What an inspirational story. From the slums of a South African township to a college scholarship. From abject poverty and apartheid to academia and America. This is a story of redemption and hope out of a seemingly hopeless hovel of an existence. Some of the things that stood out to me as I read the book:
- The power of a matriarch’s love. The sacrificial love and devotion of the author’s mother and grandmother shine throughout the book as they believe in something better for their children than they themselves have experienced and do everything in their power to make it happen.
- The difference made by a few people in opening the doors of opportunity for Johannes/Mark. There are characters throughout this story who go the extra mile, show kindness and consideration, and sometimes expose themselves to risk to help the young Johannes progress and experience freedom and success.
- The evil injustice of the apartheid system and its wicked subjugation of the blacks and the importance of standing up against such injustices wherever they are perpetrated..
- The power of ideas and education to enable people to realise their potential and gain freedom. The love of reading and knowledge and learning threads throughout the book, from the joy of discovering Treasure Island to the discovery of classical music – the contrast with the grinding poverty of the slums is stark and the final denouement as Johannes is awarded a scholarship in the States is joyous.
- As I read the book, I was reminded of The Queen of Katwe, a movie that was released last year about a young girl in the slums of Kampala who discovered chess and became a champion player, taking her to places all over the world and releasing her from the trap of poverty.
- We visited Katwe as a church team with Compassion several years ago and we met a young man who had been sponsored as a child by an American family and had passed through Compassion’s leadership development programme. He told his story over dinner one night, how he had begged and stolen bread to survive and how he was now a lawyer, fighting the injustice of his childhood.
- A small amount of resources can sometimes make a massive difference in the life of a child.
This was a great book and an inspirational read. I now want to read the follow-up book of what happened next as he arrived in America!