Born a Crime

Trevor Noah | South Africa

Page one of Trevor Noah’s book opens with the South African Immorality Act of 1927, which states the penalties for men and women of different races who have sex with each other.

To prohibit illicit carnal intercourse between Europeans and natives and other acts in relation thereto,” it states.

Noah gives continuous insight on the apartheid system and how he and his mother navigated within it despite him being a colored child. It was also interesting to me because the term colored has a slightly different meaning in the U.S. than it does in South Africa. Being light skin was not an advantage; society saw and treated him like an outsider and many times it was his ability to articulate what he could give and not take from others, that helped him make a niche for himself.

Born a Crime is really a good mix of hilarity and reality: Noah as a teenager and child just gets himself involved in many crazy antics, yet his douses your laughter with the hardships he faced mainly from trying to navigate being a mixed-raced person in an all-black neighborhood.

Of course Noah being Noah, his hilarious stories of his childhood and interactions with his mother had me holding my stomach many times with tears in my eyes laughing at his antics. (The boy burned down his mom’s boyfriend’s house and still made it hilarious!).

For me the strongest aspects of his book was his ability to expose and explain the realities of being mixed race in South Africa and the unique and often isolating life he was forced to live growing up. The resilience of his mother and the deep respect and love he has for her, even when they butted heads, was moving.

I rarely read memoirs, but I admit I enjoyed this one. It helps that the book is written in a way that gets the reader to take him seriously and kind of remove his stand-up style persona he has on his show. The incident with his mother being seriously injured by her husband, reveals a very touching aspect to his personal life and he continuously praises his mother’s strength in raising him in South African society.

“The genius about apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another so you can run them all.”

-Trevor Noah

First published: 2016

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