04 April 2017

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

Publication: November 15, 2016 
# of Pages: 304 
Source: Library Copy 

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.

"People are getting hurt, and just because it's not happening to you doesn't mean it's not happening." 

I can definitely say that I don't frequently read memoirs, autobiographies, or biographies; however, I kept hearing so much about this memoir that I had to check it out myself. I can definitely say that I'm glad that I did. This memoir was written with such grace, poise, and humor that I can't wait to own my own copy. I don't want to speak too much about the contents of the book simply because I feel like anything I say will definitely end up spoiling the contents. What I can attest to is the writing style. Trevor Noah is known for his ability to mix humor into his discussion of real world issues; however, this book was my first experience of him, his humor, and his writing style. And I can honestly say that it was AMAZING. I found myself laughing out loud, nodding my head at sections I could relate to, and felt my heart tug at moments that were rather emotional. Trevor Noah has definitely been blessed with a gift and I can only say that I am glad to have the privilege to experience it. 

The history that was interwoven into the content of the book was also enlightening. I knew about apartheid in South Africa; however, I had no knowledge of the extensiveness and cruelty that resulted from apartheid. For example, I figured that the marrying of whites and blacks would be frowned upon; however, I had no idea that at the time of Trevor Noah's birth one could be imprisoned for it. Reading that and understanding that Noah was truly born a crime blew my mind. It was so fascinating that it prompted me to check out more literature on apartheid as well as some well-known movie titles that depicted various aspects and events that occurred during apartheid. Knowing that it made life for Noah difficult was most intriguing. He literally had trouble fitting in because he was considered neither black nor white. It was his humor that allowed him to float from group to group. 

One thing that you should know before jumping into this memoir is that it isn't told in a linear, chronological style. He formats the book into short essays centered around topics or major moments in his life. At first I didn't think I was going to like this element; however, I actually enjoyed it. And it was fun to read a chapter heading/topic and try to guess what the contents would be. With that being said, if you haven't had the opportunity or the chance to read this memoir I would highly suggest it. Although I read the book in physical form, I did hear that the audiobook is fantastic and that Noah narrates the book himself. 

**This book is a part of my around the world reading challenge as Trevor Noah is from South Africa and the book is about him growing up in South Africa. 


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