Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Best for: Those looking for a compelling memoir. Those interested in learning more about South Africa.
In a nutshell: Comedian Trevor Noah shares stories from his life growing up in South Africa.
Line that sticks with me: “People say all the time that they’d do anything for the people they love. But would you really? Would you do anything? Would you give everything?” (p279)
Why I chose it: My sister gave this to my partner as a Christmas gift. I took it to read before he could start it. Sorry not sorry.
Review: I’m not a Trevor Noah fan. Not in an ‘I dislike him’ sort of way. I just am not familiar with much of his work. I enjoyed The Daily Show when Jon Stewart hosted, but I didn’t watch much of it during the last couple years of his tenure, and when Mr. Noah took over, I didn’t have any way to record the show, so I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him host it. I recall he got some shit for some older jokes when he was hired (something about his perspective on being Black in the US is very different given his South African roots).
With that in mind, I was a bit skeptical of this book and had avoided it even though memoirs by comedians are kind of my thing. But when it basically dropped into my lap, I started reading. I started reading it yesterday and finished it today. Less than 24 hours. Granted, I actually had some down time in which to read it (thank you, last day of an eight day, five stop road trip), but it was also simply a compelling story.
I know very little about South Africa beyond the basics that are taught in the US public schools I attended: there was apartheid (which isn’t ever really explained), and then Nelson Mandela and then everything was mostly fine. Like I said, I know very little, and that little isn’t even accurate. This book, in addition to providing the story of Mr. Noah’s life, provides some history of South Africa and apartheid. Which makes sense, given the title: “Born a Crime.” Trevor’s parents were not legally allowed to have sex (his dad is white, his mom is black). That’s intense.
Some of the stories in the book are light; some are quite intense. One bit of warning: if you’re looking for anything related to the start of his career in comedy, wait for (the presumedly forthcoming) next memoir. There is one line in the whole book that even hints that he ended up in a career in comedy. Which, fine with me, as the story he did choose to tell stands on its own.