Johannes Mark Mathabane
Johannes Mark Mathabane is the protagonist and narrator of his autobiography. Mathabane grows up as a black person in the midst of apartheid, and his childhood is defined by struggle against social, structural, and… read analysis of Johannes Mark Mathabane
Mathabane’s Father (Jackson)
Mathabane, George, Florah, Merriam, and Linah’s father. Mathabane’s father grew up in the tribal reserves and maintains a deep reverence for his Venda tribal traditions. As such, he insists on… read analysis of Mathabane’s Father (Jackson)
Mathabane’s Mother (Magdalene)
Mathabane, George, Florah, Merriam, and Linah’s mother. Mathabane’s mother does not share her husband’s devotion to tribalism, but since he owns her by tribal law, she follows his lead… read analysis of Mathabane’s Mother (Magdalene)
Mathabane describes his maternal grandmother as an “indomitable matriarch.” After her husband leaves her, Granny is left to raise her two younger children, Uncle Piet and Aunt Bushy, alone. To support herself and fund… read analysis of Granny (Ellen)
Wilfred is a white liberal from Germany who owns a “tennis ranch.” Wilfred befriends Mathabane and helps train him, gifting him with athletic equipment that Mathabane can’t afford otherwise. Wilfred hates apartheid and compares white… read analysis of Wilfred
Like Wilfred, Helmut is a white liberal from Germany, though he is only in South Africa on a temporary work contract. Helmut forms a close friendship with Mathabane and also considers apartheid akin to… read analysis of Helmut
Andre Zietsman is a wealthy South African and fellow tennis player. Mathabane meets Andre shortly after Andre returns from university in America. Although as an Afrikaner, Andre was raised to believe that black people are… read analysis of Andre Zietsman
Mrs. Smith is Granny’s employer, a kind white English woman who believes apartheid is horrible. Mrs. Smith demonstrates to Mathabane that not all white people are evil, and she give Mathabane clothing and books… read analysis of Mrs. Smith
Uncle Piet is Mathabane’s uncle, Aunt Bushy’s brother, and Granny’s son, though he’s not much older than Mathabane. Uncle Piet attends school until Granny cannot afford the fees. He drops out and… read analysis of Uncle Piet
Stan Smith is a white professional tennis player from America who befriends Mathabane at the SAB Open tournament. Although they are only together a few days, Stan and his wife, Marjory, instantly take a… read analysis of Stan Smith
David is one of Mathabane’s closest friends, a fellow student and tennis player. David is not often mentioned in the story, though he teaches Mathabane about the ANC liberation movement and they are together during the early days of the Soweto Uprising.
Clyde is Mrs. Smith’s chubby, racist son. Although Mrs. Smith is kind and respectful, Clyde’s white teachers tell him that black people are unintelligent and inferior. He calls Mathabane “kaffir,” an extremely offensive racist slur.
Aunt Bushy is Mathabane’s aunt, Uncle Piet’s sister, and Granny’s daughter, though she is not much older than Mathabane. Aunt Bushy attends school until Granny can’t afford the fees. She accidentally becomes pregnant when she is 18.
Marjory Smith is Stan’s wife. She meets Mathabane with Stan at the SAB Open, and asks many questions about Mathabane’s experiences as a young black man living under apartheid.
Owen Williams is a white liberal administrator for the Black Tennis Foundation, who helps Mathabane register in several tournaments and work out his travel arrangements to America.
Jarvas is the leader of Mathabane’s old gang, who hates Mathabane for quitting.
Limela is a migrant worker who hates Christianity.
George is Mathabane’s younger brother.
Florah is Mathabane’s younger sister.
Merriam is Mathabane’s younger sister.
Linah is Mathabane’s younger sister.
A thirteen-year-old from Mathabane's town. He leads a crew of boys who engage in child prostitution in exchange for food.
Mathabane's baby sister.