Book Review – Born a Crime

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Not going to lie, in college, my chosen source of news was The Daily Show.
At the time with Jon Stewart.
Not long ago I started watching again, now with Trevor Noah.
I’ve also watched some of his stand-up routines and died laughing.
When I learned he had a book coming out, I had to read it.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Amazon Description:

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.

My Take:

Let’s not beat around the bush. I loved this book.

This is one of those great autobiographies that are written exactly how the author speaks. Not trying to be anything he’s not, I could practically hear Trevor’s voice reading the book to me. (No, I wasn’t listening to the audiobook, though I’m sure that would have been great, too.)

Throughout this book, I just appreciated the humor interspersed with the realities of living in poverty in a difficult neighborhood. Never once, though, does Trevor ask you to feel sorry for him. The story is one of determination, doing what needed to be done, and entertaining humor at every corner.

Most of the chapters were fairly short with a few longer ones mixed it. The tempo and layout of the book were great and I really enjoyed how the stories were laid out – it’s not always chronological. The last two chapters were the absolute best and showed the most vulnerability of any of the others. I won’t spoil anything, but the last chapter made me audibly gasp. I tried to read through it as quickly as possible to find out what happened and seriously considered putting down the book to do a quick Google search to find out the truth. I wasn’t sure I could wait – the blessing and curse of reading a real-life story.

I am considering a re-read in the near future. (TBR list be damned.)

Favorite Line(s)

They were ready to do me violent harm, until they felt we were part of the same tribe, and then we were cool. It made me realize that language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.
Maybe I didn’t look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you.
They were ready to do me violent harm, until they felt we were part of the same tribe, and then we were cool. It made me realize that language, even more than color, defines who you are to people. Pg. 56
Maybe I didn’t look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you. Pg. 56
Learn from your past and be better because of your past, but don’t cry about your past. Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you, but don’t hold on to it. Don’t be bitter.
Learn from your past and be better because of your past, but don’t cry about your past. Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you, but don’t hold on to it. Don’t be bitter. Pg. 66
Being chosen is the greatest gift you can give to another human being.
Being chosen is the greatest gift you can give to another human being. Pg. 110

Favorite Chapter

Chapter 16 – The Cheese Boys

This chapter was the second best in the whole book, but my very favorite. This is the chapter where you feel like you are with Trevor. You walk down the streets of the neighborhood he hung out in. You learn, in depth, how he grew his business and made money to survive. The other chapters leading up to this one were fun and entertaining; here we get the first of two very real, raw, and direct chapters that left me feeling like I was seeing the real Trevor.

As someone who is self-deprecating and will turn a situation around with humor, it is always great to see that trait in someone else and recognize when it is time to drop the mask and share some truth.

The Final Verdict

My rating: 5 stars

Would I recommend? Yes

Extras

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

@thedailyshow

Netflix: Trevor Noah – Son of Patricia

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