Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review: Born a Crime

Summary: 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.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love. -- Spiegel & Grau

I mentioned last week that I'm on a bit of a non-fiction/memoir binge lately. It's probably not much to read two memoirs in just a little over a week's time, but for me, that's a lot! I recently finished BORN A CRIME: STORIES FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN CHILDHOOD by Trevor Noah. I can't say that I watch The Daily Show regularly, but I do appreciate Mr. Noah's humor... and I really enjoyed his coming-of-age story.

BORN A CRIME is a terrific memoir about growing up bi-racial in South Africa. Noah was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother when it was illegal for them to have a relationship; and in fact, Noah's birth was actually a crime. As a result, he was kept hidden for the beginning of his childhood; and his mother was determined to keep him safe. After the laws were finally relaxed in South Africa, Noah and his mother lived openly, and they had some pretty fantastic adventures.

Noah was a bit of a troublemaker as a kid... which I probably don't need to tell you makes for some pretty hilarious stories. He took chances and openly defied authority -- probably helped to make him a great comedian. However, the book was also interesting because Noah didn't really fit in with the normal crowds because of his parentage and upbringing. His very religious mother was determined to give him the best education she could, but Noah had some difficulties along the way.

I found BORN A CRIME to be a great read! I thought the book was extremely well written, and there's no doubt that Noah's story about growing up in South Africa is enlightening to someone like me that didn't know a lot about Apartheid. Noah's voice shines through on every page and I could almost hear his voice reading the book to me. As expected, there was a great deal of humor in this book, but this story was also about a young man's relationship with his mother. In fact, in many ways, it was a touching tribute to Noah's mother and how determined she was to keep her son out of trouble... even when she wasn't always able to do the same for herself.

Some of the stories from Noah's childhood are downright hilarious. The book opens with a story about Noah's mother throwing him out of a moving car when they were being kidnapped. The story itself is quite scary, but Noah's version makes it also extremely funny. Noah also has some cute adventures about his naughtiness while growing up as well as some awkward tales about being a teen and dating.

Overall, I enjoyed BORN A CRIME very much, but I have to say that it was Noah's keen insight and smart wit that made this book extra-special. I highly recommend BORN A CRIME to fans of The Daily Show as well as individuals who appreciate intelligent memoirs.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.


ChaosIsAFriendOfMine said...

I've heard so many good things about this book. I plan on listening to the audio version after I finish the book I'm listening to now. He narrates it himself. Do you listen to the Freakamonics podcast? They interviewed him on it a couple of weeks ago - the interview took the whole podcast. It was really good, he's so thoughtful and insightful about a lot of issues.

Julie P. said...

I actually started the book after my husband mentioned the Freakanomics podcast! He was talking about Noah and I remembered I had the book!

bermudaonion said...

Wow, this sounds like a book I'd love!!