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Scribblings and scrawls of a hopeless romantic soul

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Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Genre: Nonfiction/Autobiography/Essays
Copy: Online (LINK HERE)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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.

Highlighted Quotes:
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?

Book Talk: When poetry does not come easy, read.

The last time I wrote a poem, I was mad. Angry and frustrated with the world, the people, the reality — everything. And though it feels so good to pour these emotions on paper, I miss the other triggers to my writings. I miss writing about smiles, laughters, tears of joy. Even writing about heartache brings you loving memories. I miss the girl who likes spinning castle in the air. I need to call her back.

So, for now, while the ink stays dry, let’s read. 🥀❤️


These two books of poetry and prose were written by Rod Marmol, a poet here in the Philippines. How about you? What are you reading this weekend?

The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore

Genre: Fictional autobiography
Copy: Paperback
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Short Synopsis: Set on a Bengali noble’s estate in 1908, this is both a love story and a novel of political awakening. The central character, Bimala, is torn between the duties owed to her husband, Nikhil, and the demands made on her by the radical leader, Sandip. Her attempts to resolve the irreconcilable pressures of the home and world reflect the conflict in India itself, and the tragic outcome foreshadows the unrest that accompanied Partition in 1947.

What I liked:

1. The characters. Each POV from the three central characters brought me to their shoes. I struggled with Nikhil in keeping his morals, I lost my way to sensationalism and terror with Bimala, and I breathed in Sandip’s clouded fanaticism. These internal turmoil that each character go through make the story relatable.

2.The depth in this slim volume. It talks about infatuation — one that goes beyond the physical attraction. It weights the pros and cons of being infatuated with an idea. It tackles the concepts of freedom and bondage, pitting rationalism, nationalism and humanism against each other, backdropped by the political scenario of the Swadesi movement.

3. Tagore’s poetic power. I know people did not miss the faulty translations but that did not hamper Tagore’s beautiful prose.

What I didn’t like: None? Haha I’m an easy-to-please reader in general. The only thing I could wish is to be able to read and understand the novel in its orginal language. Perhaps I’m also slightly disturbed by Bimala’s representation of women (her gullibility) but I understand her chosen path of freedom and the form of redemption she received in the end.

Favorite quotes:
“I am willing to serve my country, but my worship I reserve for Right which is far greater than my country. To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it.”

“To tyrannize for the country is to tyrannize over the country”

“So long as we are impervious to truth and have to be moved by some hypnotic stimulus, we must know that we lack the capacity for self-government. Whatever may be our condition, we shall either need some imaginary ghost or some actual medicine-man to terrorize over us.”

“Is there any country, sir,” pursued the history student, “where submission to Government is not due to fear?” “The freedom that exists in any country,” I replied, “may be measured by the extent of this reign of fear. Where its threat is confined to those who would hurt or plunder, there the Government may claim to have freed man from the violence of man. But if fear is to regulate how people are to dress, where they shall trade, or what they must eat, then is man’s freedom of will utterly ignored, and manhood destroyed at the root.”

“It is only when we get to the point of letting the bird out of its cage that we can realize how free the bird has set us.”

“I tell you, sir, this is just what the world has failed to understand. They all seek to reform something outside themselves. But reform is wanted only in one’s own desires, nowhere else, nowhere else!”

“To clutch hold of that which is untrue as though it were true, is only to throttle oneself.”

“Only the weak dare not be just.”

Final Thoughts: I first read this book in 2017. It is much more than a classic literary masterpiece to me. Each page is an awakening about the fragility of humanity. This book resonates deeply, especially with what is happening to my country and to the rest of the world today.

Have you read The Home and the World? Did you like it as much as I did?

Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Life

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It is never quite safe to think we have done with life. When we imagine we have finished our story, fate has a trick of turning the page and showing us yet another chapter.

 L.M. Montgomery, Rainbow Valley

Here is a great reminder from L.M. Montgomery in these trying times. When all seems lost and hopeless, when nothing seems to go right, when giving up is a lot easier than holding on, may we be reminded to seek and see life’s magic and endless surprises. In a child’s eyes, in a stranger’s smile, in the colors of the sky, in moonlit nights. May these not-so-little things give us reasons to carry on. One day at a time. 🌻💛

Writer’s Quote Wednesday – THUG LIFE

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“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone.

Angie Thomas’ novel revolves around this redefined meaning of THUG LIFE by Tupac Shakur, popularly known as 2Pac.

It follows 16-year-old Starr Carter whose uneasy balance between her poor neighborhood and her fancy suburban school is shattered when she witnesses the shooting of her best friend at the hands of a police officer. His name is Khalil, but the world calls him a thug. Everyone wants to know what went down that night. But Starr’s decision to stay silent or to speak comes with a risk for her people and her life.

Some people snicker at the thought of reading books under the young adult genre. They have this stereotyped belief that YA novels are shallow, sappy and superficial. They rarely see it as an avenue for discussing socio-political issues. But Angie Thomas proves these people wrong.

Without mincing her words, she delves into the most delicate and controversial subjects in America and the world today: racism, oppression, privilege and broken justice system. The book is thought-provoking without being preachy. It gave me different perspectives to look into. It made me introspect on what I have done and what I would do when faced with these issues. Other than posting about the hashtags and signing every petition there is, do I have it in me to act against racism, oppression or injustice?

In the end, this novel goes to warn the society that what it gives (hate/violence/injustice) to little infants (the poor/minority/less fortunate) will always come to haunt them. The THUG LIFE cycle continues…

Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Iron and Ironies

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Today we are surrounded by man and his creations. Man is inescapable, everywhere on the globe, and nature is a fantasy, a dream of the past, long gone.

Michael Crichton, Congo

My first foray into the written world of Michael Crichton was Congo. James, who loves the man as much as Dan Brown, never missed to mention his works whenever we talk about books. So I guess this is where curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back comes in.

The 1980 sci-fi novel centers on an expedition searching for rare blue diamonds and investigating the mysterious deaths of a previous expedition in the dense tropical rainforest of the Congo. At first I was worried that I’d be stuck in the complicated science and technical jargon but as it turns out, Crichton is a great de-jargonizer. I found myself immediately engaged in the story that capsulized science, history, and geography in each and every page.

Which brings me to this week’s WQW, Iron and Ironies. Congo left me emotionally, mentally and morally disturbed. In a simple story it raised provocative questions that I found hard to answer.

To what extent is animal cruelty? Is it limited to performing experiments/animal research? How about throwing lobsters on a boiling pot? Sticking pigs on bamboo poles? Exterminating rats? Do ALL animals have rights or just a selected few? Does man get to give them the reason to stay alive as a species?

These questions led me to reflect on our deeply ingrained habit of meat eating, on the equality among animals, and man’s idea of speciesism. I know there are multiple sides to these multifaceted issues and I would love to hear a thing or two from you. 🙂

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Writer’s Quote Wednesday – We need to be bothered

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There is, I assume most of you would agree, a long list of reasons why physical copies of books are better than their eBook counterparts. However, not everyone can bare the temptation for too long. A peak at a sentence that reads, IT WAS A PLEASURE TO BURN, could lead you to the very last page. And that’s what happened. I read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 online.

This classic dystopia will take you to a time when books are banned and burned. In Guy Montag’s world, lives are dominated by televisions and literature is on the brink of extinction. Books and freethinkers are burned without a second thought. The storyline is good enough that it could stir the minds of many, but perhaps I was looking for more. More hard-hitting satire, more stimulation. Maybe a stronger revolt.

Nonetheless, it’s still a commendable piece of writing. This quote, for one, is very timely.

“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

With all the happenings in different corners of the world — be it political, moral or environmental concerns — we really need to be bothered.

Writer’s Quote Wednesday – I have a question

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Or, rather, Lelouch does:

“What do you do when there is an evil you cannot defeat by just means? Do you stain your hands with evil to destroy evil? Or do you remain steadfastly just and righteous even if it means surrendering to evil?”

Lelouch Vi Britannia

In the vein of last week’s WQW entry, Are there any questions?, here I am throwing yet another inquiry.

Just recently, I was thrown into an alternate world where a philosophical and moral battle strongly exist. The quote above is taken from the Japanese anime, Code Geass. I’ve heard of the series years ago but I never had the drive to watch it. James successfully lured me into the anime this time. No regrets. 😀

The story revolves around the Empire of Britannia who conquered Japan and now call it Area 11. Its residents lost their rights to self-govern and are now called Elevens. The Empire uses destructive robotic weapons called Knightmares to ensure control, but someone is about to stand up against it. Lelouch Lamperouge, a Britannian student, seeks to use the power of the Geass to build a world based on his ideals. Unfortunately he finds himself caught in a crossfire between the Britannian and the Area 11 rebel armed forces.

Back to the question, I have this weird feeling inside that has been weighing me down. As an INFP whose choices and decisions are tethered on emotion and idealism, I find it hard to agree with Lelouch’s ways. For him, the ends justify the means. This just doesn’t go right with me. However, by the end of the series, I felt like loosening up to his approach. It’s a dilemma still. Can’t one just remain righteous and destroy evil instead?

Writers Quote Wednesday: Are there any questions?

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Are there any questions?

To some, this might just be an ordinary statement of inquiry. But to those who have read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, these four words carry too much weight.

Originally published in 1985, Atwood’s dystopian novel takes readers to the fictional Republic of Gilead. It follows Offred, a Handmaid assigned to a high-ranking commander and his wife. In an age of declining births, Handmaids are valued only for their capability to procreate. They are held prisoners — stripped off their past and future. They are forbidden to read, write, or interact with the outside world. They are meant only to bear children for their assigned commander and failure to do so warrants death.

The book ends with Professor Pieixoto’s final line, Are there any questions? To me this seems a rhetorical question asked not to get an answer but instead to emphasize a point. It forces us to question our role as witnesses, both of Offred’s tale and of our own history of oppression.

Do we forget and stay silent? Do we remain neutral and indifferent? Do we stand up and fight?

There is more than one kind of freedom,” said Aunt Lydia. “Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

You! Yes, you. As The Handmaid’s Tale becomes grimly relevant these days, would you ask a question?

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