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 eighteen personal essays 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.
I love Trevor Noah, and I have watched a lot of his comedy videos on Youtube. When I received this book to read for my college orientation class, I was super excited! I knew that it was going to be a fun read, and I started reading as soon as possible. Now, a few months later, after doing a project to dig into some themes of the book, I think I am ready to discuss some of the ups and downs I had with this book.
Let me start by discussing my general thoughts on the stories. I won’t go in-depth as there are 18 short ones and I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone, but there were definitely some that were more fleshed out than others. Surprisingly, the stories about his childhood were actually told in a little more detail than the stories closer to his adulthood, when I thought that it was going to be the opposite. I enjoyed reading about the truth of his life, even though it didn’t really talk about how he truly came from South Africa to America and became successful.
When you watch his videos, he tells stories about his life in a funny way. When you read this book, it is definitely more serious. But the one thing that I didn’t like was the voice. I felt that it was someone writing the stories as if they were him, and not him actually telling the story to the reader. I know that he wrote the book, but I definitely feel that reading the audiobook would have been a better experience than reading this version of the book. It would have felt more genuine and from the heart than reading the essays about his life.
One last pet peeve that I had about this book was how it jumped around between different points in his life. I like stories that are told in chronological order. Some people might have enjoyed this type of storytelling, as it allowed for the important characters to show up when their story pieces were about to be discussed, but I would have preferred if the stories had been told in the years in which they happened. It would have definitely been less confusing for me.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. Even though I didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t in chronological order, and thought that the voice was a bit off sometimes in my head, I loved the stories. They told an important tale about what can happen when you try to tear people apart with fear. Trevor was able to rise up against that fear, and he is truly an inspiration.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a new contemporary nonfiction book.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 books