With Trevor Noah, you already know what to expect – rib-cracking laughter from his witty jokes as well as little dabs of information and reflection. His book, perhaps, was a little too much of both. I read this book months ago, and I remember being emotionally drained after the last line. First from using up my reservoir of laughter, then coming to terms with the reality of wickedness in the world. All of these happened to Trevor? Born a Crime, is an autobiography of popular comedian and host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah. It is an account of his tabooed biracial heritage of being born to a South African mother and a German father, during apartheid. It is also one of hustle, crime, religion, comedy, wickedness, poverty, a lot of spanking, and all the cliché things that you would probably have seen in a typical African system.
Page count: 304
Born a crime starts off showing Trevor’s upbringing, most of which were tied to experiences with his mother. Probably the most interesting character in the book, Trevor’s mom is an unconventional South African woman. She is a master of languages, an unapologetic rulebreaker, a devoted Christian, and one who didn’t care to spare the rod. Her love for languages is what made Trevor the chameleon that he soon became, and her doggedness is probably the reason Trevor takes the biggest risks and most daring adventures ever.
Born in a period of apartheid, his complexion represented one of the greatest taboos and the singular act of his birth affected his entire life. First was that he couldn’t be seen in public with his father and the second, which is the biggest issue every mixed child faces, were dilemmas that came with his identity – was he white or black? Did he belong with the cool rich kids or did he belong with the poor ones? Either way, he had to choose.
There was also a keen sense of family portrayed in the book. When his mother had to move back into her family house in Soweto, Trevor is forced to live with his mum, grandmother, great grandmother, and many more people virtually under the same roof – majorly women.
“The fact that I grew up in a world run by women was no accident. Apartheid kept me away from my father because he was white, but for almost all the kids I knew on my grandmother’s block in Soweto, apartheid had taken away their fathers as well, just for different reasons….”
There was also a slightly comical sense of religion in the community, and Trevor was not left out of it.
“My grandmother always told me that she loved my prayers. She believed my prayers were more powerful, because I prayed in English. Everyone knows that Jesus, who’s white, speaks English. The Bible is in English. Yes the Bible was not written in English, but the Bible came to South Africa in English so to us it’s in English. Which made my prayers the best prayers because English prayers get answered first. How do we know this? Look at white people. Clearly they’re getting through to the right person.”
Something you might not expect to see in a book by Trevor Noah is crime. Especially carried out by him. However, his reality and those of people who lived in his time made their offences play out as pure hustle for survival. When you think about it…aren’t most crimes so? For the million people who lived in Soweto, there were no bars, no restaurants, no paved road, minimal electricity, but they made a life from themselves. It is how the black market sprung up. People selling stolen items to each other was the norm; even young Trevor got in on the piracy business.
Without giving out too much of the story, this book touched on many things from religion, identity, poverty, crime, and other things I already spoke on. There are also two hilarious chapters on “A Young Man’s Long, Awkward, Occasionally Tragic, and Frequently Humiliating Education In Affairs Of The Heart” that hilariously gave us an idea of who Trevor the Lover is.
Beyond the comedic tone of the author, there were subtle emotions raging. First was anger. Apartheid was a disaster! Why did (does) the world favor whites so much? Why did Trevor’s mum stay in an abusive relationship? Underneath anger, however, there was pain. It came with the realization that apartheid might have gone but it’s effects would still exist in the lives of many South Africans. Trevor turned out good, but others might not have. What struck me the most was the reality of wickedness in the world. It went from “How could Trevor possibly have gone through this?” to “Could the world be this wicked?”
The entire read was entertaining, informative, and sobering. His voice was so true, so much so that you can hear him say those exact words to you as you read on. Every chapter had a prelude that constituted the basis or background for some of his stories. In this book, you would see the rebellious past of the comedian – one that got his family members worried. You would also see why Trevor is so good at what he does… how he manages to make even the most painful experiences of life (like Donald Trump) sound as mere jokes. This book is riveting and truly gripping. It would leave you glued from start to finish, and you too would be forced let out a deep sigh after the last line.
THE WORLD REALLY DOESN’T LOVE YOU.
I rate it a 4.8 out of 5. You can give it your own rating below.
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About the Author
Trevor Noah is a South African comedian, political commentator, and television host. He is best known for hosting The Daily Show, an American satirical news program on Comedy Central.