The memoir of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
Trevor Noah grew up in South Africa during the end of the apartheid and the aftermath of that. The crazy thing to me is that he and I are almost the same age. My childhood was the same time as his childhood, but they were so different. It’s hard to believe that all of that was happening while I was oblivious to it in my bubble.
The writing was great. Noah does such a great job keeping the reader engaged and explaining all the needed background for those of us who didn’t grow up there. I often struggle with memoirs because the pacing just isn’t there, but this read much like a coming of age story. Even the characters were brought to life.
The entire thing wasn’t pleasant. Dark issues were touched on, but Noah is great at managing to keep it light. While you’re crying about how horrible the world is you’re also laughing at a Trevor Noah joke.
I gave this one 4.75 stars.
Trigger/Content Warnings: Racism, Violence, Profanity (There is a YA version of this book, but I’m not sure of the content.)