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Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

IMG_3220.JPGDate Published: November 15, 2016

Publisher: Speigel and Grau

My Rating: 5/5 stars

So it seems that spring has finally found its way to Saskatchewan!  Lazy Mother Nature has finally flipped the seasonal switch and graciously granted us some beautiful weather! Currently, I am sitting outside in the sunshine writing this post and I couldn’t be happier. This weather puts me in mind of lazy summer days and great books!  Today I’ll be writing about a book that I was hearing about on all my glorious bookish podcasts and couldn’t wait to snap up at the library: Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime.

This book did not disappoint me in the least! Born a Crime is a funny, candid, and hard-hitting portrayal of life as a “coloured” person growing up in South Africa during and after Apartheid. This book is extremely well-written, informative, and entertaining.

I’ll be honest and say that even though I am aware of Apartheid law (because you’d have to be living under a rock not to be) I really never gave much thought to the specifics of the system itself and the systematic rascism that it inflicted on the country for so many years. Noah’s birth “violated any number of laws, statutes, and regulations” as he was born to a Xhosa mother and German father. His unique lineage, although isolating at times, afforded him an opportunity to create an identity for himself and slip in and out of various cultural and social groups virtually unimpeded (although I don’t want to sell him short here – he demonstrates an astute and insightful understanding of people and this admirable quality was a huge help to him).

Born a Crime includes some fascinating information on the history and effect of Apartheid before each chapter, which connected directly to the musings contained within that chapter. I appreciated this immensely! It made it a whole lot easier to understand how those memories connected to the subject as a whole and gave some much-needed background info.

And this book is so funny! I laughed out loud countless times reading it.  Not to mention annoying my husband by reading parts aloud (“Just wait, babe! You have to hear this part! Last one, I promise!” Yeah, he won’t miss that, I’m sure.) He found it amusing, but as the reader immersed in the story as a whole, it was downright hilarious. Noah isn’t afraid to let it all hang out (defacating on a newspaper at the age of 5 because – hey, puppies can do it! Omg 😂) Everything connected together beautifully to create an experience that built upon itself chapter by chapter. Of course, Noah is a comedian by trade so you’d expect him to put a little humour in there. Not so easy to make it work, however, while still educating people and talking about a young life that was full of hardship, the likes of which those of us born into privilege will never fully understand. Respect.

Trevor Noah has given his readers a unique experience with this book. The chance to view a country with such complicated polical, racial, and social systems, but written in layman’s terms. I found his insights fascinating and this reading opened up a whole new series of ideas and questions for me. He talks about how language can create bridges or barriers depending on how it’s wielded. How crime is looked at so differently in a poverty-stricken community. He pulls his reader out of their little box and unveils a world that is so incredibly foreign and yet has issues that are also universally human.

Trevor Noah’s story is, in turns, shocking, sad, and highly amusing. He doesn’t shy away from his idiosyncrasies and lays it all on the table. His love for his family is a heart-warming theme throughout the book.  Childish antics (a whole lot of “ohmigod, if that were my kid moments” but holy cow, his mother was a warrior), cringe-worth teenage humiliations, petty crime young adulthood – it’s all here.  He is honest, unashamed, and highly reflective in his telling.

I would highly recommend this book, as well as his stand-up. I had never heard of him before, but I just had to look him up on YouTube to see whose life I was getting such an intimate look at.  As a parent, I can highly admire his mother who deliberately gave him the tools to set himself apart and be anyone he wanted to be. And it seems as though he has done exactly that. Thankful I picked up this book. What a great read!

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