Copy: Online (LINK HERE)
Synopsis: The memoir of 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 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.
Five reasons to read the book:
1) It gives you a good glimpse of South Africa — its people, languages and culture weaved by long history of oppression, divide and deprivation. It’s a good look at pre- and post-apartheid times through the eyes of a mixed child.
2) The storytelling. Reading the book feels like having an actual conversation with Trevor. It’s not presented as a chronological autobiography but instead as a collection of personal narratives on certain points of his life. Perhaps, it is an advantage for those who follow him on The Daily Show or his satirical comedy shows. Like what he normally does, Trevor jumps from one random memory to another, yet always, at the end of every essay, leaves something for readers to ponder on.
3) Trevor Noah. You know what’s sexier than abs and killer smile? Humor and wit. Trevor delivers both and a whole lot more. He doesn’t hide his imperfections or sugarcoat his past. This young capitalist, who spent his early days pirating CDs, DJ’ing parties and operating payday-lending to earn money, will show you the real meaning of strike while the iron is hot.
4) Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah. They say behind every successful man is woman. In Trevor’s case, that driving force is Patricia. Her tribal name, “Nombuyiselo,” translates as “she who gives back” — and give she did. She faced racism and gender discrimination with rebelliousness, wrestled with the larger society’s expectations and that of her own. Like all great mothers, Patricia fed her family with ample of food for the body and food for the thought. Despite her trials or perhaps because of them, this woman is indeed phenomenal.
5) The mother and son duo. Free-spirited and independent Patricia raised her son on tough love. You get to see the relatable mother and son banter, but rarely would you see a woman who prepares her son for the cruel world at a very young age. While most of us had the sweet taste of life first, Patricia let Trevor get used to the bitterness — and use that bitterness to challenge him to see the good in everything. Hilarious, dramatic and deeply affecting at once, theirs was a relationship anyone would find interesting. As Trevor wrote, they weren’t just mother and son. They were a team.
“We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never
have the answer to.”
“The first thing I learned about having money was that it gives you choices. People don’t want to be rich. They want to be able to choose.”
“People always lecture the poor: ‘Take responsibility for yourself! Make something of yourself!’ But with what raw materials are the poor to make something of themselves?”
“People love to say, ‘Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.’ What they don’t say is, ‘And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.’ That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”
“It’s easy to be judgmental about crime when you live in a world wealthy enough to be removed from it.”
“We live in a world where we don’t see the ramifications of what we do to others, because we don’t live with them.”
“But after a while the bruises fade, and they fade for a reason — because now it’s time to get up to some shit again.”
Final Thoughts: Candid and comically sublime, Born a Crime is perfect for those who are looking for a one-sitting read. It’s a book of childhood memories and stories of the past but Trevor, in a way, also reflects on his experiences as an adult man which give it more depth. You’d definitely want the audiobook right after reading. At least that’s the case for me.
Have you read Born a Crime? Did you like it as much as I did?