Reading Responses - 2007

Katie Crapulli '09

Rivonia's Children

"Something that I also found interesting in this book was how much their political decision and actions affected their entire families.  It's hard to imagine someone's political decisions could affect their lives as much as these three families.  Their children saw their parents hauled away to jail because of their illegal acts against the government.  For these people, it was not just a matter of political opinion, it was a lifestyle.  Every aspect of their lives revolved around abolishing apartheid.  It is so hard to imagine a lifestyle like that, and it is so admirable that these people were willing to sacrifice literally everything in their lives in the fight for equality."

Our Stories, Our Songs: African Children Talk about AIDS

"In Our Stories, Our Songs we get to read some really raw and real accounts of children's lives.  They have the same interests as most children I know, they like school, sports and they love their families.  But the type of lives these children live are not even comparable to that of anyone I have ever known.  Many have watched at least one of their parents die from AIDS.  Many don't even refer to it as AIDS, instead they just say they died of sickness.  This is scary in itself because if these children are not being educated about AIDS then there is no hope of surviving it."

We Are All the Same

"In this story, it is impossible not to fall in loved with Nkosi.  it really helped me understand the desperate situation that many are living in.  Hearing death counts and numbers of people infected would never have the same affect on me that reading this story did.  it makes the entire situation real."

Nelson Mandela: In His Own Words


"Mandela has an ability to keep his composure like no one I have ever known or witnessed.  He truly led people by example.  Despite spending nearly thirty years imprisoned, he was still able to rise above this major wrong and change South Africa for the better."

I really admired how much Mandela fought for the rights and well being of children.

Mandela wanted it to be known that children are the future, and therefore society needs to revolutionize the quality of life for children."


Katie Pitz '07

Kaffir Boy

"I just finished chapter 4 and right now I'm in shock.  I don't know the details of apartheid or the extent of it because I was too young when it was ending to know.

The violence of the police officers towards the blacks for not having their papers in order is unbelievable.  Also, the poverty although that I knew a little bit more about, is just devastating.  To hear of those men and women getting marched off to jail completely naked while their beaten children are left alone.  It reminds me of the Holocaust in a way because of the sheer brutality."

Nelson Mandela: In His Own Words

"It's still so amazing to me that the new apartheid free government was not chosen until 1994.  In 1994, I was 9 years old and the US had been free of British rule for over 200 years.  It's difficult to understand that in the 20th century people in South Africa were still being treated like animals just because of the color of their skin.

Mandela's Freedom Day speeches are very hopeful and inspiring.

Mandela seems focused on the good of the people, unity in his country, and making sure that everyone uses their opportunity to vote and participate in the government."

Rivonia''s Children


"While this book was disturbing and upsetting on many levels, I really enjoyed reading it.  It was beautifully written and I appreciated getting to know the characters on a personal and emotional level rather than just reading descriptions of the events.  It was also wonderful to read about white people involved in the struggle against apartheid.  It's amazing what these people sacrificed and risked for the sake of others.  They could have just gone on living their lives and it would have made no difference because apartheid did not affect their lives negatively in any financial or political way.  These compassionate people knew that what was going on was wrong though and felt it their duty to try and fix the situation.  People like this are incredibly inspiring and the book really did them justice in presenting them as real people, fighting for a cause, with emotions, setbacks, and lasting effects of the things they experienced."


Charlotte Hale


Kaffir Boy

"I began reading Kaffir Boy while sitting on a plane on my way to the Dominican Republic where I would be staying at a luxurious all-inclusive hotel.  While my sisters fell asleep in their seats next to me, I became entrapped by Mark Mathabane’s autobiography.  My heart ached and an overwhelming sense of guilt and empathy swept over me as I read about the raids of the Peri-Urban.  I couldn't’ believe that someone could treat another person the way they were treating the in Alexandria, let alone blacks treating other blacks that way.  I couldn't’ imagine the terror they had to go through and at such a young age."

While my sisters and cousins went out at night, I stayed in reading the book until I fell asleep.  Perhaps I felt that I owed it to Mark Mathabane to read his book so closely and intensely because what he was going through the exact opposite of my time in the Dominican Republic."

As amazed as I was by the horrible conditions there were subjected to, I was also amazed by Mark's mother's strength, "determination, courage, and love".

Mark is such an inspiring person and I am so happy he succeeded and made it to America."

We Are All The Same

"I absolutely loved this book.  Although it wasn't’ quite as moving and inspiring as Kaffir Boy, it definitely was a great read.  (I actually bought a copy of this book for my boyfriend’s mom).  What I loved most about this book was the combination of Daphne’s love, Nkosi’s (Xolan’s) strength, and Gail’s determination. 

I was extremely saddened by much of this book.  I cried when I read about Nkosi’s death and when I thought about the millions of children who died or were orphaned by this disease.  And I was saddened by my own apathy."

However, I was inspired by the three main characters of this book, and I have become determined to turn much of my empathy into action.


Amanda Wirene

We Are All The Same

"I have never thought about the role of the whites, in terms of renegades and rebel leaders, but I am glad that I am able to acknowledge it now.  The situation sounds similar to the Civil Rights Movement in the US during the sixties.  I never realized that any similarities existed between the US and South Africa.  Why should Nkosi have to be so brave for me to even be aware of what AIDS kids go through.  I need to do more, for the people who are just like me but less fortunate.  Nkosi has done more in his eleven years for a better cause than I will ever do in my lifetime.  His speech has changed my life."


Kasey Loeffel

Kaffir Boy

"I don’t remember ever really being exposed to literature involving apartheid in South Africa.  I know we discussed it briefly in world History but beyond that I still did not understand to the extent that it affected the country.  Honestly the preface made me very nervous to read the book because of its bluntness and summary of Mark Mathabane’s taken on his life.  His description of his father from the preface comes out within the first fifty pages and captures the demasculation so many black men suffered during this time. 

I am blown away at the responsibility given to Johannes at such a young age.  He not only faces the terrors of persecution from the police and the raids, but also babysits his three-year-old sister and infant brother.  I forget how young he is in the scene where his mother leaves the children alone, but am reminded by his inexperience with the infant (George) and by his constant nervousness, which leads him to wet himself.  The descriptions of the raids and Mathabane’s ability to capture the fear and leave me hanging on his every word astounds me.  Even though I am reading something so terrible, I can’t seem to put it down because I have to know what will happen next.  The pressure which Johanne feels immediately becomes your own as the reader. 

One touch I found very nice, which shed some hope on their life, was the mother’s story-telling abilities.  The enthusiasm and detailed memory of this happening each night shows the strength of the mother and a quality she had in keeping the family together.  She not only taught them lessons through stories but kept their imaginations alive."

Nelson Mandela: In His Own Words


"Freedom day was important to not only Mandela but also the people of South Africa.  Apartheid affected so many and having such a day pays tribute to all the hard work of the country.  This quote shows their determination and success. 

I am always astounded by people who have such strong force and belief in something that they are willing to risk their lives.  This shows his (Mandela’s) passion and ultimate dedication to his cause and I greatly admire that.  I hope that I can show the passion he has in what I am doing."


Kasha Rybczyk

Kaffir Boy

"Mark’s story was very engaging and definitely offered a beginning insight to what it was like to live during apartheid." 

Rivonia’s Children

"Rivonia’s Children was an extremely eye-opening account for me.  I did not know anything about those who gave their lives fighting for the end of Apartheid.  I had no clue that the majority of those were communists as well.  Their struggles and accomplishments, however small or insignificant seeming at the time, had great contributions to the incredible fight against apartheid." 

Nelson Mandela: In His Own Words

"My first topic of interest was Mandela’s speeches or religion, especially in regards to the Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish traditions, as well as Mahatma Gandhi.  He used the holiday Eid ul Fitr as a way of embracing hope and peace for the future and acknowledged the importance of Muslim citizen in the country.  Eid is a joyous festivity (I celebrated while in India) and definitely a good opportunity for promoting unity.  I found Mandela’s reminiscence of Dinali, interesting as well.  Prayers to Lakshmi ensure luck and prosperity over the new year.  Mandela also acknowledges the place the Indians have in South Africa with having religious traditions, however I am wrong in assuring this as a huge part of the culture and population consists of these with a large variety of strong religious beliefs."


Lilly Magid

Rivonia’s Children

"I have taken African American History this past semester and I have enjoyed the parallels Franky makes with the relatives between Jews and blacks in a black led movement for social justice in the US at the same time.

These wealthy families have given up everything, even put their families lives on the line.   I am truly astonished at their political activism and idealism in fighting for what is right." 

We Are All The Same

"The title of this book implies equality of all humans, whether discussing AIDS or racial differences.  Since the story takes place in South Africa, it is impossible to ignore the evident racial inequality and it's parallel relationship with the AIDS disease and poverty in South Africa. 

In Nkosi Shea's life – he is able to do so much and influence so many.  His life, and his untimely death, signify the need for both government and individual acknowledgement of the devastating effects that HIV/AIDS epidemic has on children in Africa."


Toni Licciardello

Kaffir Boy

"After reading the first section of Kaffir Boy, I am shocked and appalled at the story Mark Mathabane is telling.  I have never read a true account of poverty before and it is heartbreaking.  When I think about the young children I have encountered in my life I can never imagine them taking on the responsibility and hardships that Johannes took on.

In particular, it is amazing to me that he was able to make any accomplishments in school with the peril and poverty he experienced in his home.

His temperament towards school that makes learning fun for him and his mother's devotion I think stand out the most to me."

Nelson Mandela:  In His Own Words

"As I have read these books about South Africa I am struck that even after all the oppression and bloodshed the black Africans endured from the white regime, they were still able to come out of apartheid believing in the equality of their races and not wanting to oppress the whites in turn.  I think this quality saved South Africa from turning into a civil war state where no one could feel safe.  The leadership of Nelson Mandela and his teachings of non-violence and racial equality are probably the most influential factors in the attitude of many black Africans. 

I find that Nelson Mandela’s speeches have an overarching theme that doesn’t waver and is so fundamental to human experience it is hard to disagree with.  I think his persistence in the non-violence movement and his persistence in not letting black Africans be overcome with their rage was fundamental in the somewhat peaceful end of apartheid in South Africa."

We Are All the Same


"The story of Nkosi is really touching and sad but it’s satisfying to know that such a young child could make a large impact on the world. 

The devastating impact of the AIDS epidemic is too great for me to comprehend.  25 million children are orphans because of it.  That number is unfathomable to me and also it is impossible to discern plausible methods to effectively deal with these masses.  I find it unfortunate that the number is exponentially growing because it seems impossible to fathom it getting any worse.  Governments not only in Africa need to develop sweeping educational campaigns and health campaigns to thwart the problem in any way possible. "

Our Stories, Our Songs

"After reading these children’s stories I am struck by the amount of hardship endured but also by their hopes and dreams.  It seems that even in the face of death they have found a way to make themselves happy.  Also, I am fascinated by the fact that many of their stories are so similar yet still there is no widespread initiatives to help the children.

I think it’s interesting that many of the children don’t know why their parents died and know little about the AIDS virus.  It’s important to educate the children about the cause and transfusions of the virus so that they can be aware of how to prevent themselves from contracting it."