Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Everyone who reads my reviews knows I love a good memoir. They’re a great way to glean some insight into different cultures and perspectives. Sometimes the author’s experiences are positive and uplifting, other times they can be traumatic and harrowing. No matter what though, you’ll get to understand something outside of yourself just a little bit better.
You may know Trevor Noah from The Daily Show. He has recently ended his tenure on the popular news entertainment show but he continues his career in entertainment. His memoir, Born a Crime, focuses on his early years growing up in South Africa.
Born a Crime is titled as such because it was illegal for a black South African woman to have relations with a white man. Noah is the product of his Xhosa mother and his Swedish/German father, therefore, he was born of an illegal coupling.
Being mixed race, or colored as they label it, in South Africa is still taboo. Noah was isolated from both blacks and whites and tossed into an “other” category. Throughout his life he has had to choose sides. The positive thing about being colored is that he sometimes was able to use it in his favor.
In school, he chose to be black. He felt more at ease with the poor black students and had more in common with them. He even forewent attending higher level classes in order to stay with his chosen group. However, during an unfortunate period in jail, he chose to be white. Staying with the white inmates allowed him to avoid the gang violence that the colored group was known for.
Noah combines his talents in Born a Crime to offer a unique insight into his culture while maintaining a levity and subtle humor that doesn’t take away from the hardships he experienced. He balances his anecdotes with history lessons that explain not only why apartheid was happening but how these events could never have gone any other way.
He understands human nature and how anyone can be sucked into crime, violence, and racism but can also turn away from it and become something more.
Ultimately, Born a Crime is a love letter to his mother. He may not agree with every action she took while raising him but he respects her more than anyone in the world. It’s clear how much he values her and thanks her for how far he has come today.
This nonfiction book is just one man’s story from South Africa but, if you’re like me, you’ve had very little exposure to this part of the world. Memoirs can take us anywhere and everywhere and I encourage everyone to seek out as many different ones as you can. Every single one has something to teach us and something to connect us. Because of Born a Crime I now know more about South African history, apartheid, and how to hustle bootleg CDs.
5/5 children 👦🏿👦🏿👦🏿👦🏿👦🏿
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