Currently Reading: Born a Crime

Born A Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
Trevor Noah
First Published: November 15, 2016
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
Rating: 5+/5

I’m a fan of Trevor Noah – I’ve been enjoying his takeover of The Daily Show, and I’ve enjoyed watching some of his stand-up work on YouTube. So when I realized he’d written his memoir in the same voice, I couldn’t put it down. Actually, I’m pretty sure I finished it in a few days, and that was only because I started it late at night… and it was Thanksgiving and we had guests.

“Born A Crime” is the story of Trevor Noah’s childhood, and it’s absolutely fascinating. Noah was born in South Africa during apartheid, to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss-German father, which means he was literally born a crime. His childhood was all about hiding his identity, and his teen years (when apartheid had ended) all about finding his identity. The stories also greatly feature Noah’s amazingly strong mother – and their adventures together are just unbelievable.

The book was an engaging read – I just couldn’t put it down. (And the only reason I did was because it was Thanksgiving and we had a lot of guests.) I laughed, I cried, and I was just overall amazed at what Trevor Noah and his mother lived through and overcame. It was so interesting learning about what growing up under apartheid as a half-black, half-white child was like. I remember watching “The Color of Friendship” on the Disney Channel growing up, and this book just made the horrors of apartheid even more obvious. This quote from the end of chapter one of the book really put everything in perspective:

“In America you had the forced removal of the native onto reservations coupled with slavery followed by segregation. Imagine all three of those things happening to the same group of people at the same time. That was apartheid.”

Trevor Noah doesn’t hold back in his book. He discusses growing up mixed during apartheid: as a child Noah wasn’t allowed to play with his cousins in public (or even go outside his grandmother’s house), because the police could take him away. He discusses poverty: how there had been times so hard that he and his mother resorted to eating caterpillars. He discusses race: how the system purposely impoverished the non-white population in South Africa, creating discord among the black tribes, and left them to essentially fend for themselves. Yet, Trevor Noah and his mother somehow lived through all of these challenges, and survived.

While Noah’s journey to becoming the host of “The Daily Show” is truly inspiring and remarkable, the true hero of his story is his mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah. She is what every female should be – strong, independent and just seriously fierce. And she had the additional challenge of living in a country where she wasn’t given any advantage – she had to [and did] make her own opportunities.

Overall, “Born A Crime” is an amazing book. A definite must-read. It’s actually my favorite book from 2016! It’s an inspiring, awe-inducing story from an intelligent, witty comic who grew up in South Africa during challenging times. But in the end, the book is a love letter from Trevor Noah to his mother – and a truly heartwarming at that. His mother is the real hero in the story – yes, Trevor Noah survived and flourished, but only because his mother raised him.

To Buy or Not to Buy: BUY IT. BUY IT NOW.

Extras: In a world where hate and fear seem to win political agendas, the below passage from Chapter 16 in the book just spoke to me – and I hope it does to you as well.

“In society, we do horrible things to one another because we don’t see the person it affects. We don’t see their face. We don’t see them as people. … We live in a world where we don’t see the ramifications of what we do to others, because we don’t live with them. … If we could see one another’s pain and empathize with one another, it would never be worth it to us to commit the crimes in the first place.”