Tengo is the 10-year-old son of workers on Oom Koos’s large farm in the Transvaal. He longs to go to school like his friend Frikkie, who visits his uncle’s farm on holidays. But Tengo’s family is too poor to pay for the education that comes free to whites. He finally gets his wish at age 14. Tengo goes to live with his cousin in a squalid township outside Johannesburg and studies furiously. After three years, he is almost ready for college, but a year-long school boycott ruins his chances and he is drawn into the fight against apartheid. When he and Frikkie meet in a violent confrontation, Tengo realizes that he will carry on the struggle for freedom as a scholar, not a soldier. The writing here is powerful, evoking in minute detail daily life and the broad landscapes of the country.