Born A Crime (Review)

If you’re searching for a merely funny, escapist book, Born A Crime isn’t it. However, if you’re looking for a great book, Trevor Noah’s tome is exactly what you should read.

The first time I spotted Born A Crime I overlooked the subtitle Stories from a South African Childhood. I figured the book was just a ghost-written autobiography or a collection of topical gags from a popular celebrity.  The following week, I saw the book still sitting on the shelf so I picked it up on a whim.

I like Trevor Noah and “The Daily Show”. He has really turned out to be a great replacement for Jon Stewart.  Like Stewart, Noah is more of a humorist than a stand-up comedian. Noah is an intelligent, superb storyteller, and his book bears this out, beautifully.

Even though I read the print version of the book, my internal, mental “reading voice” sounded like that of Trevor Noah.  I didn’t need the audiobook version for this effect.  His writing style is that personal and intimate.

The book’s title and its premise are best explained by Noah, himself. “I was born in South Africa during apartheid, a system of laws that made it illegal for people to mix in South Africa. And this was obviously awkward because I grew up in a mixed family. My mother’s a black woman, South African Xhosa woman… and my father’s Swiss, from Switzerland.”  There were very strong penalties for racial mixing at that time.

If you had no idea who Trevor Noah is nor anything about “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, Born A Crime should still move you. It’s basically a series of autobiographical essays about growing up as the mixed race (colored) child of a deeply religious single mom in the context of dire poverty within a very sexist, racist Union of South Africa. At one point in Noah’s childhood, the family had to eat weeds and caterpillars as a protein source.

Parts of this book read like a tribute to his mother.  In fact, the final chapter is entirely devoted to her. Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah is a survivor of many harsh struggles. She was fined and jailed by the white minority South African regime for extraracial sexual relations and marriage under the infamous “morality laws” at the time. She continued through her life with many more harrowing experiences.

The underlying theme of Born A Crime, is that the author was an extraordinarily naughty little boy but was not mean nor hateful.  Although he was a challenge for his mother to raise, he managed to turn out more than OK. Noah had to be a little bit bad in order to make it through the hoops and barriers that the Apartheid system, poverty, and society had placed in front of him.

As I finished the last page of the book, it seemed like Born A Crime is only the first of a series of future books.  I don’t know if that is Noah’s plan, but I hope it is.

{ Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah; 304 pages, published November 2016 by Spiegel & Grau; ISBN: 978-0-399-58817-4 }

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Trevor Noah. “What I’ve always said about comedy is if you do it in the right way, you can say anything to anybody because they know where you’re coming from. They know it’s not malicious.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, Controversy, cultural highlights, Entertainment, Politics, religion, Youth and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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