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.

#SteampunkHands Around the World 2017: Making Life Better -Perspective

*artwork by MrXpk*

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2017- Making Life Better is a month long event in February 2017 showing and sharing the great steampunk people, events, and things around the world that other people should know about. Through these means, we come together as a community to forge new connections and friendships, inspire and be inspired by each other, and create realities from the stuff of dreams.

This year, we will share and explore the ways in which steampunk can and has made life better, for ourselves and for others. How does steampunk make life more fun and enjoyable, how does it expand our horizons and help us define who we are, or who we want to be? How does steampunk inform us about ourselves, others, and the world around us? How does it help us find solutions for real life problems, and find ways to make changes for the better?

Airship Ambassador

This week’s discussion will take a look at how steampunk allows us to analyze the past to prepare for the present and future.

Steampunk is sometimes criticized for romanticizing a period of history that was wrought with troubling and problematic issues (colonialism, orientalism, the suppression of minorities and women, rampant disease, etc.). I say this is a fair criticism. I also say it’s a wonderful opportunity that is unique to steampunk.

Steampunk is not the same as historical fiction. Steampunk allows us to change things, fudge facts, rewrite history. We can use this to challenge the past, and the legacy we still feel today. That’s what the “punk” in “steampunk” is all about. Challenge the system. Turn it on its head.

Steampunk can become a excellent tool for social commentary if used correctly. Sure, we can write a pleasant story that simply ignores the problems in Victorian society. There’s nothing wrong with pleasant stories – we all need those from time to time! But steampunk also has the potential to be much deeper, to examine human nature and to face cultural issues we still come across today.

So go forth, my fellow steampunks! Take aim at the establishment and dismantle it in that gentlemanly/lady-like way like only you can! And don’t forget to break for tea and biscuits.