South Africa: Born A Crime


Born A Crime by Trevor Noah (ISBN-13: 978-0399588174) is probably one of the best memoirs I’ve read, though I admit I haven’t read many. I would highly recommend experiencing this book in the audiobook form. Audible was offering this book for free for a limited time through Goodreads, so of course I took them up on the offer. Especially since this book was already on my to-read list. Trevor Noah narrates the audiobook himself, and his accent is pleasant to listen to and gives life to his stories. I didn’t know much about him before listening to this, besides that he succeeded Jon Stewart to be the host of The Daily Show. He was relatively unknown in the States before he took on that role, but since then I have seen bits and pieces of his show through video clips posted online. From what I had seen, he had some great insight on various political and social issues, particularly ones regarding race relations. Now, having read his memoir, it all makes sense.

Trevor Noah was quite literally born a crime. He was born in South Africa during the apartheid (institutional segregation) to a black mother and a white father, when interracial relationships were illegal. The memoir is almost set up like a collection of short stories, and detail Noah’s experiences growing up during the apartheid and its aftermath. In apartheid South Africa, biracial children were classified as their own race – colored. That’s what Trevor was, and it brought its own set of difficulties. Even though the way he grew up was vastly different to my childhood, I could relate to many of his experiences of feeling like an outsider. Growing up as a second generation Taiwanese-American, I often felt like I fit in nowhere, being neither American nor Taiwanese enough.

Noah has been through some very tough circumstances, but he has such a good sense of humor that it makes the depravity of apartheid easier to digest. I felt like I learned more about apartheid and South African history from this book than I ever did in my history classes. Yet there was never a point where I felt overloaded with information, or like this novel was becoming too much like a textbook. Noah hits some tough topics, like colonization, methods of oppression, and racism, but uses personal anecdotes to make these concepts come alive. There were a couple of chapters near the end that dragged a little; the stories are not chronological, and jump between Noah’s childhood, teen, and young adult years. I would rearrange a couple of the chapters, but I can see why he sequenced the chapters the way he did now that I know the ending. Overall this was a highly enjoyable read, and I feel like I have a better grasp of Trevor Noah’s sense of humor, which will be helpful when I watch his show in the future.

This review is part of my journey to read more diversely, Booking Around the World. Check out the link to see my other selections.


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