born a crime, a review

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

I LOVED THIS BOOK.

I bought Born a Crime by Trevor Noah for my husband Ian when it was first released. I gifted him a signed copy, knowing he was a fan of The Daily Show and Trevor Noah himself. Ian devoured the book, and then told me how much I would enjoy it too. Why did it take me a few years to read it? I don’t know exactly, other than the fact that my book list always seems never-ending. But inspired by the #BLM movement, in addition to being on a memoir kick at the moment, I ended up zealously reading this book a few weeks ago and am so glad I did.

Noah, a polyglot, had a fascinating childhood. Growing up in South Africa to a Black mother and a Swiss (caucasian) father during the apartheid was illegal and dangerous. The reader is instantly immersed into South Africa in the 1980’s, and what it was like to be born a crime. I had never read such candid, personal view of apartheid and racial segregation and I now have more of a thorough understanding of these events in South Africa through Noah’s account. He colours his childhood stories with his trademark humour, wit and intelligence, but I would also add that, as a child, he could be described as a trouble-maker, entrepreneurial and intensely brave.

Noah’s stories range from humorous and unbelievable to terrifying and alarming. Always peppered with whimsicality, however, Noah illustrates his youth beautifully and speaks to many of the moments he had, including the painful ones, with pride. I found myself laughing aloud at many of his first accounts with girls, and gritted my teeth in suspense at his tales of run-ins with his stepfather and with the law.

Noah also spotlights the memoir on his strong, determined mother. He tells stories of her work ethic, her parenting style and her loyalty, and it is clear he is inspired by her every day of his life. Her image is sometimes overshadowed by Noah’s stepfather, however, and Noah accounts the terror of growing up with an abusive man there was no escaping.

I recommend this memoir to everyone, and I truly hope that during his time at home during the pandemic, Noah has put a pen to paper once again. I would love to read a continuation to his story, about how he was discovered and made it across the ocean to The Daily Show. In the meantime, I’ll keep Born a Crime in plain sight on our bookshelf; it’s a keeper.

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