‘Born a Crime’ by Trevor Noah:
When a book is described as “[p]owerful, charming… clever” (The Times) “witty … brilliant” (The Oprah Magazine) and “raw, compelling” (New York Times) it has a lot to live up to before you even open the front page. ‘Born a Crime’ by Trevor Noah lives up to hype, and goes much much further. This was a book that I had seen mentioned on #bookstagram multiple times, and I was eager to get my hands on a copy myself. In short ‘Born a Crime’ is all the things described above and much much more.
Writing about his childhood growing up during apartheid South Africa, the blurb reads…
“Trevor Noah was born a crime – not because he could answer back in five languages; not because his mother threw him out of the window of a moving car; not because he accidentally burnt down someone’s house with a magnifying glass; not even because he took Hitler to a bar mitzvah – but because this was South Africa and his mother was black and his father was white…”
Despite having studied history GCSE & A-Level I never learnt about apartheid in South Africa and therefore only have exceptionally top-level knowledge about what took place. Reading ‘Born a Crime’ has left me wanting to further study this period of recent history. For me the Guardian summed it up perfectly when they said “Born a Crime does more to expose apartheid – its legacy, its pettiness, its small-minded stupidity and its damage – than any other recent history or academic text”.
Prior to reading this book, my only exposure to Noah was through viral stand-up comedy clips online, and snippets taken from his talk show in the States. Despite not being totally familiar with his character, throughout the book his voice & personality shine through (or at least his TV persona). He manages to cover racism, domestic violence, crime, & poverty through the lense of personal experience, without making the book to depressing or sombre. Noah is clearly a natural story teller, which shines through in this work. His use of humour throughout connects with the reader immediately, and draws us in to both him and his mother. It is raw. It is honest. It is personable.
Whilst discussing this book on #bookstagram someone recommended the audiobook to me. As I had already purchased the paper copy I didn’t want to spend any additional money. However, I feel that hearing the book read in Noah’s own voice would be incredible & add another insanely human touch right into the heart of the book.
Finally, one of the things I particularly enjoyed about ‘Born a Crime’ is that despite it being a personal story of Noah’s childhood, he still includes little gems of philosophical wisdom. The main one that stuck with me is “[p]eople don’t want to be rich. They want to be able to choose. The richer you are, the more choices you have. That is the freedom of money”.
‘Born a Crime’ in Facts:
Author: Trevor Noah
First Published: 2016
Publishing House: John Murray