Born a Crime
Published on November 15, 2016
About Born a Crime
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
The description above (from the back cover copy) makes the story sound so glamorous. And indeed, Trevor Noah has an amazing life story. And while the telling of it is often funny, Noah doesn’t shy away from the loneliness and prejudice he experienced especially in his early life. I enjoyed the way he weaves South African history and culture into each essay to give greater context to readers who aren’t familiar with his home. I also really liked the descriptions of and stories about his relationship with his mom. While it’s clear he disagrees with her on some important issues, there’s never any doubt that they love each other, and that she’s a powerful woman who worked incredibly hard to make sure he’d have every opportunity, even during a time when the government declared Noah’s very existence criminal.
Ultimately, I’d say this is a story of courage, packed with equal portions humor and heart. An inspirational read for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider.
Trevor Noah has one white parent and one black parent. The book discusses some racial prejudice in South Africa through his childhood and young adult life.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Somewhat infrequent use of extreme profanity.
Brief kissing between boy and girl.
Trevor’s mother and grandmother are both devout Christians. As a child he shared their faith but doesn’t as an adult. He shares stories of going to church as a family and attending prayer meetings and some stories about superstitions like cats being evil.
Some descriptions of domestic violence and stealing music and video games. At one point, Trevor describes an incident in which a woman is shot several times.
Trevor’s stepfather smoked pot and drank alcohol. He often became violent after drinking. Trevor describes some of these encounters.