mark he should only speak Venda, he beats him again.
  • Chapter 6

    • Papa is laid off temporarily and told he'll be recalled.
    • But a few weeks later, when Papa hasn't been recalled, he realizes he needs to look for a new job.
    • So he heads into the city to get permission from the Bantu Affairs Department.
    • On the way, he's arrested, for being unemployed. The crime of unemployment was one of the worst that a black man could commit.
    • Though Mark had hated his father, now he missed him, and especially missed his paycheck, as they begin to go hungry.
    • Mark and Mama discuss how his father struggles to keep his pass book in order, but it's impossible. The passbook is important: it is "the black man's passport to existence" (6.18).
    • Mark still doesn't understand, and wonders why he doesn't have a pass book. Mama tells him that he'll get one when he turns sixteen.
    • Mama cannot get a permit to look for work, so the family exists on one meal each day. They slowly start to starve. Mark begins to faint regularly. Mark wants to know why they don't borrow money from the neighbors, and Mama begins to laugh. None of their neighbors has a penny to spare.
    • Finally, the landlord comes around to evict them, since they can't pay the rent. Mama begs for some time, and he gives them until the end of the month. Then they have to pay the three months' rent they owe him.
    • One day while she's out looking for money, two Zulu warriors come to the house and strip it of everything of value – the wardrobe, chairs, and table. They claim that Papa owes them money.
    • A few weeks later, Florah and George become very sick – their stomachs so swollen, it looks like they'll burst.
    • They're starving to death. When they do get some food, they throw it back up.
    • The family can't afford to celebrate Christmas that year.
    • Usually, families would go to the Indian shops on First Avenue and buy new clothes for the children.
    • They would slaughter chickens or goats and hold feasts. This year, with no money, Mama locks them inside their small shack.
    • She goes into the township and begs for food from people, hoping to get enough to help keep them all alive.
    • When Florah cries because she can see her friends dressed in their beautiful new clothes through the window, Mark consoles her, saying that next year will be better.
    • Mark begins to get suspicious of his mother. He notices that her stomach is getting bigger and bigger, even while he and his siblings go hungry.
    • Is she eating food and starving them? He begins to watch her carefully, waiting to see when she eats in secret.
    • Finally, he asks why she has gained weight. Has she been eating too much? No, she says, but her stomach will go away when she brings a baby back from the clinic.
    • Mark wonders why she wants another mouth to feed when they don't have enough already.
  • Chapter 7

    • Just as the family is about to be evicted, Mama's mother shows up.
    • Granny has enough money to pay the rent and buy groceries. She also gives Mama money to take George and Florah to the clinic, where they are diagnosed with advanced malnutrition and chicken pox.
    • Mark suggests that they move in with Granny, but Mama explains that Granny is already overburdened with her other children. Anyway, Papa's relatives will never allow it. Why not? Mark asks. After all, they're not helping us at all.
    • Granny's money runs out. Mama goes to talk to a store-owner, who had provided Papa with credit in the past.
    • He says he cannot give her credit, since there is no man in the house to settle the account on Fridays, but he offers to pay their rent in exchange for cleaning and doing the laundry.
    • With the rent question settled, they still have to figure out food, and Mama turns to the garbage dump for an answer.
    • She's not happy that they have to do that, but it's necessary. They leave home early in the morning and searched for food after the dump trucks arrive.
    • The dumps provided them with more than food; they are also able to obtain furniture, plates, and utensils.
    • Mark finds it curious and puzzling that white people would throw away perfectly good furniture, something that blacks can't afford to buy used.
    • One day, while scavenging for food at the dumps, Mathabane finds something soft and thinks he's found some food. It turns out to be a black baby, dead.
    • Everybody is terrified and nobody wants to unwrap the rest of the package to find out if it's a girl or a boy.
    • An old woman comes forward and says this happens all the time. With tears in her eyes, she unwraps the rest of the package. It's a girl.
    • The women start to cry, and some of the men and women argue about what to do with the body. The men think it's best to bury her secretly, but the women argue that she should receive a proper burial and they should notify the authorities.
    • At home, Mark asks his mother to explain what happened.
    • Mama says that maids and nannies aren't allowed to have babies, and they're afraid of losing their jobs if their baby is discovered. They smother the baby and dump it in the garbage in order to keep working.
    • Mark wants to know if they will get arrested if caught.
    • Mama's response: "Police don't arrest black people for killing black people" (7.80).
    • They stop going to that garbage dump, and start going to another one, where a chicken factory would dump its rejected eggs and dead chickens. But 99% of the eggs had embryos in them and were useless.
    • Many months later, after Mark's youngest sister Maria was born, Papa returns. But he is bitter, violent, and angry. He had spent the time in jail, then doing hard labor on white farms and on chain gangs. He wanted nothing but revenge.
    • The day that he had appeared in court, Papa had thrown his pass away so she could plead a lost pass rather than unemployment, a lesser crime.
    • But now he needs to get a new pass before he can find a job.
    • The authorities kept telling him to get this paper or that document, and each day, he returned without a pass.
    • Finally, he got one, but for months, nobody would give him work because of his arrest record. So the family continued to starve.
    • One day, Mark is so hungry, he starts to feel dizzy and then to hallucinate. Everyday objects became monsters, which then burst into flame. He screamed that the house was on fire, and Mama hits him to calm him down. Finally she pours water all over him and his head stops spinning. She tells him stories until he falls asleep.
    • The next morning, he tells Mama his dream. He dreamt that he was marooned on an island, and came across some white men who worshipped him as if he was God. They took him to a hut overflowing with food, and told him to eat everything. Greedy, he ate until he burst open, though he didn't die.
    • Mama interprets the dream. Someday, she says, you will find yourself in a place a long ways from here. Strangers will take you in, she says. They will feed you and clothe you and give you what you want.
  • Chapter 8

    • Mark falls into a gang of small boys who wander the streets of Alexandra looking for food. Some days, they collected empty beer bottles and lost bus tickets, which brings in enough money so that they can go to the movies.
    • The movies enabled Mark to see beyond the police into another aspect of white culture. He was terrified by police in South Africa, and the murders, beatings, and shootings in the movies underscored the terror he felt about whites and their world.
    • The first time he went to the movies, he was three or four.
    • The darkness scared him, the man who kept order at the theatres scared him, and his first glimpse of the movie – a truck heading towards him – scared him so badly, he jumped out of his seat and started screaming.
    • The usher came by and hit him on the head with the flashlight, ordering him to be silent.
  • Chapter 9

    • One day, Mark sees some men pitching a tent for a revival. He's terrified by the two white men accompanying the tent, and runs home to tell Mama that the white man is there.
    • Mama is relieved to see that it's a group of evangelists and she explains that they teach a new religion, Christianity.
    • Mark wants to visit the meeting, and Mama says that she'll ask Papa to take them all.
    • Mark leaves to watch what's going on. He wonders if Papa will let them come, but then he remembers overhearing his mother telling Papa that their sacrifices to tribal gods hadn't helped them and maybe it was time to try something new.
    • That night, Mama manipulates Papa into letting them go the following night.
    • The tent is crowded with people. The evangelists are dressed in white robes, and wear big gold crosses, holding hands and swaying side to side. The white men aren't there and Mama explains that they're not allowed in the townships at night.
    • The service is full of pomp and ceremony, and provokes a conflict between the Christians and the people in the audience who want to remain loyal to traditional religion. The black evangelist argues for the necessity of Christ to lead Africans. He squashes dissent from the audience by telling those who speak up that they're ignorant. He claims that those who adhere to the tribal religions will burn in hell.
    • Mark is tense and excited, waiting for the anger and shock in the audience to erupt into a fight. Papa is one of the angry men.
    • The evangelist continues to denounce traditional beliefs and ancestor worship.
    • Finally, Papa and some of the other men start screaming at him, calling him a liar and a traitor.
    • Papa grabs Mama and the kids and makes them leave.
    • On the way home, Mama protests, saying there is more to Christianity than what they heard and she wishes they had stayed.
    • Despite their fight, Mama takes the children back to the tent the next day while Papa is at work.
    • Then Mark and Mama discuss Christianity when they get back. He's particularly curious about the portraits of God and heaven, and hell and the Devil that he'd seen in classmates' homes.
    • Mark had always felt that the pictures portrayed the Devil and hell as associated with black people, and felt a corresponding dislike for the ideas.
    • Mark argued that Christianity was just a religion for white people, while Mama argued that there was something to the religion.
    • Papa walks in at that moment and starts screaming that if Mama ever teaches his son that kind of nonsense again, he'll cut out her tongue. He forbids Mark from playing with Christian kids.
    • Mark began to believe that what Papa said was true. He believed the men and women who converted to Christianity were fools.
  • Chapter 10

    • In 1967, prices for everything – rent, bus fare, food – went up.
    • The family began to gather locusts for food. Mama would fry them and serve them with pap (a thick porridge made with maize.)
    • They also bought black worms, sold cheap by a woman in one of the local stalls, and collected local weeds that grew near the lavatories.
    • When Mark protested that they were eating food that grew on urine and feces, Mama said that potatoes also flourished in soil laced with manure. But Mark refused to believe it.
    • They also bought blood from Mr. Green, who ran the local slaughterhouse. Mama would cook it into a thick brown sludge, which they ate as soup.
    • One day while watching his siblings so Mama can find a job, Mark starts throwing rocks at dogs that were trying to eat a dead cat. He hurls insults at the garbage collectors as they came past. One of them throws something at Mark, which misses him and hits Maria instead.
    • He takes a nap and wakes up to find Maria painting herself with her own poop. He takes her to the communal water tap to wash her. As they leave, an old man comes by to take a drink directly from the tap. He mentions how funny it smells, but the water tastes good.
    • One day, Florah asks Mama why she's looking for a job, and Mama replies that they need to eat and Papa doesn't make enough money.
    • Mark persists, insisting that Papa should buy them more food, that he should borrow more money if he has to so that they can eat every day. He keeps repeating, "We are his children, aren't we?"
    • Mama gets angry and asks who told Mark that they weren't his children.
    • Mark repeats that he's heard Papa say that when he's angry with her. Mama smacks him across the head.
    • Then Mama starts crying and admits that, in addition to food, they will soon need baby diapers. Mark cries with her and asks why she doesn't stop having babies.
    • Then Mark tells her they shouldn't have had him because he's not happy.
    • Mama tells him things will get better.
    • But life didn't get better.
    • Hunger continually stalked him, and make him angry and selfish.
    • In Mark's neighborhood, there was a single-sex hostel for migrant workers.
    • One day, when he's especially hungry, one of the boys in the neighborhood, Mpandhlani, invites Mark to make some money and get some food. They go to the barracks but one of the boys comes out and says, "Not today."
    • Mark doesn't know what's up but he's determined to find out, especially if there's food involved.
    • As soon as he gets a chance, he escapes his babysitting duties and joins those boys. They go to the barracks and a man leads them inside. Mark gets scared and wants to leave but the men look scary, especially with their weapons, so he doesn't leave.
    • Inside, the men leads him to a room, where men are lounging on their bunk beds. The men tell them to get comfortable while they fix food. The boys get onto the beds and talk and giggle with the men. But Mark is uncomfortable. He stays apart from the beds.
    • When the food comes, he refuses to eat it. The rest of the boys stuff their faces. Then the men give the boys food, and tell Mark he'll get his money next time.
    • The men start to undress.
    • Mpandhlani yells at Mark to take his clothes off but Mark refuses. He then watches, astonished, as the boys get naked, line up, and bend over. The men have sex with the boys.
    • One of the men approaches Mark but he runs away. Though the man orders Mpandhlani to bring Mark back, Mark escapes.
    • He never tells anybody what happened. He knows that if he tells, the men will be deported back to the homelands, and the area will become a civil war.
    • But he doesn't realize that everybody in Alexandra knows exactly what is happening in the single-sex barracks, even the police.
    • Afterwards, he would run into Mpandhlani and the other boys and they would tell him he was a fool. Maybe, he thought, but at least I'm a fool with free will. He didn't realize then what he realized later: that only by playing the fool would he survive and escape that world.
  • Chapter 11

    • Although Mama and Papa disagreed about many things, they agreed on the power of witchcraft.
    • Both believed that their problems stemmed from a jealous neighbor who was using the power of witchcraft to prevent Mama from getting a job.
    • One day, they run into a police trap.
    • Mama's pass isn't in order, and she has no money to bribe the policeman, so they haul her away in the police van.
    • Papa borrows money from the neighbors and Mama is home the next day.
    • She's received a warning, though: the next time she's caught without a pass in order, she will be deported back to the tribal homelands. And they'll deport Papa, too.
    • So they begin living a life of hiding from the police.
    • Mama explains that they don't want to live that way, but their only other choice is for Mama to take the children and return to the homelands while Papa stays in the city and works.
    • In order to be together, they must live an illegal life, hiding from the police.
    • Mama visits witch doctors to try to get help but it doesn't work.
    • Then some missionaries with the Full Gospel Apostles of God come one day. When they assure Mama that God can help her find work, she says she will begin going to church.
    • But Papa forbids her. Mama says that she can be a Christian and still participate in Papa's religion.
    • Mark agrees with Papa, that the two religions can't live side by side.
    • But Mama begins to take the children to church and secretly has them baptized. Yet her beliefs in traditional religion continued, just as strong as ever.
    • Mark calls her Christianity a practical one.
  • Chapter 12

    • Every morning, Mama would take her rent receipts, their marriage license, and her passbooks, and would go seek a job at the superintendent's office.
    • But she never had any luck.
    • Demoralized, she would come home and face the many chores of a poor housewife – cooking, cleaning, and fixing the "rags" that the children wore.
    • Yet she still found time to share folklore from her people, the Tsonga, enthralling Mark, Florah, George, and Maria with her stories.
    • She was teaching them that "memory to us black folks is like a book that one can read over and over again for an entire lifetime" (12.7).
    • They would dance, sing, and listen to the stories.
    • Mark calls those stories a sort of library, a time when he learned the values and virtues that he needed to last him a lifetime.
  • Chapter 13

    • Because that winter is so cold and they have no electricity or indoor heating to keep them warm, Mama would keep a small coal-burning stove on in the house all day (called a brazier). She would take it outside at night.
    • One night, Mark woke up and felt like some invisible force was choking him. He couldn't breathe. He starts kicking, and kicks Florah, who falls off the bed, hits the brazier, and starts screaming that she's on fire.
    • Mama runs out of the bedroom and throws urine on Florah. (This was a typical way to treat burns because they couldn't afford medicine.)
    • Mark explains that he's choking, and Mama rushes him outside. She yells at Papa to help her get the children outside.
    • It turns out, she had forgotten to remove the brazier that night, and they were all dying of poison gas fumes.
  • Chapter 14

    • Maria falls ill and Mama decides to take her to the clinic, even though they have no money.
    • Left alone, Mark joins a group of boys taunting the "shit-men," the men who gather the feces and urine filled buckets in the outhouses.
    • That day, the "shit-men" are in no mood to be taunted, and they run after the boys. Mark is caught, and they take him to his house.
    • With no adults around, they can do what they like, and they force Mark to stand in a bucket of feces and urine. They threaten to make him eat some, but don't carry out the threat.
    • After they leave, Mark tries to clean himself as best he can, but there's insufficient water.
    • Mama returns home and chides him for making fun of the "shit men." They do unpleasant but necessary work, she tells him. And besides, they have no choice.
    • Mark decides never to make fun of anybody again.
  • Chapter 15

    • Because Papa is laid off from his job, he decides to go back to his tribal reserve (where the Venda lived) to see a traditional healer, who would lift the curse of witchcraft. Mark accompanies him.
    • They leave in a truck packed with goods from migrant workers sending things back to their wives and children in the reserves.
    • Mark finds the place too hot, and so dry nothing can grow there except near the lavatories. It's even more poverty-stricken than Alexandra, where he lives.
    • Mark learns that the Venda tribal reserve is soon to be granted independent status from the South African government. But Papa explains that there will still be a white man behind every tribal leader, dictating the terms of leadership.
    • Mark is shocked by the level of ignorance. The people who lived there had never been to the city and didn't know what it was like. Mark feels superior to them, and is even ashamed that he's related to them through his father.
    • Papa tells Mark he thinks it would be good for him to grow up there like a true Venda boy.
    • Mark starts to worry that his father intends to leave him behind.
    • They go to visit a "witch doctor." Mark is terrified of the place, and wonders if the witch doctor is a cannibal.
    • Papa asks for medicine to keep his job safe, to make their house invisible to the police during raids, and other things.
    • The diviner tells them that Papa's troubles are caused by one source. According to the diviner, Papa lost touch with his ancestors, and they were mad. He should sacrifice a white chicken twice a year and everything would be OK.
    • Papa is happy when they leave, but he frightens Mark once again by asking what Mark thinks about staying there and letting the witch doctor raise him.
    • Mark says he would run all the way home to Johannesburg, that he would rather die than live there.
    • Papa laughs.
    • On the day they leave, Mark asks a thirteen-year-old boy he meets where all the men are. The place is filled with women and children, but no men.
    • The boy replies that they go to the cities to work. They send money back to their families – it's the only way they can survive there in the tribal reserves. There is no work there.
    • The boy explains that some men come back at Christmas but others don't. His own father hasn't been back in seven years.
    • But his mother goes to visit his father twice a year and every time, she comes back and, soon after, she has another baby.
  • Chapter 16

    • On the day that Mark and Papa return, Mama gives birth to a baby girl, Merriam.
    • Mark, Papa, and George stay with a neighbor for two weeks during Mama's seclusion period. (The seclusion period is the time when it is forbidden for her to be near males.)
    • Money becomes even tighter with the new baby. They can't afford diapers and must use rags instead. They family does not celebrate Christmas that year.
    • Six months later, the authorities announce that Alexandra is going to be demolished. It is a "black spot" and the state wants to create it into a place where whites can live. Those with permits would be relocated to Soweto.
    • Mark's family doesn't have a permit, nor do they have a home in the tribal reserves. Besides, Mama comes from a different tribal reserve, and they can't return to the same reserves. The whole family worries about what they will do and where they will go.
    • But then the authorities decide not to demolish Alexandra all at once.
    • This means that the family has time to look for a place to live that is not scheduled for demolition.
    • Eventually, they find a place on Thirteenth Avenue, and that's where they move.
    • One day, walking along the street, Mark comes across a magazine. He sees pictures of beautiful big houses that are white people's houses. He takes the picture home and tells his mother that someday, he will have enough money to buy her a house like that.
    • That's when Mama tells him that it is illegal for blacks to own houses in South Africa.
    • Mark wants to know who makes such stupid laws?
    • White people, Mama replies.
    • Mark wants to know why they can't make their own laws, when they live in a different world than the whites, and Mama tells him he's too young to be talking about such things.
    • The place where they live is a rat-infested sewer. In fact, one day, Mark hears the health inspector saying just that: a sewer is better than where they live.
    • But for the kids that played there, it was a treasure-trove. They would dig in the mounds of dirt and find bones and play witch doctor. They would create small boats and race them in the moat of urine that surrounded the lavatories.
    • The shack they live in begins to fall apart.
    • Mark asks Mama why Papa doesn't fix the house, and Mama replies that it's not his house and the landlord doesn't want to fix it either. She gets mad at his persistent questions until she screams at him to be quiet.
    • Mark accepts the horrific conditions in which he grows up because he knows no other world. But things continue to get worse.
  • Chapter 17

    • Papa was arrested again, and hunger is Mark's constant companion.
    • Despite warnings from his mother not to beg for food, Mark continues to do so until Mama catches him and beats him.
    • Mark admits that he's not getting enough to eat at home. But Mama says that no matter how hungry he is, he shouldn't eat strangers' food because it could be poisoned.
    • Several of their neighbors were witches who liked to poison food and feed it to children. Two women from whom Mark had often received food were certainly witches, Mama continued.
    • Mark is scared out of his wits, admitting that he had just eaten food made by those two women the day before.
    • Mama says they'll just have to wait and see, since the witch doctor isn't available.
    • The next few hours are pure torture for Mark as he waits to see whether he lives or dies.
    • A month later, Mama says the poison must have been weak.
    • Mark wants to know if he can ever eat food made by other people, and Mama says he can eat food at the houses of some of his friends.
    • One day, a stranger gives Mark some food. He brings it home and Mama places it in a small bowl and leaves it near a rat hole.
    • The next morning, sure enough, there's a dead rat near the bowl, and the piece of meat pie is gone.
    • Mark always wondered how that rat died.
  • Chapter 18

    • The more frequent Papa's arrests become, the more Mark realizes what his life as a black man is going to be like.
    • He will have to carry a pass and it will never be in order – authorities will always be able to find something wrong with it. Mark begins to wonder if it's worth living life like this.
    • Because families from the reserves keep flooding the area, Mark soon begins to play with boys who grew up in the rural area. Mark begins to believe their superstitions.
    • Since many adults agree with Mark that the strange things he sees are the work of witches, he begins to think everything unexplainable is witchcraft.
    • All of life becomes governed by these explanations. The noises Mark heard in the night were the witches riding their baboons. His sisters couldn't eat eggs until puberty because it might interfere with their ability to bear children someday.
    • Mark believes all the wild stories until he grows older, and starts asking for better explanations. He begins to realize that although his parents have more life experience than he does, he doesn't have to accept all their explanations as true.
    • Mark decides to start finding answers out for himself. If those answers agree with his parents' explanations, then so be it. If they don't, he'd know for himself.
    • But although he knew what he was doing, he knew better than to mention it to his parents.
    • He was seven years old.
  • Chapter 19

    • Mark is used to being woken up in the middle of the night due to police raids.
    • His mother wakes him up one night and teases him when he assumes the police are there. She's woken him up so they can go somewhere, but it's a surprise.
    • They leave without breakfast. Merriam is strapped to Mama's back, and she holds Maria and George's hands. Florah follows behind, and Mark behind Florah. Every so often, they would stop to rub their frozen feet and hands.
    • They arrive in Granny's yard. Granny runs out to greet them, crying, "Thank God you've come." They've taken one of her sons, Piet, away. Piet is only thirteen, not old enough to carry a pass. But because he was unusually tall, he was arrested for not carrying a pass.
    • A neighbor had seen the police frisk him and had seen Mark try to explain that he lived there, but the police wouldn't listen and loaded him into their truck. Granny ran outside and saw the police truck. But unfortunately, they were stopping and asking for passes, and Granny's pass was not in order.
    • Mama is surprised. She thought they had given Granny permission to live in Alexandra.
    • Granny explains that since her husband died, they told her she would have to get married again in order to stay there.
    • Mama asks if Granny has money to get Piet out. Unfortunately, Granny used her last money to pay the children's school fees and rent.
    • But they know they can't leave him in jail, or let the state send him to work on the potato farms, where conditions were inhumane.
    • Granny and Mama spend the day begging and borrowing money from friends and relatives. They pawn some of Granny's belongings.
    • Then they go to the jail to get Piet, but there was a law that no black person can be released or tried on weekends, so they come back without him.
    • The next day, Piet is released with a warning, although he's younger than the age required to get a pass.
    • Granny takes Piet to school the next day, and the Principal writes a note to be carried at all times. The note stated he was a full-time student and only thirteen years old.
    • From then on, when the police arrested him despite the note, the Principal personally had to call before they would release him.
  • Chapter 20

    • A few weeks after Piet gets out of jail, Mama takes Mark back on the trip she'd intended to take the day Piet was arrested. They head to the superintendent's office on First Avenue, where they apply for papers for Mark.
    • Mark gets cold while they wait in line, and approaches some men who are sitting around a fire. They tell him to scram.
    • When Mama hears that, she takes Mark by the hand and they go together to the men, where Mama asks if they'll allow her child to stand by the fire and warm himself.
    • The men apologize, saying they thought he was a street kid.
    • Mark admits he probably didn't look much different from the kids that lived on the street, with his ragged clothes, the sores and bruises on his body, and the lice in his hair.
    • As the men discuss the apartheid system, a convoy of trucks full of black men drove by.
    • Mark asks who the men in the trucks in the trucks are, and they tell him that those people aren't men, they're leeches from the tribal reserves coming to work in the mines.
    • As they continue to discuss it, it becomes clear that these men blame their problems – their inability to find work, or keep their passes in order, or feed their families – on the presence of these men fresh from the reserves.
    • They wait in line for seven hours and they still haven't seen the "baas" – the boss.
    • They're ushered into an empty room. A policeman tells them "the baas" will see them shortly.
    • They wait two hours. Finally, the policeman comes back and says that "the baas" has gone home for the day and they'll have to come back in the morning.
    • Mama tries to plead, but the policeman tells her she's wasting her time. They'll have to come back in the morning.
    • A month later, they head back again, and were waiting by 5am .Many of the same men and women that were waiting with them last time are back. This time, the men around the fire are absent. The truckloads of men come past again but in the other direction. The men are singing.
    • Mama explains that they're happy because it's Friday, which means payday.
    • Mark realizes that his father is never happy, not even on payday. He has become such a morose, sullen man, he doesn't even say goodnight to the children at bedtime.
    • Finally, Mama and Mark are ushered back into that small room by the same policeman from before.
    • Mark is terrified at the sight of the white man sitting behind the desk, a gun slung around his waist. It's the man that led a raid a few days earlier. Mark starts screaming.
    • Mama yells at him, asking what's the matter with him. Mama has to drag him outside and Mark explains that this is the man who led the raids.
    • Mama explains that Mark can't talk about that here. Mark will be shot you dead if he makes comments like that here.
    • They re-enter and the man tells her she has a "wild pickanniny" (20.71). Mama agrees, smiling, and the white man jokes that she should tell him that white folks don't bite.
    • They are there to get papers so Mark can go to school. The white man wants to know if Mark was born in Alexandra, but he doesn't believe Mama when she assures him that Mark was. He directs the black policeman to get Mama's file.
    • The man looks through her file and tells her that there is no record that Mark was born in Alexandra. Why don't they have his name in the files? Does she have papers from the health clinic to prove he was born here?
    • He wasn't born at the clinic, Mama admits.
    • The white man asks if he's bastard then. Does he have a father?
    • Mama cries as she says he was delivered at home.
    • It doesn't matter, the man says. After you delivered him, you should have gone to the clinic to register him.
    • But, Mama says, I went to the clinic and they refused to give me papers until I brought papers from here first.
    • But, the man says, we need the clinic papers first.
    • But, Mama insists, I went to the clinic first, and they sent me here.
    • The white man tells the black policeman to explain to Mama that she needs proof from the clinic before he can help her.
    • Mama says she's been to the clinic four times. They keep telling her they can't issue a certificate because Mark wasn't born there.
    • Mama asks for a note from the white baas, to show them at the clinic. They give her a note and says it explains exactly what they had explained to her.
    • They leave the office and go to the health clinic on the other end of Alexandra.
    • Mama decides to go on Monday, since it's getting dark, and darkness is when the gangsters come out.
    • Monday morning, they arrive at the clinic at 5am, but should have come earlier. Even though the clinic didn't open until 9:30, it was already packed with people.
    • They waited in one line, but it turned out to be the wrong line. They didn't find out, however, until they had waited for an hour or two.
    • The man at the clinic explained that the note didn't say what Mama had asked the man to say, only that she had a problem.
    • The note didn't explain what the problem was, or how to solve it. And of course, the black man attending Mama told her that she could not get a birth certificate until she brought the papers from the superintendent's office. He didn't believe her when she explained she had already been there. They removed Mama from the line.
    • They waited at the office for two hours. Finally, a white nun came by, and Mama stopped her.
    • Mama begged her to help. The white woman stopped and listened to Mama as she explained the story. The white woman was aghast, and finally stormed into the office. They overheard her in the office and finally the black man who had ordered Mama to be removed earlier gives her a piece of paper. They have the birth certificate.
    • Mama tells Mark to remember this as a lesson: not all white people are bad.
    • Mark grumbled, not realizing how important that piece of paper was to his future. Without a birth certificate, he would not have been allowed to enroll in school.
  • Chapter 21

    • Mark isn't impressed when Mama tells him he'll be going to school. He believed school was a waste of time, a lesson he learned from the gang of boys who lived in a junkyard and spent their days searching for food and stealing things for money. Where the boys were growing up, education wasn't valued, but figuring out how to fight and steal was.
    • Mama woke Mark up one morning at 4am. She orders Mark into the bath and starts scrubbing him with a hard brush. Granny arrives with Mark's aunt Bushy and asks if they're ready.
    • Mark wonders what's going on as he finishes his bath and dresses in the clothes Mama gives him.
    • The clothes are too big, but Mama says she'll make them fit. She folds the shirt and tucks it, smears Mark's face and body with Vaseline and pig's fat, telling him it will keep him warm.
    • Mark asks Granny where they're going, and Granny tells him she's taking him to school.
    • Mark tries to make a fast getaway but Aunt Bushy gets to the door first. Mark heads for the window, but Mama grabs him from behind.
    • Granny and Mama drag him to school. As they go, they encounter a woman who tells them that she wishes she had forced her son to go to school before he became a tsotsi (a gangster). Now he's dead – he was killed in a knife fight.
    • After she leaves, Mama screams, asking Mark if that's what he wants to happen to him. Mark is confused.
    • They arrive at school and the Principal notes that Mark is tied up. Mama admits he gave them a lot of trouble, and the Principal says they should untie him now. He won't try to escape with everyone there.
    • On the back of the door hang canes of various shapes and sizes, and the Principal tells Mark that if he behaves, he'll never be whipped.
    • Mama explains that it took her nearly a year to get the paperwork together. The Principal, Mama, and Granny discuss the fact that the birth certificate is as important to children as the pass is to adults.
    • Mama and Granny express their dissatisfaction with the system, but the Principal says it is merely the law and he has to follow it.
    • Then he learns that Papa is Venda and Mama is Shangaan, and there is a momentary hesitation. The Principal says that this is a school for Shangaan children, and unless Shangaan is their primary language, they're not allowed to go there.
    • But when Mama says that they only speak Venda when Papa is around, the Principal says it's fine. In fact, he tells them, there is no school for Vendas in Alexandra.
    • Mark is to return in two weeks, when classes begin.
    • As they leave, Mark reflects on the reasons he doesn't want to go to school. He doesn't want to lose his freedom, he had heard bad things about the beatings children receive at school, and he didn't want to lose his life in the gang with whom he was running around.
    • But hearing that woman's story about her dead son makes Mark reflect that maybe he should go.
    • That night, Mark returns home to find out that Papa has beaten Mama badly and chased out his siblings as well. Mama is at Granny's house. The neighbor warns him not to go home, but Mark goes anyway.
    • Papa tells him to go away and threatens to kill him if he comes inside.
    • Mark wants his things, so he keeps yelling at Papa, while Papa yells insults about Mark's "whore mother."
    • Mark threatens to kill Papa someday for what he's done to Mama. Then he runs to Granny's house.
    • There, he learns that Papa had beaten Mama for taking Mark to school. He said he didn't have money to waste on giving Mark a white man's education.
    • Mama admits she would like to leave Papa, but she can't because Granny had already spent the lobola money that Papa had given her in order to marry Mama. Unless they give the lobola money back, Mama can't leave him.
    • Mark asks Mama why it's so important to her that he go to school, and Mama tells him that she wants him to have a future. Papa didn't go to school, and as a result he drinks, and gambles, and neglects the family. An education, she says, will give Mark a decent job. The only way to get anywhere in the world was to play the white man's game, and the only way to do that is to get an education. It will help Mark become a good and decent and proud person
    • Mark wants to know how Mama knows all this, since she never went to school herself.
    • Mama says that she never went to school because her father didn't believe females should be educated. But she always wanted to go. She says that if Mark will promise to go to school, she will do everything in her power to keep him there.
    • Mark starts to cry and promises that he will go to school forever. He is 7 ½ years old, and he realizes that he has chosen his mother and her ideas about life over his father's ideas about life.
  • Chapter 22

    • Mark's first day of school is a nightmare. The schoolyard is stuffed with children who are terrified to be left behind by their parents. The teachers herd them into a courtyard, where they are so crowded, some children faint from the heat.
    • The Principal stands in front of the crowd and urges children to behave. Good behavior is the difference between this – he brandishes a cane – and that – he points to a smiling teacher.
    • The Principal goes through the rules and emphasize that they should have respect for him and the teachers, pay school fees on time, and never be late, etc.
    • Then groups break off into different areas. The 200-plus newcomers are packed into a church hall.
    • A young girl kicks and claws her way through the crowd. It turns out that she is their teacher.
    • She speaks in a soft voice and grows angry with the squirming crowd, which doesn't listen. Finally, she screams at the top of her lungs to sit down. Some of the fighting ceases, but still nobody listens as she introduces herself. She is Miss Mphephu, their teacher.
    • As she screamed, the children screamed and cried. Pandemonium reigned, and finally, she resorted to slapping and hitting the children near her. She grabs a long cane and starts to use it. Mark hides in a corner to escape her wrath. If he hadn't made a promise to his mother, he thinks, he would never come back here.
    • The Principal finally arrives and achieves order by reminding the teacher that not all the children are supposed to be there. They attend school in shifts. He uses the cane to poke and prod children in the 11am shift outside.
    • Mark is in the 8am shift, but he's glad to be sent outside. He returns at 11am, hungry and frustrated with the experience.
    • Miss Mphephu is still their teacher and she tries to teach them the alphabet, how to count in twenty, and how to sit and stand when she commands it.
    • At home, Mama tells him that no matter what, it's worth it to go.
  • Chapter 23

    • Mark's experiences in school don't become much better over time. Whippings are a daily experience, and Mark is frequently punished because he talks too much or his nails aren't clean or his school fees aren't paid on time. And he hates homework.
    • But there were reasons he stayed. For one thing, Miss Mphephu has a nervous breakdown and is replaced by an older woman who teaches with more gentleness. She seems fair when she metes out punishment. For another thing, he makes friends, and some have enough lunch money to share. Third, some Catholic sisters start a nutrition program, offering children low-cost lunches. Last but not least, he enjoys learning. It opens up a new world for him, one he wants to continue exploring.
    • One day in December, the Principal gathers all the schoolchildren to the courtyard to announce the last day of school. The kids break into a cheer. Then he calls on the teachers to announce the year-end results of examinations and everybody goes silent.
    • Mark's teacher goes first and she announces that Mark is number one in his class. They call him up to the podium and shower him with congratulations. His teacher gives him a white sealed envelope and tells him to give it to his parents.
    • Mama is overjoyed, and even Papa is impressed when he hears about Mark's achievements. He asks Mark how much it costs to go to school, and it turns out to be a tenth of Papa's annual wages. He turns to Mama and asks her why she started this nonsense that he can't afford to continue?
    • Mama says she didn't use his money to pay for Mark's school this last year and Papa gets suspicious, wanting to know where she did get the money.
    • The money came from Granny. Mama asks if he won't change his mind about it. If he stopped drinking, they could afford to pay the school fees.
    • Papa makes fun of the idea of education, but he gives Mark some money to pay for his schoolbooks. Mark thanks him but Papa says that he shouldn't get any ideas. Once Mark has learned how to read, he wants him to stop going.
    • Florah turns six and also starts school.
    • For Mark, school becomes a "nightmare" (23.56). He gets constantly whipped by teachers for his family's inability to pay school fees on time, or for lacking schoolbooks or a proper uniform.
    • One day, a teacher ridicules Mark for not having the primer or proper uniform. He is mystified, he says, how Mark can continue to come out number one in the class when he's not prepared like everybody else. He whips Mark in front of the entire class.
    • This happened week after week. Some teachers were more sympathetic, but Mark started to hate teachers.
    • Mark tells Mama he wants to quit. He says he'll go back when he has a uniform and books. Mama wants to know what he'll do if he leaves school and he says he'll get a job. But he realizes he's only nine, so he wants to know what he should do. Mama urges him to stay in school.
    • Soon after, Mama miraculously finds a job cleaning and tending babies for an Indian trader. She is six months pregnant but she took the job and now she has the money to pay for school.
    • But Papa stops giving Mama grocery money. He says she is working now and why should all his money go for their survival?
    • One day, Mama comes back with a box of books, wanting to know if Mark can use them. It turns out she's bought some used books in Chinese, French, Arabic, Hindu, German, and Afrikaans (a language derived from Dutch that's spoken in parts of South Africa).
    • Mark explains that just because they're books doesn't mean they can use them at the school.
    • Mama still doesn't believe them so she takes the books to Mr. Brown, one of their neighbors with a high school education.
    • Mr. Brown tells her they're worthless.
    • Mama insists that the people at the market told her they were schoolbooks.
    • Mr. Brown says they are schoolbooks, but only for white people and Indians.
    • Mama feels terrible, but Mr. Brown strikes a deal with her. He says he'll buy Mark a few primers if she'll give him those books.
    • Mama wants to know what Mr. Brown will do with the books.
    • They'll look beautiful on my shelves, Mr. Brown says.
    • Mama gives him the books and a week later, Mark has two primers.
  • Chapter 24

    • Education still confuses Mark. He wonders what he's being educated for, especially when he hears Africans say that the white people are only educating blacks to be their slaves.
    • Papa tells Mark that a man who can't read but can feed his family is a million times better than a man who can read but can't feed his family. He continues making similar statements each week.
    • Three years after starting school, Mark starts to get bored with it. And he couldn't find people in his life who had benefited from education.
    • One day, he hears a commotion in the streets. People are chanting "ALI ALI ALI" downstairs, celebrating Ali Muhammad's historic victory against a white boxer, Schmeling.
    • People chanted Ali's name throughout the following week, everywhere Mark goes.
    • Mark begins to dream of being a boxer. But when he goes to the local boxing club, he soon gives up the dream. The gym owner puts Mark in the ring, and urges somebody to step up and fight him. Mark protests that he's not a boxer and the man tells him not to be a sissy.
    • Mark's opponent is large and muscular.
    • The gym owner tells Mark he's Ali and the other boy will be Schmeling. He then tells the two boys to shake hands and Mark catches the other boy on the jaw.
    • The man stops them and tells Mark that you don't start hitting on the command to shake hands. But then he tells them to continue boxing and Mark is hit so hard, he crashes into the wall of people standing behind him. They push him back and Mark continues trying to hit his opponent, but missing. The crowd chants, "KILL HIM."
    • As the opponent starts beating Mark up, Mark pleads for him to stop, and the gym owner tells him to pretend he didn't hear.
    • The opponent keeps hitting him until Mark is knocked out.
    • When he comes to, the gym owner asks him if he'll come back tomorrow. He says Mark has potential.
    • "To hell with Ali," Mark tells himself as he leaves (24.68).
  • Chapter 25

    • One day in 1968, Mark starts hearing people talking about a black man in America that was killed.
    • Mark doesn't know what people are making such a fuss about – he knows a lot of black men who were killed.
    • He reads the newspaper headlines and goes home to ask who this "King" is that was killed. Was he a King? What did it mean that he was fighting for equal rights?
    • Mama says that equal rights would give blacks the same opportunities as whites. She explains that whites in South Africa have taken away all the rights of black people.
    • Mark wonders why white people are behind everything he wants to know about. Why were they so hateful towards blacks? He wonders if anybody has started a war against the whites, if they've fought to try to get their rights back from whites.
    • So Mama tells him the story of the Sharpeville Massacre, when blacks did try to fight for their rights and the South African police opened fire, killing sixty-nine peaceful protestors.
    • Mark wants to know if anyone has done anything since.
    • Mama explains that everybody is too afraid to do anything.
    • Mark proclaims a promise, that when he grows up, he'll fight for his rights.
  • Chapter 26

    • Mark is so sick of being beaten for not having schoolbooks that he starts playing hooky.
    • He knows that if he stays away for a month, the teachers will expel him. So for three weeks, he starts hanging out with a group of boys, stealing beer and whisky bottles, which they would sell to shebeen owners. Then they would go to the movies.
    • Mama asks him why he keeps arriving home so late and he lies, saying he has to stay for choir practice.
    • But Mama was checking up on him and discovered that he wasn't doing new work.
    • She went to the school and talked with the Principal, then followed Mark to see where he was going. She told the Principal where he was going.
    • Two days later, while he's hanging out at the junkyard with his gang, he sees a group of schoolboys heading his way. He hears Mandleve, the truant officer, says he's come to take him back to school.
    • Mark even threatens Mandleve with a crowbar, trying not to go back, but there are too many of them. He says he'll go back to school tomorrow if they leave him alone, but he's lying.
    • Mandleve finally grabs him. He and the boys bind Mark with rope, and then carry him back to school.
    • The Principal and male teachers are waiting for him. Mama is also there and she tells them to "whip him good" (26.31).
    • The beating is "savage" (26.31) and Mark faints. He spends a week in bed, recovering.
    • He almost never cuts school again. Even when he's sick, he goes to school, and the teachers have to send him home.
  • Chapter 27

    • Mark turns ten without any fanfare. Ten years is a long time to endure the suffering he has endured, and he feels much older than ten.
    • One night when he's almost eleven, he witnesses a murder. He was returning home in the late afternoon when he saw six tsotsis chasing two men. He runs and hides in a patch of grass and watches the scene unfold.
    • The tsotsis close the distance on the men. One of them tries to enter a yard, hoping the people who lived there would help them, but they close their doors.
    • The man begs the tsotsis not to kill him but they tell him to shut up. Mark peers through and sees their knives, meat cleavers, and tomahawks, then watches as they gut the man up while he screams and begs them not to kill him.
    • The man breaks free and runs away, but he's clearly dying.
    • The tsotsis catch up with him and finish him off, then strip the body of every valuable thing.
    • Mark says still for a long time, until finally he runs home and faints as soon as he gets inside.
    • Mama throws water on him to revive him. He tries to explain to her what happened but can't say anything intelligible, so he sleeps.
    • The next morning, he tells her what he saw, and she wonders what he was doing out so late anyway.
    • He explains he was playing soccer, and she tries to get him to stop playing soccer, to read instead.
    • Mark has no books to read, he says, and she tells him to borrow books from friends.
    • Later that day, Mark revisits the murder scene. Though the body is gone, there's still blood on the ground.
    • For weeks, Mark lives with the fear and nightmares, and gradually loses his desire for life.
    • Mama and Papa take him to a witch doctor to seek a cure but it does nothing.
    • Mark becomes a loner. He suffers from insomnia and his grades go down. He feels despair, but he still hopes that life will hold out something better for him in the future, when he's older.
  • Chapter 28

    • Mark begins to feel suicidal.
    • He had held on for years, encouraged by his mother's continual reminders to keep fighting. But now, it feels worthless.
    • He plays with a switchblade knife, wondering exactly how he should kill himself.
    • He thinks about the movies he had watched, and remembers the theme of "dying with honor" that pervades so many of them. "Dying with honor," when connected to suicide, usually involved plunging a long, thin sword into the heart or guts.
    • But he still has doubts, even as he contemplates how he will kill himself.
    • Mama joins him. He tries to hide the knife, but she's seen it. She keeps looking at him, then at the knife, and Mark feels guilty. Finally, he asks her whether anybody would even miss him if he died.
    • Mama starts to cry. Then she tells him to look at his sisters, playing in the mud. She says they would miss him very much. With no big brother to protect them or help them, what will they do?
    • This touches Mark deeply and he starts to cry.
    • Mama hugs him and he asks if she would miss him too. She tells him she would miss him more than anybody else would, that she would want to die if he died.
    • Then she asks him for the knife, and makes him promise that he will never do what he was thinking of doing.
    • Mark smiles. After that, whenever he was troubled or struggling, Mama watched him closely but they would talk about it and he would feel better.
    • He realized then that it always helps to have someone who loves you to share in your suffering.
  • Chapter 29

    • Granny loses one of her gardening jobs but quickly finds another in a "posh whites-only suburb" of Johannesburg (29.1). She starts bringing back comic books for Marc to read—Batman and Robin, Richie Rich, etc.
    • Mark reads them over and over, discovering a real love for reading. With comic books, he suddenly becomes the most popular kid in the neighborhood.
    • \He starts a small business, charging one penny to lend out each book.
    • Mark wonders why Granny's employers would give her comic books. Granny says she had told her employer how well Mark was doing in school, and she had given Granny the books because of it. Granny tells Mark that not all white people are mean.
    • When Mark turns eleven, Granny starts bringing home books. Because of the comic books, Mark's English had improved, so he was able to tackle the books like Pinocchio.
    • Mark starts reading everything, realizing that the world of Alexandra is small.
    • He re-tells the stories to everybody who would listen.
    • The teacher hears about it and calls Mark up to tell a story in front of the class. Mark tells the story of Hansel and Gretel while the teacher gets quiet.
    • When Mark is done, the teacher wants to know where he learned those stories. Mark tells him he read it in books. The teacher wants to know how he gets books since he never has money for his textbooks. White people give them to my grandmother, he says.
    • The teacher begins to mock him. He says that there are no white people in the world who would give a black woman books.
    • Mark says that nice white people would.
    • Everybody laughs as the teacher says there are no nice white people.
    • The teacher wonders what work Granny does that white people would give books to her.
    • Mark is ashamed to admit that his grandmother does gardening, but finally he admits it.
    • When children in the classroom snicker that his grandmother does gardening, the teacher goes over to them and says it is honest work, nothing to snicker about.
    • In fact, he says, that's how he was able to go to school, because his grandmother worked in a garden for rich white people.
    • From that day forward, Mark was never ashamed to admit his heritage or what his family did to make a living.
    • There were about a dozen illegal bars, known as shebeens, in Mark's neighborhood.
    • Many people bootlegged illegal alcohol because the profits were so high.
    • Papa tells Mama they should start a little beer-making business, since they're both working and have a little extra cash.
    • Mama objects, so Papa suggests joining a stockvel – a club where one member would host a party each weekend and everybody else would pitch in money to "support" it. The hosts made money, since both members and nonmembers came.
    • Mama says her money isn't going to anything but the children's school fees, and Papa gets mad.
    • The two begin to fight. Papa insists Mama has to do what he says because he bought her and owns her.
    • Meanwhile, Mama insists that she just wants what's best for the family and she won't support his money-making schemes until he changes his ways.
    • Papa says that she's giving him grounds for divorce. Then he adds that joining a stockvel is the only way out of their situation.
    • Mama replies that educating their children is the only way out.
    • Papa finally tries a different approach and bargains with Mama.
    • If she'll help him out, he'll stop gambling and, once they have their own business going, he'll stop going to shebeens.
    • Mark has an opinion, though he can't express it. But he's seen the wealth created by stockvels in the homes of students he knows.
    • But Mama refuses to bargain. She says he should quit gambling and drinking anyway, that that is part of his duties as a father and husband. Her duties as a mother include paying for the children's school fees, which she will continue to do through her job.
    • Papa accuses Mama of bewitching him, otherwise he surely would kill her because of her lack of respect.
    • Mama laughs and says she hasn't indulged in witchcraft. Besides, she says, once their children are successful because of the education, he'll take all the credit for it.
    • Mark reflects on the truth of that. Already, Papa was taking credit for how well Mark does in school.
    • But Papa drives a mean bargain, and he continues. He gives Mama his paycheck for the week, and says that if she supports him in the liquor business, he'll give some of his paycheck towards the children's schooling.
    • Mama is surprised but says nothing. Mark begs her to say yes and Papa says that Mark is someone with good sense.
    • Though the beer-selling business didn't change everything, Papa did stop gambling and brought his full paycheck home every week.
    • Mama could pay rent, school fees, and take the children to the clinic when they were sick. They had more food, even some luxury items like peanut butter, and Mama opened a savings account.
    • Mark became the accountant.
    • Because the customers couldn't read, Mark was tempted to cheat, but he didn't, and he was rewarded with good tips. Some of them started hiring him to write letters to family members back home. He used the money for school.
    • One time, reading one of the letters, Mark was overcome with sadness and started crying. Phineas, the man whose letter he was reading, told him not to worry. Perhaps one of his children was going to die, like the letter said, but one of these days, he would make enough money to help all his children. Perhaps he'd even be able to bribe one of the Peri-Urban policemen to let his family join him.
    • Phineas was like thousands of black migrant workers, who lived single lives while their wives and children lived in the reserves back home. They were full of anger and hate, directed mainly at whites.
    • Mark reflects that the anger and pain they experienced was a kind of death, deeper and worse than physical death.
  • Chapter 30

    • Granny moves to a new place since she can no longer afford her place. Mark spends lots of time there, since she always lets him know he is her favorite grandchild. She is proud of how well he does in school. By reading Piet and Bushy's schoolbooks while he's at Granny's, he's also able to get ahead in school.
    • One day, Granny comes to their house and shouts out that "he's agreed." She and Mama start dancing around together.
    • Granny tells Mark that she saw a miracle that day. Mark thinks some man must have agreed to marry her so he congratulates her. But no, the miracle has to do with Mark.
    • It turns out that Mrs. Smith, Granny's employer, said that she would see Mark but Mr. Smith had to write a letter so that a black child could come to the area. Mr. Smith agreed.
    • Mark says he's not going.
    • Mama tells him that of course, he'll go.
    • Mark wonders how he'll be able to go when he has exams.
    • Mama tells him not to worry. This is very important.
    • But Mark keeps saying he doesn't want anything to do with white people.
    • Granny is hurt and asks why she's doing this to him. She had begged Mrs. Smith to see him, she says. Doesn't Mark love her at all?
    • Mark feels guilty and starts to run away, but Mama grabs him and prevents him from leaving. She tells him that he will either tell Granny that he's going with her, or he leave the house for good.
    • Mark knows she means it. So he asks why "Granny's white people" want to see him, rather than George or Piet?
    • Granny says she's been telling them how smart her grandson is.
    • Mama says that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He'll get lots of hand-me-downs from the Smiths' sons. The doors of opportunity are open, he just needs to walk in.
    • The night before he goes, Mark has the most thorough bath of his life. Mama scrubs him herself. She says white people are the cleanest people on earth, and he's going to be clean.
    • The next morning, the bus to Johannesburg is packed with people. Mark sits on Granny's lap.
    • Mark has never seen skyscrapers or all the nice houses. He's shocked to learn that each house is just for one family.
    • Granny tells him that his grandfather worked for a white family that was so rich they owned their own airplane.
    • The bus stops suddenly for white schoolchildren crossing the road. Mark looks at them closely, and notices their beautiful uniforms and the wristwatches on their hands. Mark is jealous.
    • At the next stop, they get off and walk through the neighborhood. Mark is overcome by all the cars and white people.
    • Mrs. Smith's house is gorgeous. They go to the back, where Granny rings a bell and lets "madam" know she's there.
    • Mrs. Smith comes and lets them in, saying she was just about to leave for tennis. She's a nice lady, with a kind voice, but she keeps referring to Mark as the "clever pickaninny." She turns to her black housekeeper and tells him that "Bantu" children are smart and soon they'll be running the country.
    • Mark helps Granny throughout the day. The neighbor kids kept staring at Mark, as if they'd never seen a black child before.
    • Mark tells Granny that someday, he'll build a house as beautiful as Mrs. Smith's. Granny tells him that she'll be his gardener.
    • Mrs. Smith returns and Mark helps her carry in some shopping bags. She tells him never to play tennis because it's exhausting.
    • Mark asks her what tennis is.
    • Mrs. Smith is surprised that he's never heard of tennis before and tells him that tennis is a gentleman's sport. She asks if there are tennis courts in Alexandra, and Mark says yes. Then, she says, she'll find an old racket for him.
    • Clyde Smith, Mrs. Smith's son, comes home from school. He tells his mother that he doesn't want Mark to be there.
    • Mrs. Smith says that "Ellen" (Granny) is always so nice to him, he should be nice to her grandson. She tells him to go see what she's bought him that day, and then he can come and play with pickaninny.
    • Clyde declares that he doesn't play with Kaffirs.
    • Mrs. Smith, embarrassed, tells him to watch his "filthy" mouth. When he leaves, she turns to Granny and wonders aloud what this country is going to come to, as long as the "damn uncivilized Boers from Pretoria teach children such things"? (30.95)
    • Granny agrees, and says that all children are God's children, no matter their color.
    • Mrs. Smith agrees, and says that's why she can't agree with the laws of this country. We white people, she says, are hypocrites (30.97).
    • Granny says that Mr. and Mrs. Smith are not like most white people that Granny has worked for. They're actually kind.
    • Mrs. Smith hurries inside and soon Clyde comes out and tells Mark that his mother said to show him around.
    • Clyde shows Mark all the things his parents bought for him, including toys that Mark could never imagine owning. They reach Clyde's room and Mark is awed by all the books there.
    • Clyde asks if Mark has this many books in his playroom and Mark says he doesn't have a playroom. Then Clyde asks if he can even read, and Mark says he can read a little.
    • Clyde says he doubts if Mark can read any of his books and picks one off the shelf, demanding him to show off.
    • When Mark can't decipher any of the words, Clyde laughs and says he must be mentally challenged. He tells him it's William Shakespeare, the greatest writer that ever lived. But, Clyde continues, he doesn't blame Mark. His teacher says that "black people had smaller brains and were thus incapable of reading, speaking or writing English like white people" (30.114).
    • Mrs. Smith enters the room and tells Clyde to stop talking such rubbish. Clyde tells her she's not a teacher, and doesn't know anything
    • Mrs. Smith says it's simply not true. Then she tells him to show Mark his easy books and then to get ready to go to his friend's birthday party. Clyde shows Mark his "easy" books: The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, David Copperfield.
    • Mark is jealous of the books, but his pride is wounded by the things Clyde said.
    • When Granny and Mark leave, Mrs. Smith gives Mark a box.
    • Mrs. Smith tells Mark that Clyde is sorry he treated Mark that way and has promised he will never do it again. She invites him to come back and work in the garden whenever he can, that way, he can have some money.
    • The box had some clothes and a copy of Treasure Island.
  • Chapter 31

    • Mark's goal in life becomes learning English. He starts reading Treasure Island until the story shows up in his dreams. He hopes that he'll be able to get more books when he visits, but he can't skip school that often.
    • He wonders why his tribal school doesn't carry books like Treasure Island. His teachers told him that under Bantu Education, black children were supposed to learn tribal life.
    • Each day, Mark meets Granny and asks if she brought home any new books. Sometimes she did, and sometimes she didn't. Mark reads the same books over and over again, borrowing Mr. Brown's dictionary to understand new English words.
    • He starts imitating the way white people talked, hoping to pronounce words properly.
    • Reading takes Mark off the street and out of the gangs. He hears that some of his old gang members are considering retaliation.
    • One afternoon, Mark is splitting wood in front of the house when Jarvas, the leader of the Thirteenth Avenue Tomahawks, approaches him, wanting to know if Mark is still one of them.
    • Mark says yes, even though he isn't interested anymore.
    • Jarvas wants to know why he hasn't been to any of their fights then and Mark says he's been busy.
    • Jarvas tells him that it's time for him to fight, and Mark agrees. When Jarvas leaves, he's nervous and afraid.
    • He shows up at the next fight, though. The Tomahawks were fighting the Monguls with every weapon on hand, including machetes, bottles, rocks, and daggers.
    • Mark is in the middle row, fighting with the Tomahawks. The guy to Mark's left is hit in the eye, and his eye gouged out by a stone.
    • That's when Mark decides to quit the gang. He realizes that gang life leads to death.
    • But leaving the gang meant he was constantly harassed. Jarvas threatened his life, so Mark was extra careful. He never went out at night, and he came home right after school. Occasionally, he played soccer with kids who weren't affiliated with gangs.
    • Mark tells his parents that he's quit gang life, and Mama sighs with relief. She tells him that, like every black boy growing up in Alexandra, he had two choices: to become a tsotsi or not to become a tsotsi.
    • Mama is relieved he's decided to take the "difficult way out" (31.29). She tells him life will be hard now because his former friends will do everything they can to entice or bully him to join them.
    • Papa simply tells Mark to be careful or they'll kill him. He wonders if he should send Mark back to the homelands, where the people on the reserves can make him into a warrior.
  • Chapter 32

    • Mark continued to do above-average in school, and teachers began to tell him he would be something someday: a teacher, maybe, or a doctor.
    • Mark has reached the age where many students drop out for lack of money. He begins to persevere under the idea that as long as he could, he would work hard.
    • Teachers were always surprised that Mark wrote upside down. It was what made sense to his brain, the way it coordinated with his hand.
    • After accompanying Granny several times to the Smith's house, Mark began to feel more comfortable in the white world. Though the Smiths were "paternalistic" (32.5), they were kind, and it went a long way to transforming Mark's dread into acceptance of whites.
    • But one Saturday, Granny took Mark to her other gardening job. Mark assumed this might mean more books, so he helped her, excited by the possibilities.
    • Mark waited for the bus while Granny went to get the correct change. She told him to ask the bus driver to wait if it came while she was still getting change.
    • Mark waited and when the bus came, he dashed inside, only to find that he was on a "whites-only" bus. The bus driver yells at the "bloody Kaffir" to get off the bus, while Mark started begging to be forgiven, thinking he was going to get smashed in the face.
    • Granny runs up and starts telling the driver that it's her fault, he's only a "pickaninny."
    • The driver says he could have them both arrested for this.
    • Granny says she understands but the child didn't know better.
    • This, the driver finds impossible to believe. How could he not know? "Don't you teach Kaffir children anything about the laws?" (32.21).
    • Granny explains that the child is "deranged" and can't learn. Using her skirt, she begins to wipe the bus steps where Mark had stepped.
    • After more racial epithets, the driver drives off.
    • Granny is mad and lets Mark have it. When Mark says he'd never seen whites riding a bus before, so he assumed it was theirs, she thinks he's lying.
    • Mark still doesn't understand how it could be an arrestable offense – he only reached the bus steps, he didn't even sit on the seat. Granny screams at him that he can't do the usual things he does in Alexandra, in the white world.
    • Finally, Granny calms down and apologizes for screaming at him. But she explains that his small offense isn't small in the white world and could have landed them both in jail.
    • She explains apartheid – that white people want blacks and whites to be kept apart, so black and white live in separate worlds. Blacks are the servants, whites the masters.
    • Granny says that blacks fought to keep freedoms but failed. Maybe another generation will succeed, but for now, this is how things are.
    • She points across the street at the phone boxes. One phone is for blacks, one for whites.
    • Mark looks at the identical phone booths and asks which one is which. Granny says that there is a sign on each door, and they tell you which phone is for which race.
    • That's when it hits Mark that Granny is illiterate. How did she manage to get by in this white world, so dominated by signs?
    • After that, Mark began to notice the signs everywhere – literal signs as well as the things whites would say to blacks – to keep that world intact.
    • Mark starts selling newspapers on the weekends. Using that income, he could go on school trips, like the trip to the Johannesburg zoo. The zoo was whites-only, and blacks had to apply for special permits to be allowed access.
    • The white zoo gatekeeper told them they'd pretty much have the place to themselves because whites didn't often come on Tuesdays.
    • The school kids entered through the "blacks" door, while a few whites straggled through the "whites" door. One of the kids asked why they had separate doors if they were in the same space once they were inside, and a teacher replied, "Only God knows" (32.48).
    • Mark and some other schoolmates run into some white schoolchildren in front of the baboons.
    • The white kids insult them and some of Mark's schoolmates want to run away, but Phineas, the eighteen-year-old leader of the group, says they should stay. Mark agrees, saying they have as much right to see the baboons as anybody.
    • The group divides up: some go with Mark, some with Phineas, and the rest with those who want to leave.
    • Phineas leads his group to the white boys near the baboon cage.
    • The white boys insult them as they come.
    • One of boys called Mark a "Bloody Kaffir" and Mark responds in Tsonga, "Kaffir is your mother" (32.63).
    • Because the white boys couldn't speak Tsonga, they didn't know what to do, yet Mark and the others could understand the white boys' Afrikaans perfectly.
    • Mark and his group begin to insult the white boys in Tsonga, though they pretend to be discussing the baboons. The white boys just curse at them until their teacher comes to take them away.
    • It feels like a victory.
  • Chapter 33

    • Due to police raids, the family's beer business only lasts a year.
    • Mark begins working for a local Chinese butcher.
    • Mama doesn't have a permit but is employed as a washing girl. Her employers look the other way.
    • Papa begins to drink again.
    • Aunt Bushy gets pregnant and Uncle Piet leaves school so he can find a job and help support Granny. Granny bribes a policeman to look the other way so that Piet and Bushy can get jobs without the proper permits.
    • Mama is pregnant again and gives birth to a baby girl, Linah.
    • The family is broke.
    • One Monday, Papa wakes Mark up at 4am to ask for bus fare so he can go to work. He had lost all his money gambling.
    • Mark says he doesn't have any money.
    • Papa says he saw Mark counting his money last night.
    • It's my money, Mark says, and he plans to use it for other things. He's angry with Papa for gambling away his money when Mama needs money for the baby.
    • Papa yells at him, then tries to "smooth-talk" him. He says he'll pay Mark back "with interest" (33.12).
    • Papa keeps insisting, and wants to know what Mark is going to use the money for if not to help his father get to work. Books and the baby, Mark says.
    • Papa screams at Mark to give him the money, and Mark screams back. Papa is shocked and tells him to either give him the money or leave the house.
    • So Mark gets up and leaves. He goes to Granny's house.
    • Mark stays with Granny for a week and then goes home.
    • He expects retaliation, but just waits for it to come. He and Papa have opposite values on just about everything.
    • Mark realizes that his father "lived for the moment…because he was terrified of the future" (33.31).
    • As long as Park lived in the past, and as long as he clung to the traditional ways, he would never understand Mark's ambition or desire for something better. But even as his life sunk into chaos and degeneration, Papa never figured out that half of his problems were of his own making.
  • Chapter 34

    • Mrs. Smith gives Mark an old wooden tennis racket. It comes at just the right time, because Mark is getting tired of soccer.
    • She tells him to practice so he can become the next Arthur Ashe.
    • Mark admits he doesn't think he can be as good as Arthur Ashe. And he wonders how any black man can be as good as a white man in sports.
    • He starts playing tennis in Alexandra by himself. He liked the fact that it was a solitary sport, dependent only on his ability and perseverance. He had heard that tennis was available at some of the black colleges in the country, but wondered if he would ever go to college.
    • One night while reading Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, Mark makes his decision.
    • Mark tells his mother that he's going to leave school when he's done with Standard Six. He wants to help her.
    • Mama protests, saying that he can only get a factory job if he leaves school, and doesn't he dream of being a teacher or a doctor?
    • And of course, Mark doesn't want to drop out of school. He wants to go to college. But it hurts to watch how badly his mother struggles just to feed the family. He could at least help his younger siblings reach their dreams.
    • But Mama insists that he stay in school. Mark wants to know where she's going to get the money. I don't know, she says, but if she has to break her back working, she will find the money.
    • They finally compromise. If Mark earns a First Class pass, then he'll continue on to school. Otherwise, he'll quit and start working at the factories.
    • Because Mark can't find part-time jobs, he ends up playing tennis more and more. And the longer he played, the more he dreamed about what he could do if he could play tennis.
    • One day a Colored (mixed-race) man watched Mark practice at the courts. He started to give him advice. His name was Scaramouche and he was one of the best Colored tennis players in all of Johannesburg. He decided to be Mark's coach.
  • Chapter 35

    • Scaramouch turns out to be not only a great mentor and couch, but a substitute father as well. He demanded excellence but had compassion. And he taught Mark some things about politics as well, especially concerning how funding was unequally distributed between the black tennis organization and the white tennis organization in South Africa.
    • Mark becomes so wrapped up in tennis that Mama warns him not to forget school.
    • Papa says it's a sissy sport, and wishes Mark would get interested in tribal warrior culture. Papa tells Mark that he's a woman in disguise and threatens to "cure" Mark of his interest in books, tennis, and white culture.
  • Chapter 36

    • Although the battle lines had been drawn and Mark sided with his mother, she had no influence over him in the area of religion.
    • She was attending the Full Gospel Church of God but Mark refused to go. He believed that religion was used as a tool to manipulate blacks into subservience, to give their insufficient incomes away, and to make them passive and acquiescent.
    • Mama asks him one night if he doesn't believe God has some influence in determining how Mark's life turns out.
    • Mark doesn't know, but says that he believes that there is something greater than humans.
    • He admits that it could be in church, but he thinks it's also in their house.
    • Mark regularly wrote letters for an illiterate migrant worker named Limela, who hated the church with a passion and regularly said that blacks had land when the whites arrived with their Bibles in hand. Now blacks have the Bible and whites have the land.
    • One night, Mark is reading a letter to Limela when two evangelists, a man and a woman, stop by with pamphlets.
    • Though Limela tells them they can't sit down, they do anyway, while Limela shouts at them that he told them never to come back.
    • The woman screams that God loves him.
    • When Limela says God is only for white people, and she replies that God is color-blind, Limela is furious. He tells them they're mad, and how can whites justify what they're doing to the black man? Do they really think God will forgive them for letting blacks starve?
    • Limela compares Christianity to witchcraft and tells Mark that these people keep coming back. If you were God, he asks Mark, would you forgive white people for what they've done?
    • Never, Mark replies.
    • The pastor tells Limela not to lead children astray.
    • Mark interrupts the pastor and tells him that he's not a child and "I'm going to no fucking Jesus" (36.38). He says that people like Limela need to confront reality, not hide behind religion.
    • Mark adds that many religious people are hypocritical.
    • The pastor tells Mark that his soul is heading toward hell even as they speak.
    • Mark says he's already in hell, a hell created by this white man's religion.
    • The pastor is shocked, but Limela is stoked by Mark's arguments.
    • Finally, Limela kicks them out.
    • Mark looks at their pamphlets. He calls them a pack of lies. He and Limela use them to kindle a fire outside.
  • Chapter 37

    • One night while Mark is reading Drum Magazine, Papa and two men leap into the room, shouting, "There he is!" Mark grabs a knife to defend himself while Mama runs into the room, wondering what's going on.
    • Papa says it's time that Mark is circumcised. He has to attend a "mountain school" where he becomes a man in the Venda tribe.
    • Mama says they didn't discuss it and Papa says it doesn't matter. He adds that Mark is his son and needs to become like him.
    • Mark says Papa has no behaviors he wants to imitate.
    • One of the men tells Mark to put down his knife – he'll only be gone for three months.
    • Mama points out that Mark's exams are coming up.
    • Mark threatens to kill anybody that comes near him, and Papa says he's bluffing.
    • Mama tells the men that Mark is a tsotsi. The two men decide to leave, telling Papa to talk to Mark. As they leave, they mention that they'll be back tomorrow.
    • Papa leaves with them and Mark heads to Granny's, where he stays for two weeks before coming home.
    • From that day on, Papa rarely talked to Mark.
    • Life is so stressful at home that it starts to affect Mark's health. He grows paranoid, believing Papa is poisoning him.
    • He sits for his final exams for Standard Six. He wants to do well so that he'll earn a scholarship to help him pay for secondary school. He hopes to do well, but the situation with his father is affecting him badly. Mama tries to encourage him.
    • When the results come out, Mark is among the top six students. He had a First Class pass, almost earning Distinction.
    • The Principal tells him that he's one of the best students they've ever had and they're proud to give him a government scholarship that would pay for three years of secondary school.
    • Mama says this is an answer to her prayers and Papa wonders if the government will give Mark a job when he's done with school.
    • Mark decides to go to the local secondary school instead of boarding school in the tribal reserves.
    • It's an important decision because the Alexandra Secondary School has a tennis team.
    • Mark quickly rises to the top of the class, in part because all of his reading had given him a good head for English.
    • He practices tennis as much as possible, and works part-time for the Smiths to earn money for his uniform and expenses not covered by the scholarship. What he can't pay for, Uncle Piet and Aunt Bushy help pay for.
    • Mark tells Uncle Piet that he'll make him proud.
    • Piet says they're already proud of him and people know him (Piet) as that "smart boy's uncle." It's already benefiting him.
    • Their help made it possible for him to continue practicing tennis.
    • Mark gets better and better, until he finally defeats his coach, Scaramouche. Mark becomes the number one player at his school and becomes captain of the team.
    • He meets Tom, a Zulu tennis player who has been accepted into an elite tennis club called Halfway House, where he plays against whites.
    • Mark is shocked that he plays against whites and begins to wonder if Tom is a police informer. But Tom guesses what he's thinking and tells him he's "no Uncle Tom." He says the people in the Tennis Ranch are white liberals and they like Tom because he's neat, in high school, and speaks English, Afrikaans, and German.
    • Mark asks Tom to introduce him (Mark) to Wilfred Horn, the man who runs the Barretts Tennis Ranch. Tom makes the introduction.
    • Wilfred is exactly as Tom said, and he and Mark get along.
    • Wilfred is shocked when Mark describes his life and says apartheid is a terrible thing. He asks Mark to play at the Tennis Ranch, saying that he can teach them the reality about life in South Africa.
  • Chapter 38

    • Arthur Ashe is finally let into South Africa in 1973.
    • He had never been allowed before because, as a black man, he had made comments against the apartheid government, including saying that he would like to drop the H-bomb on Johannesburg.
    • Mark and a fellow tennis buddy, David, discuss how Arthur Ashe would have been shipped off to Robben Island if he had made the statement in South Africa.
    • Even as Mark and his friend talk, they are nervous: criticizing the government was treason. But some of David's relatives were in the ANC (the African National Congress) so he explained its history to Mark.
    • The day Arthur Ashe arrived, Mark was headed to the Tennis Ranch. He tells Wilfred he'd like to meet Ashe and Wilfred says he has tickets for them to go see him. Mark admits that he wants to him face-to-face.
    • Wilfred can't arrange that kind of a meeting, despite his extensive contacts.
    • Arthur Ashe arrives during a history-making week.
    • A black American boxer, Bob Foster, was going to fight a white South African boxer.
    • Mark refused to go. He didn't like Bob Foster, who made statements that he was there to fight and not for political reasons, and that he liked South Africa. As a result, he distanced himself from the masses of black South Africans, and looked like a traitor.
    • Mark ignored Bob Foster. Ashe was the man to look up to.
    • Nobody cared if athletes like Ashe stayed in luxurious hotels when they came to South Africa, but they did care whether they understood the viciousness of the apartheid system, and Ashe seemed to.
    • Mark attends the first day of the match alone. Though the stadium was supposed to be integrated, blacks self-segregated.
    • Mark tried to sit with a group of whites but it was so tense so he sat in the black section.
    • Arthur Ashe won the match.
    • On the day home, Mark is disappointed. The lack of segregation at the stadium contrasted sharply with the segregation practiced outside of it.
    • In fact, Arthur Ashe no longer seemed black. It seemed impossible that a black person could beat a white man, even be cheered by white people.
    • He had read about successful, accomplished blacks in America, but wondered if it was possible in South Africa. Was it possible for a person like Mark Mathabane to ever become an Arthur Ashe?
    • Mark realizes suddenly that it might be possible, but not if he stays in South Africa. He would need to go to America.
    • Mark skips school to watch the rest of the matches, and to study Arthur Ashe. He even asks his mother to pray at church that Ashe would win the tournament.
    • It was critical that Ashe win. If he lost, it would confirm white South Africans' suspicions that a black man could never be the equal of a white man.
    • One day, Mark tried to get up close during a press conference. He was impressed with how confident Ashe seems, though surrounded by whites.
    • Arthur Ashe holds a tennis camp in Soweto, but Mark isn't invited.
    • Mark goes anyway, just to see Ashe, hoping he would be able to ask him questions about America. Wilfred gives him the train fare. This is the kind of thing Wilfred did from time to time as Mark's "unofficial tennis sponsor" (38.60). It was people like Wilfred that allowed Mark not to see all whites as the enemy.
    • The train ride is packed, and two people are killed by electrocution because they ride on the top of the train.
    • When Mark arrives in Soweto, he sees a man murdered by tsotsis. When he finally reaches the courts, it's jam-packed with people.
    • Mark learns that Ashe has been given a nickname, Sipho, which means he's a gift. Mark realizes it's true. Ashe had figured out how to overcome his suffering, and his fear of whites. Mark needed to do that too.
    • He is unable to get close to Arthur Ashe throughout the day.
    • Some protestors begin to tell Arthur Ashe to go home. They love him but claim that his presence "legitimizes the system" (38.81).
    • Ashe speaks through a megaphone, but Mark can't understand a word he says. He imagines that Ashe gives a militant speech, urging them to continue the fight against liberation, but knows that's unlikely.
    • Ashe loses the finals to Jimmy Connor. But he did beat Tom Okker, a Dutchman and the first black man to be honored in tennis in South Africa.
    • Before he leaves, Ashe meets with officials and urges them to abandon apartheid.
    • Mark starts working even harder at tennis, knowing that some young people in Alexandra look up to him. He figures he should be something worth looking up to.
    • Scaramouche encourages Mark to write to Arthur Ashe. Mark does it and sends the letter through the Black Tennis Foundation, an organization Ashe started in South Africa.
    • Mark receives no reply and grows discouraged.
    • But still, he continues to cultivate relationships with the white people that seem genuine. Mark knows it's his ticket out of Alexandra.
  • Chapter 39

    • Two and a half years after Mark started playing tennis, he wins his first championship, the Alexandra Open.
    • At the Tennis Ranch, Mark jokes with Wolfgang, a German tennis player, that he hopes Wolfgang will be able to keep up with him the next time they play.
    • Mark is aware that he could be arrested for joking around with a white man like that, but realizes he's already gone far away, he might as well go all the way.
    • For a while, Mark had a dual personality – acting one way in certain situations, acting another way in others.
    • But there came a time when he could no longer pretend to be servile.
    • One afternoon, Mama comes home, crying that she's been saved. This time, she is convinced she's met the right church of God.
    • A week after Mama changes churches, her employer manages to register her so she's legally allowed to work. Mama thinks this is a miracle.
    • Mama begins to use the house as her personal place for evangelizing. Every visitor hears about God.
    • She let go of her anger, even against Papa. She tried to help people, no matter what they were like. One day, she brings home a homeless woman and feeds her, telling her about the love of God.
    • Mark leaves, angry with Mama, and wondering if she's gone crazy.
    • So Mark decides to go to Mama's church, to see what's up.
    • As he talks to the people in the church before the services begin, he notices how similar their behavior is with Mama's new behavior. They seemed happy and they greeted each other as "brother" and "sister."
    • Halfway through the service, Mama screams, then starts babbling in tongues. She spoke for five minutes then stopped, while the priest interpreted her prophecy. Then other women speak in tongues and, again, the priest interprets.
    • Mark leaves, confused, but knows his mother isn't crazy. She seemed to be communicating with God.
    • Even while he recognizes her faith is genuine, he realizes that it's not the right faith for him.
  • Chapter 40

    • In June 1975, Mark represents the southern Transvaal black junior tennis squad at the National Tournament in Pretoria.
    • Mark worked too hard, was nervous, and did badly as an individual competitor. But he helped the southern Transvaal team win the team trophy.
    • He finally saw that black tennis had support from the country. Nobody had good facilities or equipment or good coaches.
    • Mark is grateful more than ever that he is able to go to the Tennis Ranch.
    • A week after coming back from the Tournament, Mark's eyes begin to hurt. They swelled so badly, he could barely read. Everybody thinks he's been cursed by a witch.
    • Mark is amazed that Mama, a Christian, believes that too. Mama explains that voodoo exists, no matter what religion you belong to.
    • Mark goes to the clinic three weeks later, when they finally have the money. He waits all day but isn't seen. He returns on Monday, same story. So he goes to Tembisa Hospital, two hours away by bus. The hospital was worse even than the clinic.
    • Mama takes him to a witch doctor instead. To his surprise, the diviner starts telling Mark his life story. She knew things that nobody but Mark knew.
    • Finally, the diviner came to the diagnosis: some relatives were jealous. The ancestors were protecting Mark so they couldn't kill him. Instead, they were trying to make him go blind.
    • Mark doesn't buy the explanation or the diagnosis, so he tests the diviner. He wants to know how they are trying to bewitch him.
    • The diviner said that even though Mark intends to test her, she'll answer the question.
    • She tells him to "set aside the white man's bifocals for a moment. See the world according to eyes native to you" and stop trying to explain things the way a white man would (40.21). Then she pauses, and continues, telling him that they've been doing this all along.
    • The diviner asks if he writes letters for people and Mark says yes. Mark also admits that he writes letters for people as well. According to the diviner, that's how the ancestors are getting to Mark.
    • Mark doesn't understand, since the people helps with reading and writing seem kind.
    • The diviner asks Mark if he will stop helping people, if cured.
    • Mark wants to know if he needs to stop reading and writing for school, but the diviner tells him that it's different.
    • The diviner makes him eat two porridges, then gives him some powder to eat with his meals. At a stream, she cuts him below the eyes with a razor laced with herbs and places ointment in the cuts.
    • Mark does stop writing and reading letters for people. He even starts burning all his writing, believing it could harm him if it falls into the wrong hands.
    • But Mark is still suspicious, so he goes back to Tembisa Hospital and finally gets seen.
    • The doctor says that he had simply strained his eyes by reading and writing too much. He gives Mark eye drops, which Mark uses, along with the diviner's medicine. Eventually, he's better.
    • Who cured Mark? He thinks that it was both the diviner and the doctor who cured him.
    • Though he was no longer reading and writing letters for migrants, he continued to help them in other ways. For example, Mark accompanied a man named Ndlamini to the superintendent's office to translate for him.
    • Mark explained that though Ndlamini had broken the law by bringing his wife and children to live in the city, he couldn't let them live in utter poverty anymore.
    • When Mark spoke in flawless Afrikaans to the superintendent, the superintendent grew excited.
    • And even though Mark, like all black schoolchildren, saw Afrikaans as the language of the oppressor, he flattered the superintendent that it was, indeed, the most beautiful language.
    • Mark made fun of the English and the English language.
    • The superintendent enjoyed the talk and gave Ndlamini the forms to fill out so his wife and children could remain in Alexandra.
    • Ndlamini was convinced that Mark was a miracle worker, but Mark explained that all he did was "tell the bastard what he wanted to hear" (40.79).
  • Chapter 41

    • Mark is still participating in debates at school, but realizes that the topics selected by the government aren't topics designed to get the students thinking but, rather, to emphasize their place in life. For example, one topic is "Country life is better than town life" (41.3).
    • Mark got chosen to defend the statement and, though he had strong feelings against "tribalism," he did his best to prepare himself for the assignment and to argue to the best of his abilities.
    • The library was decent, but Mark was one of the few students who spent any time there.
    • One day the Principal asked him if he was planning to read every book in the library, and Mark admitted he had only two passions: books and tennis.
    • The Principal said he was also surprised by the books Mark selected to read, because they weren't the books that black students usually chose. But Mark believes that the books must contain the secrets to the power that whites had over blacks.
    • Mark explains to the Principal that he plans to leave Alexandra someday, and he believes tennis is the key.
    • The Principal wants to know why he's so eager to leave Alexandra, and Mark replies that he wants his freedom. He knows he has no future in South Africa. In fact, he feels like a stranger here.
    • The Principal is startled but says that this always happens to students as sensitive as Mark. He believes that it's time the black man stopped pretending whites would have a change of heart because he will lose too much if he does that.
    • The Principal appreciates the fact that Mark can recognize that there are good whites and bad whites, but he cautions Mark to be careful. If blacks decide that Mark is too close to the white world, they will see him as a traitor. And he will never be fully accepted into the white world. The Principal warns Mark to not forget his heritage.
    • Mark vows that he will never forget that he is black.
    • But it was true that many blacks believed Mark's love for English, poetry, and tennis meant that he was trying to be white.
    • Mark was confident he could understand any book, but Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice was another story.
    • Mark heard a radio broadcast of the play and tried to imitate the pronunciation he heard, until the teacher praised his efforts and said he really knew how to read Shakespeare. The teacher commends him for listening to the radio to learn English.
    • From then on, Mark listens to the radio to prefect his English. When Mark hears a symphony playing, he immediately falls in love with classical music.
    • One day, Wilfred asked him if he understands classical music and Mark admits he doesn't, but it soothes him so he loves it.
    • Wilfred suggests that Mark try to understand it better so he can enjoy it more, and invites him to listen to his collection of classical composers.
    • Mark begins to read composer's biographies to find out what had influenced them to create the music they created.
    • At school, his friends made fun of him for liking classical music, but Mark says he listens to rock and roll too. It all depends on his mood.
    • Papa sees Mark's interest in classical music as yet more evidence that Mark wants to be white.
    • When Mark protests that a lot of black people listen to classical music, he demands that Mark provide him with one black person he knows that listens to classical music. Mark can't and Papa pronounces that he will never be a man.
    • Mark gets highest marks in his class at the midyear exams and is chosen to receive a new scholarship that pays for everything for his final year. The scholarship, awarded by a potato chip and cookie company called Simba Quix, is provided so that students like Mark can go on to college.
    • Mr. Wilde, the company's representative, said the company would have provided for these scholarships a long time ago if it hadn't been for the laws but since the laws relaxed, he hopes the new scholarship helps students like Mark to succeed.
    • In addition to the scholarship, Simba Quix offering summer employment at their headquarters in hopes that they can one day have students like Mark come work for them.
  • Chapter 42

    • On June 16, 1976, after the Department of Bantu Education decreed that all black schools had to teach Afrikaans instead of English, students erupt into protest.
    • Ten thousand students march through the streets of Soweto, protesting against the language of the oppressors.
    • The police barricade the streets and open fire on the students, killing several children and wounding hundreds.
    • Like everyone around him, Mark is angry and saddened by the reports. Men and women cry openly, and can't believe that the police opened fire against unarmed young people.
    • Mark's friend David tells him their lives will never again be the same.
    • At school, the Principal addresses the incident, telling students that they need to go on with their lives and return to normal.
    • The students yell that there will be no school, that the struggle in Soweto is also the struggle in Alexandra.
    • They make placards and start to march through the streets, picking up hundreds of students and heading to the stadium in Alexandra.
    • Police barricade the street. Student leaders scream at everybody not to panic but to remain peaceful and calm, even while the police emerge in riot gear. Using a megaphone, the police tell them to return home or they'll use force.
    • Students start to sing "Nkosi Sikelel'i Afrika" as the police charge, firing tear gas. With David, Mark runs away all the way to school, where they were told to go home because the police were raiding the schools.
    • As they head to the bus stop, they see that some beer halls and cars had been set on fire.
    • Luckily, they find the last of the buses leaving Tembisa. (The police are quarantining the ghetto.)
    • On the way home, they see an unusual amount of cars on the road and realize that whites are leaving Johannesburg, afraid of a revolution.
    • The bus is stopped and soldiers come on board, ordering them out with automatic weapons and lining them up along the bus.
    • A white soldier tells them they have to walk home, because buses can't go in there.
    • Alexandra is burning down: beer halls, government buildings, stores belonging to Indians and the Chinese. People are rioting and looting groceries.
    • Over the next several days, school is canceled and people march and hold demonstrations. Some workers support the students and boycott their jobs, but eventually, survival comes first and people return to their jobs.
    • School, however, is still canceled. Meanwhile, the police kill several hundred students in their attempts to regain control.
    • Mark joins the action. One day, when he sees a mob hack some dogs to death because they belonged to a Chinese family, Mark realizes that what they are doing is "senseless" (42.47).
    • But Mark is caught up in the struggle, and takes some of the spoils from the looting. As they head home, everybody is talking about what they'll do with all the food and other items they've taken. But even as they head home, the army arrives, shooting tear gas canisters. People leave their loot behind and they run away.
    • Mark takes shelter in a small shack nearby, and the old man in the shack asks him why the students are protesting when the police will just use it as an excuse to kill them all. Mark tells him they're fighting for freedom and the old man tells him it's useless.
    • Mark looks out the gate and sees a girl he knows, Mashudu, being dragged away by the police.
    • She might have been dead – there was blood on her dress – but he realizes he needs to get home and tell her parents.
    • The old man tells him there's a way out of the back. Mark escapes and tells the girl's parents what happened. The funeral is Sunday and hundreds of people attend, despite the fact that such gatherings are banned. The preacher speaks, saying that Mashudu represents the hundreds of children who need strength to overcome the oppressors.
    • Mark realizes it could have been him, or his brothers and sisters, being buried right now instead of Mashudu. He goes home from the funeral and begins to question whether Gandhi's ideas of peaceful resistance will really work in South Africa.
    • No, he realizes, the only kind of revolution that will work in South Africa is a violent one, the kind that comes from the barrel of a gun.
    • But does Mark have the courage to resist in that way, to kill a man? He's not sure.
  • Chapter 43

    • The rebellion continued and worsened, and only blacks considered essential were allowed in and out of Alexandra. Cut off from the Tennis Ranch, Mark begins to resent all whites, even liberal whites.
    • Mark wonders why the white people he knows aren't speaking up?
    • Many of Mark's friends spoke of leaving the country and joining Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the armed wing of the ANC, that was started by Nelson Mandela. Mark also wants to become a revolutionary.
    • He begins to talk to Ngwenya, a man in his yard from Zimbabwe whose relatives were freedom fighters there in Robert Mugabe's army, the Patriotic Front.
    • Mark tells Ngwenya that he wants to be a freedom fighter.
    • Ngwenya says he can't really see Mark killing people, since Mark loves of books and tennis. He warns Mark that if he becomes a guerrilla, he will sacrifice everything for guns.
    • But as they talk, tear gas seeps in through the windows and Ngwenya says it has been happening every night since the riots begin. He helps his wife use soaked rags to shield their children from the effects of the tear gas. Then he tells Mark that there is room for people with brains in the struggle.
    • Ngwenya urges Mark to use his talents as a writer to fight against apartheid rather than to see the gun as the only weapon he can use.
    • By October, the massive police and military force had quelled dissent. The government said Afrikaans was no longer mandatory and ordered black schools to be reopened.
    • Many of the school buildings had been demolished during the rebellion. Further, many students refused to return or had already left the country to join Umkhonto We Sizwe.
    • Many felt that there was no point in learning under Bantu Education anyway. One teacher told the students that they had provided a list of student leaders to the police to prevent a massacre of everybody. Which is better, they asked, some of you in jail or all of you dead? But the students "preferred death" (43.23).
  • Chapter 44

    • After the schools reopened, Mark is able to return to the Tennis Ranch.
    • Wilfred is thrilled to see him, saying he was afraid Mark had been killed. Mark describes what it was like for two months and Wilfred says that the whites never heard the version of events that Mark described.
    • Wilfred is shocked to discover that the police and army could do what they did. News had been heavily censored and replaced with propaganda that the ghettos were falling into the hands of communism.
    • Wilfred invites Mark to come to the bar that night and relate his stories to everybody at the club.
    • Mark replies that Wilfred has an open mind, but many whites will be offended to hear the truth. And Mark adds that he can't lie just to make them feel better.
    • Wilfred says he doesn't want lies, he wants the truth, and he doesn't care how people react to it.
    • So that night, Mark speaks to an audience of whites at the club. He tells everything that he saw and participated in.
    • The audience wants to know why blacks are so angry and Mark tries to tell them about how their humanity is trampled on and the young people are no longer willing to sit by and wait for whites to have a change of heart.
    • The Afrikaner foreman of the Barretts Tennis-Court Construction Company wants to know what blacks want then, and Mark explains that they want to be free, to be regarded as human beings.
    • He asks if that means the present system must go, and Mark says yes.
    • The man wonders if the blacks want to make the whites slaves.
    • Mark says that they don't want that either. Blacks want to live in a South Africa where everyone is equal before the law.
    • The Afrikaner foreman doesn't believe blacks have ever wanted to live in peace with whites. He claims that the whites tried to "civilize" blacks, but the blacks reacted in bloodthirsty and violent ways. The foreman claims that God has given apartheid as a way to make sure Afrikaners survive as a pure Christian race.
    • Mark can see that the foreman is getting angry, but Mark can't stop talking. As carefully and calmly as he can, Mark tries to explain that all they want is to live together as equals.
    • Mark looks around the bar and realizes that most people agree with him. Questions turn to what black life is like and what Mark thinks the future of the country will be.
    • A week after schools reopen, the police and army start to raid classrooms and arrest students. It was safer to stay away from school so Mark stops going.
    • Since homes are also raided, he starts spending all his days at the Tennis Ranch, playing tennis and doing his homework by himself.
    • One Tuesday, Mark meets Helmut, a German tennis player who suggests they play tennis together.
    • Helmut explains that he had come to South Africa intending to stay, but he can't live in a country as oppressive and racist as South Africa. So Mark tells him of his dreams. Helmut encourages Mark to keep playing tennis. Helmut says that one day, Mark will make it to America.
    • Helmut offers to help Mark in any way he can.
    • Helmut turns out to be worse than Mark at tennis, but he asks Mark if they can continue to play together. Mark is struck again by the fact that Helmut asks instead of ordering him. They agree to play, and Helmut wants to play in tennis courts around the city, even though it's against the law.
    • As their friendship develops, they talk more and more.
    • Helmut reveals that he thinks the apartheid philosophy is similar to what Hitler did in Germany, and Mark learns about the Holocaust for the first time.
    • Mark says that although there are no gas chambers, there is a Holocaust taking place in South Africa, because blacks are systematically starved. Homelands are "open-air concentration camps" (44.77).
    • Some people in Alexandra started thinking that Mark was an Uncle Tom, since he is seen with Helmut. Mark tries to explain that some whites are sympathetic, but gets nowhere.
    • Mark realizes he may need to end his friendship with Helmut in order to stay alive. So he tells Helmut about his problem and Helmut understands.
    • One day, Helmut insists on driving Mark home all the way to Alexandra, even though Mark tells him it's very dangerous. Not only is the trip illegal, but it is dangerous for both Helmut and Mark.
    • It works out okay that time.
    • Another time, Helmut drops him off at about 9pm and Mark is attacked by ten young men who call him an Uncle Tom. They threaten to hurt him so badly so that he never plays tennis again.
    • Suddenly a truck barrels through the group of boys, and Mark tries to escape through the hole made by the truck. Somebody hits him with a brickbat but he manages to keep going.
    • He arrives home with swollen lips and a bleeding head. He lies to Mama, saying he fell. While she draws up a bath, he tells her the truth.
    • She tells him she had warned him that his white friends would get him into trouble.
    • Mark wants to know what's wrong with having white friends. His friends might be white, but they are different than the racists who run the country.
    • Mama reminds him that all whites are the same to the blacks in Alexandra. She says they are desperate and angry and warns him to be careful.
    • A few weeks later, Mark sees a Chinese shopkeeper's store gutted. He also sees people looting food provided by the welfare program.
    • When Mark hears that they're burning down the library and burning the books, Mark runs to the library, hoping to rescue a few books. He's angered by the fact that they're burning one of the few things that can bring enlightenment and freedom.
    • The library is deserted and burnt down, but Mark finds a row of books that hadn't burned. As he's wandering in the library, he sees two army trucks enter the stadium, then soldiers head his way.
    • Mark tries not to panic. He takes the book and hides in the ditch, wondering why he had even come.
    • He over hears the soldiers talking in Afrikaans. One of them says it's crazy how the "Kaffir children" burnt down books, which are white people's money. Another said they hoped that the government doesn't give them another library for years, and adds that South African blacks are "the best-treated blacks in the world" (44.152).
    • Mark waits until they leave and heads home, where he finds his family eating brown bread and Saldanha pilchards. Mama had pilfered it from the welfare office.
    • Later that afternoon, Mark and his brother pick up the books from the ditch.
  • Chapter 45

    • Mark is selected for a black tennis team to play in the Annual National Junior Tennis Championships.
    • But the government announces they may not let the championships go forward due to concerns about black youth coming near the white suburbs of Pretoria.
    • Scaramouche tells Mark just to keep practicing. Regardless, there are some black tournaments coming up and he'll register Mark in the singles and the two of them can play together for the doubles. Further, he says he'd like to introduce him to Andre Zietsman, a white tennis player who had just returned from a tennis scholarship in America.
    • The tournament takes place after all and Mark returns from it, determined to make this tennis thing work. He'll strengthen his relationships with white tennis players and figure out how to win a scholarship to an American college.
    • Schools finally reopen in August and Mark enrolls. Simba Quix still supports him financially so he can play tennis each afternoon.
    • Most of Mark's classmates, however, are gone – many of them having joined Umkhonto We Sizwe. When they re-entered the country, it was as guerrilla soldiers. The government continued to pick students up for questioning and arrest, and Mark worries that he'll be picked up as well.
    • Mama reassures him that he'll be safe, that God is protecting him.
    • Mark begins to go to church, primarily because he feels safe there. As he reads the Bible, he finds it helpful. He visits numerous churches and begins to hear pastors talking about the need for liberation. More and more churches, in fact, are joining the freedom struggle.
  • Chapter 46

    • Mark meets Andre Zietsman and he becomes a good friend.
    • Andre is a rising tennis star and he takes Mark under his wing. They begin to meet on Saturday mornings to play tennis, even though it's dangerous for them to meet where they play.
    • Andre tells him about what it was like in the United States, and how he struggled at first to accept a non-segregated society. There, he says, blacks vote and can be elected to political positions. The laws say all men are created equal and should be judged by merit.
    • Mark had heard all this but still found it hard to believe there was a place where blacks weren't regulated by laws.
    • Andre asks him to imagine Johannesburg without any legislation so that no matter what color you were, you could live wherever you wanted. Mark still can't believe life is like that somewhere.
    • Andre grew up in privilege and wealth, and assumed it was the way it should be. He believed that blacks were being punished for sins committed by Ham (in the Bible, Ham is one of Noah's sons.)
    • But in America, Andre saw another reality. Some of his teachers were black. Some of the students who slept in his dormitory were black. He played tennis with blacks and discovered they were the best athletes ever. Most shocking to Andre was the fact that blacks and whites went to the same parties and even date, get married.
    • Mark starts salivating over what he hears. He wonders if he'll ever make it to the Promised Land.
  • Chapter 47

    • Andre became a close friend. The fact that he had changed his ideas after experiencing the U.S. convinced Mark that South Africa's white society could also change.
    • Mark's family is again strapped financially. Mama gives birth to her seventh child, another girl, named Linah. Papa is laid off and the family faces starvation again.
    • Mark looks for work but he's too educated for the work available to most blacks.
    • Where he does qualify, he needs a work permit, but he can't get a pass because his parents aren't legally allowed to live in Alexandra.
    • Andre invites Mark to work for him at the sports shop but Mark says it's too risky.
    • When Andre gives him some money and some tennis clothes, Mark thanks him but Andre says it's nothing.
    • The money allows Mark to buy food, medicine, diapers, and formula for his family.
    • Mark improves a lot by playing tennis with Andre. He wins the Alexandra Open Tennis Championships for a second time.
    • He passes Form Four in the top 1% of the class and enters final year of secondary school.
    • Mr. Wilde at Simba Quix tells him that regardless of whether he passes matric (the exams for graduating), he would find a job at Simba Quix. Mr. Wilde claimed that they were paying their black and white managers the same salary.
    • Family members urge Mark to accept the job offer. Blacks with jobs like that lived in a section of Soweto known as "Beverly Hills."
    • Though Mark is tempted to take the job offer, knowing how well he could provide for his family with such a job, he knows he will never be happy until he's been to America. He wants to feel what it's like to be free. He just wishes he knew how to make it happen.
  • Chapter 48

    • Steve Biko dies. The world is shocked, and Africans are angry. The government begins a series of "savage crackdowns" on organizations that declared they would continue the struggle.
    • The military creates a permanent presence in Alexandra. Gatherings of more than three people (even for a funeral) are now banned.
    • Mark goes to meetings where blacks talk about how to get guns and do what is necessary to obtain liberation.
    • Mark is angry but he knows he doesn't have what it takes to be violent. So he continues to read and play tennis. But he feels guilty, wondering if reading books and playing tennis means he's collaborating with apartheid rather than struggling against it.
    • He convinces himself that violence is suicidal and promises himself that if he leaves South Africa, he'll fight against apartheid with "every ounce of my strength" (48.10).
  • Chapter 49

    • Helmut suggests that Mark enter the South African Breweries' Open, but Mark doesn't want to be another "sacrificial lamb," knowing that most black players weren't good enough to make it through the qualifying round (49.3).
    • Also, in 1977, the International Tennis Federation put pressure on South Africa's professional tennis organization to open membership to blacks or be expelled.
    • Black tennis players responded by boycotting the professional tennis organization, not willing to give a positive face to apartheid. They insisted instead that tennis be integrated immediately. White tennis officials looked for black token players and asked Helmut to convince Mark to enter the SAB Open.
    • Mark tells Helmut he doesn't want to be used by white people. Helmut says he might get his chance to meet Americans and find out more about tennis scholarships.
    • Mark is desperate enough that he says yes.
    • For two weeks, Mark works hard to qualify.
    • Mama asks him if he's trying to kill himself. He's training so hard that it's making him sick.
    • The black tennis organization contacts Mark and tells him that if he participates, he'll be banned from playing black tennis for life.
    • Scaramouche tells him to play anyway. He says that if you look at American history, sports were at the forefront for changing race relations in the U.S.
    • Mama tells him to forget it. Does he want to die? The threats are real.
    • But Mark really wants to go to America, even though Mama tells him he's hallucinating.
    • Mark finally tells Wilfred that he's thinking of withdrawing from the open due to death threats. But Wilfred tells him he should play. It will give him a psychological boost for his game and he may get noticed, even earn a scholarship to America. But he leaves the decision up to Mark.
    • He calls Owen Williams, the organizer of the Open. Williams tells him that he thinks the death threats are a bluff, but admits that Mark is being used.
    • However, he adds, the future of black tennis lies in the hands of whites. Their attitudes need to change and the only way it will change is if they see black players. This is a good place to start.
    • Mark tells Owen Williams he needs a day to think about it, but he already knows what his decision is.
  • Chapter 50

    • The day of the tennis match turned out to be the most important match of Mark's life.
    • Wilfred gives Mark new shoes and taxi fare the night before and tells him not to be nervous, to slow down and let the other player, Abe Segal, make the mistakes.
    • Mark's family is unable to come but Mama prays before he goes. On the way to the bus rank, blacks stare at him in contempt. They had read the newspapers and saw him as a traitor.
    • Mark arrives two hours before his match. Though there are officials from the Black Tennis Association there, they don't speak to him except to mutter "Uncle Tom" or "traitor' under their breath.
    • Abe Segal was known for clowning around on the tennis court. They met before the match and, though he was funny and kind, Mark was nervous.
    • Segal's style confused Mark, and he grew impatient, starting to make mistakes. Segal won the first set, 6-2. The crowd left. An elderly white man advised Mark to "run him down" and Mark says that's what he's been trying to do.
    • Mark lost the second set as well. Segal told Mark good luck, that he shouldn't give up, because it was a good match.
    • But Mark is depressed. Though people tell him it was a good match, he feels out of place, and thinks he's let his people down.
    • The whites he meets tells him it was a good match while blacks laugh at him.
    • A few days later, Mark buys a paper and discovers that he was banned for life from the Black Tennis Association. He talks to Owen Williams, who says he'll have to wait until the end of the tournament. Mark wonders if Williams is really going to help him after all.
    • He heads to Ellis Park one day, looking for someone to play with. He sees Stan Smith and Bob Lutz playing. They're the top doubles team in the world so he watches them and is impressed with their playing.
    • Every once in a while, Stan Smith looks at Mark and smiles, and Mark smiles back. Bob Lutz finally tells Stan he's had enough and the two head for their tennis bags. Mark gets close, wanting to ask for their autographs but not sure he dares.
    • Stan Smith looks at Mark and asks him if he'd like to hit some.
    • Mark can't believe it but he gets on the court, wondering if he's going to make a fool of himself again.
    • Mark doesn't make a fool of himself. Stan gives encouragement as they play. Mark can see he's improving.
    • While they're playing, Mark notices a pretty blonde woman standing near the fence. He recognizes her as Marjory Gengler, Stan's wife. They invite Mark to join them for a snack in the Players' Lounge, off-limit to blacks mostly because it's too expensive.
    • Mark ends up telling Stan and Marjory everything about his life. They are shocked but they care. He remembers that they had played for American colleges, so he tells them his dream of playing for an American college.
    • When he leaves the Smiths, he feels encouraged but sad. He had never met such honest and compassionate whites.
    • The next day, Mark goes to Ellis Park again and hits some balls with Stan. Then they have lunch together in the Players' Lounge.
    • Several days pass and Mark's friendship with the Smiths solidifies. Stan promises to look into the matter of scholarships when he gets back to the States. They want to know what he'll do in the meantime, and Mark says he'll test the government's promise to allow interracial sports. He'll apply for membership at one of the whites-only tennis clubs. If that doesn't work, he'll keep practicing at the Tennis Ranch.
    • Stan wants to know if there are any other tournaments that Mark can play in, and Mark remembers that he could play in the Sugar Circuit.
    • Stan and Mark go to look for Owen Williams to find out how Mark can enter the competitions.
    • Though the date had passed, Williams said he could arrange for Mark to play in any of them.
    • Stan agrees to pay for Mark to play in the Port Elizabeth and Cape Town tournaments. He arranged to get rackets, tennis shoes, shirts and shorts for Mark as well.
    • When Mama hears what the Smiths have done for Mark, she cries and tells Mark they should pray that God blesses the Smiths and protects them all their lives. So they kneel together and pray.
  • Chapter 51

    • Geoffrey Montsisi is in charge of Mark's travel arrangements, and he arranges for Mark to stay in a hotel in Port Elizabeth, one that doesn't practice apartheid, and at the home of some Transkeian diplomats in Cape Town.
    • (The Transkei was one of the homelands, and the diplomats, though considered "kaffirs" before, were given status as "honorary whites" during their tenure as diplomats. Though Mark considered diplomats for the homelands to have sold out their race, he agrees to stay there. He's curious.)
    • En-route to Port Elizabeth, Mark finds he has a problem. He needs to go to the bathroom on the plane but doesn't know if there is a place on the plane for him to go. He asks the stewardess if he can go to the bathroom and she indicates the two bathrooms at the back of the plane. But Mark sees two white women coming out of them. The stewardess tells them they are vacant so he goes to the bathroom. He feels guilty about it, knowing he's probably breaking the law.
    • When he returns to his seat, the British woman sitting next to him asks if he's a tennis player. She thinks he's from America and is surprised to learn he's from South Africa. They discuss tennis in South Africa and he tells her that he intends to be the first black South African to win Wimbledon. She says she believes he can do it.
    • Mark isn't used to the luxuries of staying in a hotel, and being waited on by black men and women who insist on calling him "master" and "sir." They continue being polite, even though Mark tells them not to; they say they don't want to lose their jobs.
    • South African whites assume Mark is a black American, and they are respectful. He plays along.
    • Mark loses the singles match. He wins the first match in doubles, and loses the second.
    • In Cape Town, Mark trains by jogging and sprains his ankle. He is determined to play anyway but loses both matches in the singles, then sits out the doubles.
    • He does run a tennis clinic in Guguletu and Nyanga, two Cape Town townships. Some of the kids he meets have talent, so he writes to the Black Tennis Foundation and Mr. Montsisi to tell them about it.
    • The Transkeian diplomat is against apartheid, but tells Mark that the best way to beat it is from within. Mark disagrees but respects him. He takes Mark to see the Crossroads Squatters Camp, which makes Mark cry. It's worse than anything he's ever seen, even in Alexandra.
    • The diplomat tells Mark that these people have to dismantle their shacks every day, then put them back up again, in order to avoid the daily raids with tear gas launchers.
    • Crossroads was scheduled for demolition and the people that lived there were to lose their South African citizenship and sent back to the homelands in the Transkei.
    • When Mark returns to Alexandra, he starts volunteering for the Black Tennis Foundation. Because he was banned from black tennis, he feels okay about seeking membership at the Wanderers Club, a prestigious and exclusive tennis club. He's greeted by a "snarling black guard" (51.71) who tells him the boss isn't around and he needs to leave.
    • Mark tries another entrance and meets a young white woman who directs her to Mr. Ferguson's office.
    • Mr. Ferguson invites him in and Mark introduces himself as the black tennis player who plays at the Barrett's Tennis Ranch. Owen Williams had told Mr. Ferguson about him.
    • Mr. Ferguson asks if Mark knows that he's the only black person ever to apply for membership. Mr. Ferguson adds that he's certainly qualified. However, the decision isn't his, it's up to the committee. But there will be issues, even if they accept him they will have to give him separate showers and locker rooms, other things. It's unlikely that the committee will approve spending all that money for one tennis player.
    • But regardless of how the membership process goes, Mr. Ferguson says he thinks it won't be a problem to get him accepted to play in the tournaments. He would just have to use a separate bathroom.
    • Mark leaves, wondering how this is really integrated sports.
    • He wonders what he's going to do with his life. He hasn't heard from Stan yet. He can either go to college or get a job. He doesn't think he can go to any of the black colleges, but he can't return to the "yes baas" mentality either.
  • Chapter 52

    • Mark's name isn't in the matriculation exam results published in the paper, and he's struggling to accept the idea that he's failed. How could he have failed?
    • Mama comforts him, saying there must be a mistake somewhere.
    • The next day, Mark finds many of his classmates in the Principal's office as well. The Principal is just as surprised as they all are to find their names not on the results.
    • One student suggests that they were deliberately failed.
    • Mark asks to see his results and it turns out, he had received a third-grade pass because he had failed his mother tongue, Tsonga.
    • But even if you count that, Mark protests, his average still comes out to even higher than a second-grade pass. How can they fail him for this?
    • The Principal doesn't know either and says they've already complained to the Department of Bantu Education. He hopes it's simply a mistake.
    • Mark goes home, thinking about the implications of this. With a third-grade pass, he can't even go to one of the black colleges in South Africa. How could he go to the U.S. if he didn't even graduate from secondary school?
    • The Department of Bantu Education decided to award Mark a second-class pass after going over the results. But because he had failed his mother tongue, he still couldn't go to one of the black universities.
    • Mark receives a letter from Stan Smith, who says his coach at University of Southern California has agreed to help. He will approach some coaches on Mark's behalf.
    • The letter helps Mark to feel better.
    • Mama asks if Mark plans to take the job at Simba Chips and Mark says no, he's going to wait to hear whether he's going to get to go to college in the United States.
    • Mama tells him to stop dreaming and start working.
    • Mark says he doesn't have a pass, and Mama tells him to go get one. Mark argues that he can't get a pass because the family is living there illegally.
    • Mark plays tennis each day at the Tennis Ranch while waiting for an offer from an American university. Everyone thinks he's crazy, that the offer from an American university will never come, and they urge him to get a job.
    • He starts training with Keith Brebnor, coach of one of the best South African tennis squads. He's the first black on the squad. At first, he's nervous and does badly but when he becomes more comfortable, he starts performing better. His friendships with whites open many discussions about apartheid, segregation, integration, and about the differences and similarities between the races.
    • Keith takes Mark aside and tells him he needs to keep practicing, and enduring stiff competition. Otherwise, his game will atrophy like any muscle. Most of the players on the squad are leaving for tournaments in the U.S. or Europe so the squad is ending.
    • Mark's only option is getting to America.
  • Chapter 53

    • Mark is arrested for being in a white neighborhood after the 10pm curfew. He tells the cops he's a student and, because he carries his schoolbooks with him, they let him go with a warning.
    • The black cop tells Mark he's eighteen; he should have gotten a pass two years previously.
    • Although he hates the idea, Mark begins the application process for a pass.
    • At the pass office, Mark is interviewed by a black man who seems to enjoy his position of power.
    • The official interrogates Mark about every detail of his life, and then makes Mark wait for half an hour. When he calls Mark back in, he says Mark has serious problems. His parents don't have a permit to live in Alexandra so they can't start the pass process. His parents have to get a permit first.
    • Mark protests that this office refuses to give them one.
    • The man says Mark's parents must come with him to the office. Mark protests that his father will lose his job if he misses a day of work, but the man insists. And he needs to bring the necessary papers.
    • Which ones? Mark asks, since he's already brought notes from principals, birth certificate, his parents' passes, rent receipts, and his baptismal certificate.
    • The man tells him not to be cheeky. They have to have a letter from his employer.
    • Mark explains that he's not working, and the man then wonders why Mark needs a pass. Mark wants a pass so that he can't start working.
    • The official says that Mark has to get a job and then apply for a pass.
    • When Mark responds that it's illegal to have a job without a pass the man is unsympathetic. Mark leaves.
    • Mark wonders what he should do while he waits for news from America.
    • Papa calls Mark a loafer because he isn't working yet. He destroys Mark's books. He had wanted to destroy Mark's tennis rackets but couldn't find them.
    • Mama is also exhausted and begs Mark to find a job. She has diabetes now and needs Mark's income more than ever.
    • Mark begins to feel selfish. He tells Andre that he needs a job, and Andre says he could use some help. But then he realizes that his father could get Mark a job at Barclays Bank. In fact, he may find work there so great, he won't even want to go to America.
    • Mark explains his problem getting a pass and Andre says he shouldn't worry about that.
    • A few weeks later, Mark has an interview at the Barclays Bank. The personnel officer was impressed with him, especially his abilities in English and Afrikaans.
    • Finally, Mark has a job. And, with a letter from the bank, he is given the paperwork for a pass.
    • But at the main post office, where he takes some papers, he has a terrible experience. Not only does he wait for hours in line, but then he has to go through dozens of tables, where each Afrikaner manning the table humiliates him.
    • Mark is asked intimate questions about his life and his parents' lives. Mark is lucky that he has all the required papers, which annoyed the people manning the tables. Then he has to go have a physical. He has to strip down to the waist then get x-rayed. He overhears the clerks saying that some of the migrant workers had lice and would need to be fumigated.
    • Mark is x-rayed. Then his private parts are examined for venereal disease (V.D.). V.D. would eliminate him from qualifying for a pass.
    • By the end of the day, Mark is so mad that he wants to leave for America first chance he gets.
    • But no scholarship offer comes. So Mark begins working at the bank.
    • At the end of the month, Mark gets his first paycheck – three times what his parents make with combined incomes. He opens a savings and checking account and buys a new suit. He pays his siblings' school fees and books, and still has half his wages left. The family is able to start eating better.
    • Mama starts to talk about buying furniture on layaway.
    • Mark is doing so well that his manager sends him for testing to see about advancing. He's told he has a great career in banking ahead of him and they increase his salary.
    • Mark's mother says he should thank God for his good luck.
    • Mama wants to move to a decent house in Tembisa. Mark says he doesn't mind moving them but he will stay in Alexandra. Alexandra is closer to work, and plus he doesn't want to aid apartheid by settling in an area that they've reserved along tribal lines.
    • He continues playing in tennis tournaments.
    • One day he meets Lennart Bergelin, a tennis player and poet from Argentina, who looks at Mark's poems and observes that they're good but they're also full of anger.
    • In May, Mark receives two letters from America. One is from Stan Smith's coach, George Toley. Toley lets Mark know that although he can't offer him a scholarship to USC, he's sent letters around to coaches at other universities and he should be hearing something.
    • The second letter is from a tennis coach at Princeton, who lets Mark know that he should apply. Although they don't offer scholarships for athletes, they can underwrite his entire education at Princeton if he applies and is accepted because they can offer financial aid.
    • In the following weeks, Mark receives letters from various colleges, all saying the same thing: apply and we may be able to offer you financial aid or a scholarship. Mark can't apply to all of them – he receives over forty letters – but he does choose a variety and he applies.
    • Mark starts thinking about getting plane fare and a passport. He knows he'll have trouble getting a passport. The South African government doesn't like giving passports to blacks.
    • Mark figured one of the reasons it was so reluctant to give passports to blacks was the pressure the America government was applying to South Africa to change its policies.
    • Mark knows that even if he's offered a scholarship, he might be refused a passport.
    • After a month, Mark receives a reply from Princeton, saying that if he decides to come there, the University will almost certainly pay for his tuition and room and board for all four years.
    • One of Mark's sisters lets the news leak that Mark will be leaving for America and he soon receives threats.
    • The police start stopping Mark in the streets. He tries to continue with life as usual and hopes everything will work out.
    • Mark started receiving an average of two letters a week from coaches at American universities. Finally, he receives a letter from Limestone college, offering him a full athletic scholarship to play tennis.
    • Mark keeps the news secret for a couple of weeks, though one of his coworkers tells him he seems happy, like he's discovered gold in his backyard.
    • Mark's family is happy and Wilfred is thrilled. He tells Mr. Montsisi at the Black Tennis Foundation, who agrees to keep it secret so that the apartheid government doesn't try to prevent him from going at the last minute. He tells Mark that he always knew Mark would do this, because he believed in himself.
    • Owen Wilson assigns Mr. Montsisi to help Mark get his passport and advises Mark to start reading about American culture so he can be better prepared when he gets there.
    • So Mark starts going to the American consulate on his lunch break to read their pamphlets. He is moved by the Declaration of Independence and writes it down until he has it memorized.
    • In June, he receives his packet from Limestone College: his letter of admission, a letter from the Bethel Baptist Church, where he can settle and feel at home, and a letter from Stan Smith, who had heard about the scholarship and offered to help Mark get a visa. Mr. Montsisi went to the Department of the Interior to get a passport.
    • A white man interrogates Mark about every detail of his life for two hours. Throughout the interview, Mark denies that he hates apartheid, claims that he loves living in South Africa, and asserts that he'll come back to South Africa when he's done studying because he wouldn't want to live any other place.
    • The man finally says he can't possibly issue a passport until November, even though Mark protests that school starts in September.
    • They go back and talk to Owen, who calls Stan. Stan makes some other phone calls. The American embassy in Pretoria issues him a visa even before he gets his passport.
    • Mr. Montsisi and Mark return to the Department of the Interior with the visa and other papers. The same passport official now raises other objections. Did he have the sum he needed as a deposit? What about his plane ticket? Mr. Montsisi tells him both will be taken care of.
    • Mr. Montsisi speaks with several members of the Black Tennis Foundation board of trustees and one of them, Alf Chalmers, offers the twelve hundred rands Mark needed to get his plane ticket. When he went back to the Department of the Interior, they didn't ask any other questions. He could come pick up his passport in two weeks.
    • Mark quit his job at the bank after he has his passport. He has just a few short weeks to say goodbye.
  • Chapter 54

    • On September 16, 1978, Mark's family watches Mark pack his bags. He is ready to go, and leaves for the United States.
    • He doesn't know as he packs that he is the first black boy to leave South Africa on a tennis scholarship.
    • He looks at his family, saddened by the pain they feel at his departure.
    • It is time to say goodbye. Mark kisses Mama and she cries while he comforts her that he'll only be gone for four years. No, she says, let me cry. These are tears of joy.
    • He kisses George, then each of his sisters. Papa comes out from the bedroom and stands there stiffly as Mark kisses him goodbye. He looks like he can't believe Mark is leaving. Mark kisses him again and hugs him, and Papa starts to cry as he realizes that Mark still loves him despite everything.
    • "Take care of yourself, son," he says (54.11) and asks him to write to them.
    • Mama tells him to remember, no matter where he goes, to believe in himself and to have hope. Trust in God and he'll help you.
    • As he leaves, Mark is upset by what life holds for his family who must remain in South Africa. He thinks about all that they have gone through together. He hopes his adventure will help his family and ultimately all of black South Africa.
    • By going to America, he knows he has a special duty to succeed, and to show the world that black South Africans can do something. But he also knows that no matter how far he goes, he'll never really leave South Africa.
    • The man down the street knocks on the door. He had offered to take Mark to the airport, saying that he didn't want to be paid because it was a great honor to do this.
    • The car is too small to fit Mark's family so he says his goodbyes.
    • He wonders if America is worth leaving his family but something tells him to go ahead, and don't look back.
    • He kisses his sisters again. He tells his brother to forgive Papa, to understand that it's his deep pain that makes him behave the way he does.
    • His sister starts to cry and Mama comforts her, saying that Mark will be back soon.
    • As he drives away, Mark thinks about telling the driver to turn back. But he doesn't. He moves forward, and towards his future in America.