“On February 20, 1984, my mother checked into Hillbrow Hospital for a scheduled C-section delivery. Estranged from her family, pregnant by a man she could not be seen with in public, she was alone. The doctors took her up to the delivery room, cut open her belly, and reached in and pulled out a half-white, half-black child who violated any number of laws, statutes, and regulations—I was born a crime.”
Trevor Noah‘s Born A Crime will make you both smile and cry. There is something raw about it that will get to you. Noah‘s coming-of-age story during the end of apartheid era stole my heart and is, in my opinion, one of the best memoirs I have read so far.
Let’s take a look at Goodread‘s summary first:
The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime New York Times bestseller about 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.
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 humour and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.
Noah is a stand up comedian and knows how to entertain his audience. I wholeheartedly recommend listening to this as an audio book. Noah speaks many languages, imitates different accents extremely well and the audio platform was born for his performance. Honestly, it’s that good. There is of course a high level of personal investment there, given he is telling us his story, his take on growing up in post apartheid South Africa.
It is emotional, full of heart and there were many times I laughed but had tears in my eyes.
Born A Crime is a tribute to Noah’s mother, Patricia. His love and adoration for his mum is an ever present theme throughout the entire memoir. You feel it not only from his words but also from the sound of his voice. I needed a lot of tissues during those last chapters of his memoir. Trevor’s mother, a deeply religious and fierce woman taught him to “challenge authority and question the system”. She also “did what school didn’t. She taught him how to think.”
“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”
Born a Crime has many messages: feminism, poverty, racism, privilege, religion… it’s all there. I find Noah intelligent and highly articulate – his stories are full of wit and heart. He doesn’t want us to feel sorry for him but he does want us to consider what a privilege is and what it truly means to live a free life. One minute we are laughing at adventures of one extremely mischievous young boy, the next we are being hit with realities of apartheid.
“The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate, is what it was. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another so you can run them all.”
Born a Crime shows a deep bond between a mother and her son and its messaging will leave you with many thoughts to ponder about long after you finish it.
I wholeheartedly recommend it.
PS. Lupita Nyong’o has confirmed that she is set to produce and star in a movie adaptation of this memoir. I can not wait to see it!
Over to you my friends.
Have you read this book? If so, what do you think?
If not, would you consider it?
Happy reading and thanks for stopping by!