So, I guess I’m in love with Trevor Noah now? I did not see that coming. But after reading Born a Crime, his brilliant memoir, I have no other choice. I am not often pushy on this blog (I am very often pushy on and off this blog) but I must insist that everyone on earth read this book immediately, but more than that, they should listen to the audiobook, which is narrated by Noah wonderfully.
First an appalling confession… I know very little about apartheid. This is partially because I am American and therefore genetically driven to be a self-important isolationist asshole, but possibly also because it is so unbelievably recent maybe? I am embarrassed to realize how little attention I paid to this in my lifetime, I am all good on the main points but the details that Trevor Noah conveys here about apartheid and the first few years of freedom afterwards in this incredible book are fascinating and terrible.
The title is literal – he was Born a Crime, his actual birth was a criminal act. Trevor had a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother. Even being together would have been illegal, and punishable by five years in prison for either of them, but to have a child together was a risk most would not take. Because he was a mixed race child, he spent much of his early years indoors hidden from the government for fear of being taken away. He was treated differently than even his cousins and eventual half-brothers because of the circumstances of his birth. Once apartheid ended – obviously not an overnight type of change – opportunities to live a more open life opened up for him and his mother.
Living in this way obviously did nothing to suppress his enthusiasm and ability to get into trouble. The eighteen stories here are often hilarious and surprisingly relatable considering their place in time. He is an incredible storyteller and writer, I am not kidding when I tell you that he conveys an entire story about burning someone’s house down by mistake and manages to sound adorable. Seriously, women of the world… this man is dangerous.
The true star of this book is arguably the relationship between Trevor and his mother. She is his biggest role model and cheerleader, a woman of strength unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Her determination to stop the cycle of poverty and violence with her own children drove her to be the toughest and most unconditional authority in his life, and his love and admiration for her is just another thing to love about him. Seriously, I’m ruined.
Born a Crime is a marvel – I loved every minute of it, even when I was crying. I learned so much about his unconventional childhood and am hoping that there will be a follow up book, since this one ends without ever getting into his career. Wikipedia stalking is only getting me so far in putting the pieces together between when he ended this memoir and became the host of The Daily Show, so get on it Trevor Noah!
Born a Crime – Grade A