Rating: it was amazing
This was fantastic.
Born a Crime, at over six months, is the longest library hold I've ever waited for. Normally, if I hadn't already lost interest by that point, I'd just break down and buy it, but I'm generally not a big memoir reader, so I was reluctant to spend money on a book I wasn't sure would be my thing. Well, I've ended up buying it anyway. And my husband and I are currently laughing our way through the audio version, too.
I just couldn't put this book down. There are many moments of comedy gold (that come across even better on audio, but still drew out-loud laughter when I read them in print) and lots of insight into what it was like growing up in South Africa under the later years of apartheid, and after its collapse (which I prefer reading in print so I can take my time to appreciate the gravity of the issues).
Trevor Noah covers a lot of serious issues like colonialism, apartheid, being an outsider, religion, education, gender roles and more. He talks about how his mother - who comes across as the rugged heroine of his story - played the system well to get her illegal "colored" child into better schools and neighborhoods, and how this often led to him having difficulty fitting in.
I learned things that, though perhaps not surprising, were horrifying, such as how police refused to file charges in cases of domestic violence because they sympathized with the husband. It's a book about important issues in a country that has, throughout history, largely been portrayed through the eyes of white journalists and writers, but it's also such a warm, lovable, funny book in many ways.
Born a Crime is the perfect blend of sociopolitical discussion and a personal tale of family, friendship and first crushes. It is written as a series of short essays, each around a certain theme and not in chronological order, but this actually makes it all easier to digest. Noah's writing is so engaging that I would think "just one more essay" until suddenly a hundred pages had gone by and I realized I might be addicted.
Definitely one of the best memoirs I've ever read.
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Rating: really liked it
I'd rate this 4.5 stars.
I was really surprised when Trevor Noah was named Jon Stewart's successor on The Daily Show . I inherently knew that they wouldn't pick someone with a sense of humor and style identical to Stewart's, but I felt that Noah was so different that his selection meant the show would have a really different feel, which might not appeal to long-time fans of the show. But I always root for the underdog, so as he was getting savaged by critics and fans in his first few days on the job, I kept hoping he'd be able to tough it out and show the stuff—comedic and otherwise—of which he was made.
After reading Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood , I realize that I needn't have worried about Trevor Noah. For a child growing up in South Africa in the last days of, and the tumult following apartheid, he faced crises far greater than dissatisfied fans. And if he could be raised during such a crazily illogical time in a country where more violence, racism, and mistreatment went unreported than caught the media's eye, he'd have no problem skewering the insanity of our political system, especially leading into the election of 2016!!
"On February 20, 1984, my mother checked into Hillbrow Hospital for a scheduled C-section delivery. Estranged from her family, pregnant by a man she could not be seen with in public, she was alone. The doctors took her up to the delivery room, cut open her belly, and reached in and pulled out a half-white, half-black child who violated any number of laws, statutes, and regulations—I was born a crime."
Born to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father, Noah literally spent his earliest days hiding indoors. His parents, who never married, couldn't be seen together, and because his mother looked so different than he did, she couldn't walk through the streets with him, because at any moment someone might accuse her of kidnapping another person's child. Yet while their lives dealt with crushing poverty, violence, and racism from all sides, his deeply religious mother never let anything bother her, or stop her from raising her son to know he was loved, and to know that he truly could accomplish anything he wanted, despite all of the obstacles in his way.
"She taught me to challenge authority and question the system. The only way it backfired on her was that I constantly challenged and questioned her."
Born a Crime provides a first-hand account of the last days of apartheid and its aftermath, and what it was like to grow up as a mixed-race child, where he wasn't white enough to be considered white, nor was he black enough to be considered black. While at times this had its advantages, for the most part, it left him on the outside looking in, having to handle everything on his own, fight his own battles, struggle to find people who genuinely liked him for who he was and not the novelty of his skin color, and rebel against a mother who only wanted him to behave.
If you go into this book expecting to laugh hysterically because of Noah's day job, think again. While the book does include some of the wry humor that has begun endearing him to fans, this is an emotional, brutal, and educational story of a life which flourished despite the odds stacked against it. This is a book about growing up in a culture of poverty and crime, and how easy it was to get caught up in that, especially when it was one of the only ways to make money and be able to feed, clothe, and enjoy yourself. It's also a book about fear, how it motivates you, how it paralyzes you, and how it threatens to take away the one thing you cherish more than any other.
More than anything, though, this is a book about the unwavering love of a mother for a child she chose to have. She knew it would be difficult raising her son in the age of apartheid, and in fact, she had no idea when he was born that it would end anytime soon. But Noah was a remarkable child, and while he exasperated, frightened, and upset his mother from time to time, she knew he would accomplish great things one day (as soon as he stopped putting cornrows in his hair and hanging out with those awful hoodlums he called friends).
I enjoyed this book and learned a lot about apartheid, which I really didn't know much about. Noah is a good writer, and delivered his narrative much as I've heard him deliver his lines on The Daily Show . This is a funny, thought-provoking, and emotional book, although I felt that some of his anecdotes went on a little too long, while others didn't go on long enough. I also would have liked to have learned how he went from his upbringing in South Africa to one day hosting an acclaimed television show—other than passing mentions of things he did, I have no idea how he made the leap.
I've heard some people say that the audio version of this book is brilliant because Noah reads it himself, but if you read the print/digital version, you can still hear his voice through his words. Noah's story is a lesson of the inequities of the past, and a warning for what is still possible to happen again in our world. But this isn't heavy-handed; it's fun, insightful, and very compelling.
See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo..., and see my list of the best books I read in 2016 at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2016.html.
Rating: it was amazing
These stories, beautifully written, are set in a world quite like our own but at the same time utterly different. Maybe "through a glass darkly". Who goes to church three times on Sunday to Black, White and Coloured ones? Who goes to jail for (not) stealing a car rather than face the wrath of his mother? Who gets a prom date with the most beautiful girl around, but one who doesn't speak the language and is extremely unsociable to boot? None of these things are extraordinary in this world,
Who could perform rap at a Jewish school to a wildly-enthusiastic audience and create deadening silence in one second asking respect for Hitler? Repeatedly. I'm not going to spoil this one. It's a brilliant story, very funny, and sadly critical too. Two worlds collide, black and white, and neither understand why the other is so offended. (view spoiler)[If you'd really like to know and aren't going to read the book, IM me. (hide spoiler)]
In what world can a man standing in front of a policeman not be identified on the video they are both watching of his best friend shoplifting and he with him? But he isn't. Because of the exposure of the video the black figure appeared black but the coloured one, Trevor, appeared white. The police were unable to link in their heads the features of the man on the screen with the one in front of them who was a suspect, because he was white. These South African policemen were blinded by their prejudice. Which was rather lucky for Trevor, and he is our hero.
He's mine anyway.
This is a fascinating book that will take you deep into the world of the non-white life of South Africa mostly since apartheid ended. It's funny and tragic, heart-warming and wtf did you do that for. It's tribal and urban and mostly very third world. It's quite something to incorporate all those elements and boast only in ways that are more to do with accomplishment than with ego. But if you don't like politics this isn't for you. Every single incident no matter how funny, how light, and they aren't all, drives home that race decides everything in South Africa.
I listened to it in the car. The audio is brilliant. narrated by the author (which is why I got it on audio, that's one of the great advantages of the media listening to an author tell his own tale.) It's a 10-star biography.
Rating: really liked it
If you're going to read this book, definitely listen to the audio version. Trevor Noah is one of the most effortless narrators I've ever listened to. It genuinely feels like he is sitting down with you and telling you his life story. Not only that, but you get to learn quite a bit about pre- and post-Apartheid South Africa from the perspective of someone who hypothetically shouldn't exist. Noah's mother is black and his father is white, and when he was born any mixed-race relationships were illegal. I was instantly intrigued by his story, not only because of this unique perspective but also because he is such a wonderful storyteller.
I do think the chronology of the book was a bit strange at times—one chapter would be from his childhood and then the next would jump to his teen years, and back. And at the end of each chapter there was always a short snippet that completely changed directions and had pretty much nothing to do with the previous chapter (maybe in the physical copy of the book that section is identifiably set apart?).
Nonetheless, this was a great listening experience, one that was enlightening, hilarious, heartbreaking, frustrating and well told. Would highly recommend.
Rating: it was amazing
Before I start my review, I want to take a minute to praise Trevor Noah's stand up shows because they're one of the few that don't rely on being ignorant. His shows are one of the enlighten ones focusing on race, white-privilege, police brutality, hate speech, prejudice, and so much more.
I’d highly recommend watching a few before reading this riveting memoir.
In Born a Crime, Trevor Noah takes us on a journey from his childhood being born a crime in apartheid South Africa. 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. This memoir 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.
Side note: Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah - his mother - was a powerhouse, a strong woman in every sense. She's a warrior and I only wish I could be a half of the person she is. Also, I love the advice she gave her son—I even wrote a few pieces down to remember:
“Abel wanted a traditional marriage with a traditional wife. For a long time I wondered why he ever married a woman like my mom in the first place, as she was the opposite of that in every way. If he wanted a woman to bow to him, there were plenty of girls back in Tzaneen being raised solely for that purpose. The way my mother always explained it, the traditional man wants a woman to be subservient, but he never falls in love with subservient women. He’s attracted to independent women. “He’s like an exotic bird collector,” she said. “He only wants a woman who is free because his dream is to put her in a cage.”
This passage had pretty much changed the way I think, the way I precept the world.
“She’d tell me not to worry. She always came back to the phrase she lived by: “If God is with me, who can be against me?” She was never scared. Even when she should have been.”
The piece stuck with me.
Truly though, this memoir was enlighten, brimming with emotion, and I love it when children pay tribute to their hard-working mothers.
“There was no stepfather in the picture yet, no baby brother crying in the night. It was me and her, alone. There was this sense of the two of us embarking on a grand adventure. She’d say things to me like, “It’s you and me against the world.” I understood even from an early age that we weren’t just mother and son. We were a team.”
My mind and heart were fully transported while reading everything Trevor went through to get to where he is today and everyone that took part of that journey.
And even though some of the stories kind of broke my heart, Trevor Noah always managed to bring in his gold humor to ease the tension. There are a couple of chapters that have taken a hold of my soul and won’t let go because either they were extremely hilarious (TREVOR, PRAY & LOOPHOLES) or entirely heart-shattering (MY MOTHER’S LIFE)... or both.
Slowly and surely, I came to admire Trevor Noah's character and honesty even more than I did before. And I'm pretty sure that I'll end up watching and rewatching his stand-up shows so that I can stop tearing up at the mention of his name.
ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Rating: it was amazing
An audiobook *treasure*!
Trevor is a likable! A charming- guy!!! Listening to him speak is almost magnetic.
Being thrown out of a car? By his own mother? OUCH! Trevor had my attention in the palm of his hands.
The ongoing - ongoing - and ONGOING ....dramatic stories Trevor shares about his childhood --were life lesson building blocks. Trevor did the building!! He used every life experience to his advantage-- and that's extraordinary!
Poverty, abuse, Religious upbringing, crazy chaotic living conditions, a powerhouse one-of-kind mother....Trevor is a thriving survivor!!!!
We also get an excellent intimate understanding: .....of the rigid former policy of segregating and economically and politically oppressing the non-white population....
from the direct experience of Noah being born in South Africa during the laws of apartheid.
A child who was often guided to play indoors, ( hiding), a 'positive' lifetime result 'today' is that Trevor says he can sit and enjoy his own company for days on out. He is never bored!
.... sadness of course - tragic times -horrific injustice.....
but Trevor Noah is warm - charming -filled with love and light!!!! Funny too!!!
Rating: it was amazing
Five HUGE Stars for Trevor Noah's book! Believe the hype! I absolutely loved it. I listened to the audio. Trevor narrates his stories of growing up in South Africa. I highly recommend the audio version. He made this book come to life with his narration. This would actually make a good first listen.
I just became a fan recently of his and thought I'd give the book a shot. I'm so happy I did! I learned a lot about apartheid and I learned a lot about South Africa. I also learned some gross facts like the poorest of people eat worms. At one point he and his family were so poor that they were eating them. Yuck!
Trevor had me laughing. Trevor had me crying. Highly recommended to fans of his and/or people who just want to learn about life in South Africa during apartheid. Great book!
Rating: it was amazing
This is great! I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read it. A celebrity memoir by a mixed-race guy who was born in South Africa under apartheid didn’t sound like it would be a smart, funny, and charming pleasure to read, but it is. Not that he minimizes the circumstances, but there more fact than lamentation. It’s a shame about those people who don’t enjoy audiobooks. His performance adds to fantastic storytelling.
The stories from his childhood reminded me of something Art Linkletter said about the children chosen for the “Kids Say the Darndest Things" segment of his show. “It asked the dear teachers to give us the four children they would most like to have out of the class for a few blessed hours. The teachers would laugh and send me the rascals.” Not that that little Trevor was a bad kid, he is just one of those people that belong on a stage. He was a bit conflicted when exhorted to pray for God to kill the demon who had done the bad thing.
”Dear Lord, please protect us, um, you know, from whoever did this, like, we don’t know what happened exactly and maybe it was a big misunderstanding and, you know, maybe we shouldn’t be quick to judge when we don’t know the whole story and, I mean, of course you know best, Heavenly Father, but maybe this time it wasn’t actually a demon, because who can say for certain, so maybe cut whoever it was a break…”
Rating: really liked it
An amazing story of a young man and his mother who went around the block a few times and beat the odds.
Despite a few inaccuracies in his tale, it remains a well-told story that kept me reading and reading until the very end. Trevor Noah has that intelligent kindness like an astral light around him. He has that look of wisdom and experience in his eyes which allow people to like and want to listen to him. He is a gentle soul. I guess he can thank his mom for that. She was on his case, saving his soul since the day he was born.
Trevor Noah starts out his book with his usual irony. He establishes a high-speed tone that promises a suspense thriller on the spot. He was thrown out of a car and it was not a Hollywood movie at all ! From there he introduces his mother and grandmother which sets the tone of this book.
My whole family is religious, but where my mother was Team Jesus all the way, my grandmother balanced her Christian faith with the traditional Xhosa beliefs she’d grown up with, communicating with the spirits of our ancestors. For a long time I didn’t understand why so many black people had abandoned their indigenous faith for Christianity. But the more we went to church and the longer I sat in those pews the more I learned about how Christianity works: If you’re Native American and you pray to the wolves, you’re a savage. If you’re African and you pray to your ancestors, you’re a primitive. But when white people pray to a guy who turns water into wine, well, that’s just common sense.
My mom didn’t want my mind polluted by movies with sex and violence. So the Bible was my action movie. Samson was my superhero. He was my He-Man. A guy beating a thousand people to death with the jawbone of a donkey? That’s pretty badass.
He shares his personal story with so much wit and candor. Some incidences were so funny I just sat back and laughed and laughed. But then there were the moments of pain and sadness, so intense, that I felt like standing in his aura and hearing his thoughts before he expressed them. Tragic, yet destined to turn out to be miracles in the end.
He shares many aspects of South African history and culture as background to his story, which enhances the experience for the reader. His sense of humor is always ready to jump in at the most unexpected moments. It was really a great read!
As background to Trevor Noah's story, I want to provide a few tidbits of information.
"Apartheid" was an American concept that was applied to the South African landscape. Not many people realize that. When the Americans thought it a good idea to provide reservations for the indigenous people, the South African government thought is was a brilliant idea as well and follow it up with their own interpretation. When Americans thought there should not be social interaction between races in public premises, the South Africans followed suit.
Black-only bus stops serviced Black-only buses. Black-only ambulances stopped at Black-only hospitals. Black-only education was provided at Black-only schools and universities. Beaches, bridges, swimming pools, washrooms, cinemas, benches, parks and even burial grounds were all segregated. Interracial marriages were strictly forbidden.
Black people had their own magazines, newspapers, authors, journalists, movies, artists, musicians, music concerts, businesses and communities. Many wealthy Black people lived in the separated areas (there were even a wealthy black suburb called Beverly Hills in SOWETO) and made a good living. Black lawyers, doctors, teachers, and religious leaders served their own community. For instance, Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe both studied at the University of Fort Hare and finished their further studies at other universities, such as the universities of the Witwatersrand(WITS) and South Africa(UNISA). Their training were subsidized by the Apartheid government. They enjoyed free education as a result, while the White community had to pay for everything. Trevor Noah himself could have gone to university on the same principles with even more bursaries available to him than there were for white people. It is still the case.
Biggest issue: Black people were denied the vote.
His 'Hitler' story also lacked insight into the Afrikaner history (and neither did he knew about the HOLOCAUST and the Jewish experience). Trevor and his young adult friends were simply ignorant young men doing their own thing. Of course he did not have to know it, since it was never part of his own life. He described the Afrikaners's "love" for Hitler, but did not know how it worked. The Afrikaners lost their families in the Anglo-Boer war in which Britain followed a scorched-earth policy, leaving the Afrikaner farmers bankrupt and their families destroyed, dead in the concentration camps. The impoverished farmers abandoned their farms, which were immediately grabbed by the British government and handed over to British soldiers as payment for their services against the Afrikaners during the war.
When the world declared war against Hitler, a small group of embittered Afrikaners organized themselves into a rebellion to assist Hitler against Britain. They simply hated the English. They would join any country declaring war against England. However, the vast majority of Afrikaners joined Britain in combat against Hitler. My father was one of them. We are from German descend. The South African soldiers, the majority being from the Afrikaner community who joined Great Britain were all descendants of the French, Dutch and German. They were joining the English forces who were shipped from the British colonies at the time. I just wanted to clear that up.
Trevor and his mom were not part of the elite. They lived in the moderate, poor areas where workers and entrepreneurs felt at home. I was so happy that he mentioned the cultural cuisine. The 'smileys' he mentioned, sheep's head, are still highly popular. There are even sheep head clubs in the country.
His revolt for sheep's eyes, which is also something to fight and die for by the dedicated eaters, had me almost falling off my bed with laughter. I cannot stand it either, although my husband and his farmer friends would make sure they can all enjoy it by buying themselves enough sheep heads for their club meetings and ensure nobody misses out on the eyes! Yes, be strong, dear friends. We could all have been like that, so don't laugh! ;-)
"Walkie-talkies", which he did not mention, are the heads and feet of chickens, which are also popular delicacies in the Asian communities. Trevor Noah's mom, however, knew it was the only dish that would get him to stay home for dinner instead of going out and enjoy his beloved Macdonalds.
And then there is the 'Marogo' which he enjoyed, which I grew up with. It is a healthy weed, cooked like green beans with potato and unions, and normally enjoyed as a side dish, heaped onto 'mieliepap' (maize porridge). You're simply not South African if you have not eaten Marog and pap! It taste like spinach with a creamy effect.
He took me back to my own childhood days, in a different time and place of course, but the nostalgia of that time came rushing over me while reading this book. We had so many happy moments, despite circumstances, and like Trevor, we as children never knew about Apartheid. Adults did not talk about it. It was quite a revelation when we finally grasped the meaning. We were the generation who brought it to en end.
His story is so inspirational. A feel-good experience. I can only congratulate him and wish him all the best in the world He deserves it. And, most importantly, he will make it.
You gooooo Trevor!!!! Thank you for the wonderful memories you shared. You made this world a much better place to be in, just by being you and sharing your heartfelt, often funny story.
Rating: really liked it
I’m joining the club of other Rioters who have read and loved this one. Something you should know about me: memoirs are NOT my jam. I can count on one hand the memoirs I’ve read and enjoyed, so I was honestly shocked by how much I loved reading Born a Crime. Noah can tell a story like nobody’s business, and very often his tales weave tragedy and comedy together in the best way imaginable. I also have to admire Noah’s bare-bones honesty; he really doesn’t front at all. If you’re the type of person who wants a book that can make you laugh and cry in public, this is the one you’ve been looking for.
— Tasha Brandstatter
from The Best Books We Read In February 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/02/28/riot-r...
Never have I experienced such alternatively intense emotions as I have listening to this book, where Noah recounts stories of his childhood in truly terrible conditions with humor and matter-of-factness. I had moments where I felt crushed by the realities of Apartheid, wondering how humans can be so cruel, followed by long stretches of laughter where I must have looked batty while driving, such was my delight in a chapter about sneaky pooping (and the aftermath). I’m talking crying laughing, gasping for air, and then eased back into some more sobering tales of close calls, losing friends, running from those who threatened him or his family. It’s only January, but this book is absolutely in my personal top 5 for the year. If nothing else, Born a Crime speaks in universals about human experiences, even simple things like learning to speak someone else’s native language and reaping the social benefits. It’s just set in a world that’s very far from my own.
from The Best Books We Read In January 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/02/01/riot-r...
He might be the baby-faced host of The Daily Show, but he was also raised a mixed-race child during Apartheid. Listening to him narrate the story of his childhood and all of the dangers that came with his very existence showed me that he’s a lot more than Jon Stewart’s slightly-less-beloved replacement. I may be frustrated recently with his call for other people of color to be moderate in their reactions to the incoming administration, but getting a bit of insight into the pain and tragedy he suffered at the hands of similarly-minded people was informative for me and has changed the way I view him.
— Elizabeth Allen
from The Best Books We Read In December 2016: http://bookriot.com/2017/01/03/riot-r...
Rating: really liked it
[ trevor's mom was shot in the face by her husband/his stepdad (hide spoiler)]
Rating: really liked it
Once again, I decided to read something from the non-fiction/biography genres. Partly because I adore Trevor Noah as a person. Partly because I love Trevor Noah's voice & appreciate when authors tell their own stories, both fictional and non-fictional. & Partly because I want to try and get more comfortable with reads like this that are outside of my normal realm.
In this Trevor tells many stories from his childhood in South Africa. He is funny, well-spoken, and insightful as he discusses how being the product of a white Swiss father and a black South African mother both worked for and against him, depending on the situation.
This was an excellent book, though I wish he hadn't jumped around on his timeline as much as he did. It wasn't really a big deal but I sort of had trouble keeping up with the chronological order of the events he was describing.
I would very much recommend this for everyone, even if you don't particularly like Trevor Noah! My friend Michael talks about how much he enjoyed the book in his review, despite not being the author's biggest fan.
Rating: it was amazing
Born a Crime Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah is such an interesting look into the life of a talented young man. I am a big fan of Trevor and watched his special on Netflix where he speaks of his life growing up but this goes into so much detail, it is stunning all that this guy goes through and is not a bitter man. He describes the horrible laws and society he is born into and the way he is looked at in his society. How he tries to see himself. His life in poverty, with a very religious mother, an abusive step father, his struggles to find himself and diligent acts, his family, the horrible times in his life and the good times in his life. Through it all, he keeps his humor and love alive and shares it with us in this wonderful book. There is so much in here and he tells it so well. He has a good heart and it comes out in this book. He is not jaded by his past but seems to be inspired to be better because of it. Great job Trevor, we love you! Thanks NetGalley for allowing me to read this wonderful, touching book!
Rating: it was amazing
Born a Crime
Funny guy- The very charming Trevor Noah
"People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing." Trevor Noah
By the time Trevor Noah was born in 1984, Apartheid, the system that institutionalized segregation and racial discrimination in his native South Africa, was already in its last throes. But young Trevor still got to experience plenty of the negative effects of that horrific system.
The relationship between his black African mother and his white Swiss father, was legally prohibited by the 1927 "Immorality Act", a crime that could carry up to 5 years in prison. These laws were not a mere abstraction, they were actively enforced by the authorities.
Noah did a good job at giving us a condensed version of the history of Apartheid. He explains how it was used to create fissures among the black population, and give us an insider's perspective of the real life consequences it had in the lives of millions of people.
My sense is that this book was written with a Western audience in mind, so he takes the time to compare Apartheid to similar repressive movements in other parts of the world, such as the removal of Native Americans, European Colonialism and Slavery and the Jim Crow era in America.
On this topic he remarks:
"In America you had the forced removal of the native onto reservations coupled with slavery followed by segregation. Imagine all three of those things happening to the same group of people at the same time. That was apartheid."
Baby Trevor growing up in South Africa
The issue of race is a complicated one and Noah acknowledges how being biracial was a source of distress and confusion, while at the same time protected him and enhanced his social status.
Personally I can relate to this. Colorism was something I encountered in the society where I grew up. Having a lighter skin didn't guarantee success, but it certainly helped remove a potential obstacle and it opened doors that otherwise could have remained closed.
And yet, young Trevor frequently felt like an outsider, tolerated but not fully accepted. This started to change once he moved from her family home and started looking for ways to make a living.
From his mother, he inherited an entrepreneurial spirit and started making some money by utilizing his many skills; he was multi-lingual, good with technology and had a knack for mixing music that his peers loved.
If necessity is the mother of invention, Trevor and his fellow hustlers were the embodiment of that maxim. Eventually things turned bad when he became involved in petty crimes and got in trouble with the law.
I think the most important chapter of this book is the one where Noah describes the social dynamics of the "hood" and how difficult it is for a kid without a support system to break the cycle of poverty and violence.
"We tell people to follow their dreams" he says,"but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited."
Rating: it was amazing
I was lucky to see Trevor Noah speak about this book recently, and the way he talked about his story, and his life growing up in South Africa made me all the more eager to read it! The book is a cohesive collection of stories from his childhood and early adulthood, and though I am not typically a reader of much non-fiction, I found this book truly compelling and hard to put down!
Noah has a way of really drawing you in, and making you feel as though you are there with him, experiencing his memories and seeing South Africa during and after apartheid as he did. He doesn't glorify himself and doesn't shy from describing certain flaws in himself, his family and the world he grew up in, which makes it seem very real and believable, and makes me wish I knew even more.
I have never visited South Africa, but I felt like a true armchair traveler reading "Born a Crime", and learning about the way of life of "ordinary" people, instead of monumental historical figures like Nelson Mandela. I liked how Noah gave character to individual neighborhood I had never heard of, but can now visualize with a sense of greater understanding. His descriptions of the people in this book make them come to life, especially his mother, who raised Noah under difficult circumstances and to whom the book is dedicated. She is such a central character, if you will, of this book, and Noah doesn't sugarcoat her actions or mentality, which sometimes made it difficult for me to fully understand the devotion he felt toward her, when she so often put him down, beat him, and forced him to accept that her second husband and father of Noah's two younger brothers was a violent, deeply unpleasant man, whom she did not leave until it was almost too late. This was difficult to read, at times, but definitely served to paint a truly vivid image of her and of their, sometimes fraught, but ultimately loving relationship.
The explanation of segregation and divides between race were another element that fascinated me about this story, especially in light of the racial tensions that have arisen in society and culture recently, made more visible through social media and the fast pace of news (though they have obviously been there a long time). I knew, of course, of the way apartheid worked, and the extreme division and misery it created, but I did not know of the many different classifications that existed within African communities themselves, that "colored" people, as Noah describes those of mixed race, were not included in black communities or white communities, and that he, being the son of a white man and a black woman, never felt he fit in properly. It is interesting to read about this, and though the book is set in Africa, I think it is, in a way, quite timely, and well worth reading, if only to see that change for the better can happen. Segregation and racism exist everywhere, and therefore people must collectively work against it to create societies that value tolerance and diversity.
This was a well-written, thought-provoking book and I would recommend it to fans Trevor Noah, or even those who have never heard of him, but what to be entertained, and learn something in the bargain.
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