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Why I Am Reading Banned Books This Summer

 

The words of Mark Mathabane’s book Kaffir Boy jumped off the page at me. I read of sexual assault, police brutality, and generational trauma at the hands of the ruling class in South Africa’s apartheid government. “Good thing that never happens here,” I thought to myself. Now, I recognize my privilege and innocence in my fascination with this book.

 

I was reading Kaffir Boy as a part of my summer reading for 9th Grade Literature. It was paired with To Kill a Mockingbird, a classic for rising high school students. However, by the time I was halfway through Kaffir Boy, my parents received correspondence that I was no longer required to read it. A parent had complained and reported the inappropriateness of the book to the principal. I was hurt; I enjoyed the book. I didn’t know how to name my fascination with the book then, but looking back on it, I saw in Kaffir Boy a world that was so unfamiliar to me, yet a world that I needed to learn about. The pain of the author was on full display: a pain I needed to witness and would have never seen with my own eyes.

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