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Coconut Paperback – April 1, 2008

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Coconut + Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography--The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Jacana Media (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1770093362
  • ISBN-13: 978-1770093362
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #723,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Narrated from a teenager's perspective, [this] is an audacious, lyrical and compassionate tale. It explores the grey, in-between, intimate experiences and dilemmas of a young girl who, like the society around her, is undergoing changes that call old boundaries, comforts, and certitudes into question."  —European Union Literary Award Jury

About the Author

Kopano Matlwa is the chairperson and founding member of Waiting Room Education by Medical Students, a nonprofit health promotion organization that uses students' talents to educate patients on common health conditions in the waiting rooms of clinics. She was awarded the Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Award in 2005 for academic excellence and leadership potential.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A "coconut" in South Africa is what's called an "oreo" in the United States: black on the outside and white on the inside. This story is about two different types of coconuts---Ofilwe and Fikile---two young South African girls who are seething with the rage of having no love for their blackness. Kopano Matlwa has written this book in fast-moving parts: the first in Ofilwe's voice, while the second is written in Fikile (aka "Fiks")'s voice. At one point another voice is added---that of Ofilwe's brother, Tshepo---providing a much needed counterpoint and I was disappointed not to hear more from him. When Fikile says "I need to spring-clean my head. There is a real big mess up there but I am too afraid to go in because I do not think I have the strength to handle the task of tidying it all." could she be uttering the emotions behind Matlwa's need to lay these relentless truths on the table? I craved some tenderness or the presence of a wise parent, teacher, or mentor; however, their absence did not make this book less readable. The scattered english spoken by Ofilwe's mother seemed to be both metaphor and symbol for the clash of sensibilities present in post-apartheid South Africa.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When you begin to read popular third world literature, you often read from the perspectives of businessmen, or housewives, or militia. It is not often, however, that you read a third world novel that centers around the youth perspective. Kopano Matlwa in her novel Coconut, delves into the post-apartheid world of South Africa through the eyes of two young girls learning what it means to grow up black in a white world. The novel is divided into two parts, one for each girl's narration and is told through two fonts, italics to identify the past and standard font to narrate the present. Through rich description, vivid word choice, and relatable characters, Matlwa is able to make a novel about a very specific group of people a novel that everyone can take lessons from.

Ofilwe, or Fifi, is a young, pampered girl who grows up in a white suburb with her mother, father, and brother Tshepo. At a young age, Fifi does not understand why she is sometimes treated differently from the other girls. She is one of the few black girls in her school, and they do not always understand her ways. Her best friend, Belinda, even tries to change her speech pattern to match hers. "No Fifi! You have to learn how to speak properly...Do you want to be laughed at again?" (49). Her older brother, Tshepo, works to show her that white people are not their friends. She does not listen to him however, but learns on her own as she grows older. That is truly what her narrative is, a story of her learning that even though she is believed to be an equal of her white classmates, they will never accept her as one of them. Fifi's story is a heartbreaking realization that laws cannot change how people think. The reader watches as she grows older, and slowly begins to realize lose the innocence that she stared with.
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