Book Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Recently, I joined a book club run by one of my best friends which focuses on promoting critical thinking, especially in terms of the political and social issues of today. The book club is called Books for the Resistance.

Our second book was Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. I knew Trevor Noah from The Daily Show, and from a couple of his comedy specials that I had watched on Netflix. Before reading his book, I was aware that he was South African, and that he lived his younger years under apartheid. I was aware of some of the more humorous anecdotes he used in his stand-up.

Born a Crime explores his life with much more depth. This book takes you through the full range of human emotions. One minute you’re laughing at the ridiculousness of his situation, the next minute you’re furious at the unfairness and the cruelty, the next minute you’re crying for a multitude of reasons.

Trevor Noah grew up in a society that was divided for the sake of division, because people are easier to control when you pit them against each other. He was literally born a crime: the child of a black mother and white father. Under apartheid, neither parent could claim him in public without facing arrest.

The book is organized as a series of essays, detailing different journeys throughout his life. He recounts his confusing and contradictory life under apartheid, then his confusing and contradictory life once apartheid ended and South Africa attempted to mend such a troubled history. He talks about trying to blend into the different cultures that exist within South Africa, to varying levels of success. He details his struggles with abuse and crime, and how these things are normalized in South African society.

The book is an excellent read, and to see Trevor Noah now as the host of a wildly successful comedy show in America is extremely inspirational.