I’d seen this on the recommendations lists and reviews from various places, then my sister recommended it and after a few months I caved. Yup – it’s pretty good. And I needed something a bit funny or light weight. This fit the bill because although serious topics come up and it has some very sobering ideas, Noah is a comedian by trade and his escapades, with his narration, shine through.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
by Trevor Noah
2016 / 304 pages
Read by Trevor Noah – 8h 50m
Trevor Noah is a 33-year old TV-/radio host and comedian who was born and raised in South Africa. He’s of mixed heritage having a black mother and a white father. When he was born it was illegal for blacks and whites to have sexual relations so at that time he was “born a crime.” There were many class distinctions in South Africa during apartheid – white, black, mixed and coloured. Chinese were black but Japanese were white for political reasons. . Most “coloured” people were the products of long prior relationships dating back to the original Dutch settlers and the native women.
Apartheid officially started in about 1948 and finally ended in 1991. Noah was born in 1984. Noah’s mother was black and his father was white so Noah had light skin but kinky hair. He was mixed from birth rather than heritage and it was confusing to people and to himself after awhile, but they had to deal with it as did he – all in their own ways.
He spent a lot of his childhood alone with no playmates and little acceptance largely because of his being “mixed” race. Not a fun time for him. But he chose his own place with the blacks because of his mother.
There is a fair amount of politics in the book, but it’s basically a memoir of a mixed-race child who lives in Johannesburg with his black mother and who knows and loves his father. He is loved by his parents. We follow his life from birth through various schools and family situations until he’s relatively full grown and moves out of the house – in his early 30s, probably. There is only a general chronology woven through the stories. But it’s a funny, sad and sometimes poignant look at post -apartheid South Africa with it’s completely irrational attitudes and laws and how they affected an individual life.
Many of the stories are about his mother who was/is a fiercely religious woman, but totally unique in her belief in freedom and love and perseverance as well as a disregard for irrational laws. Also, Noah has some really keen insights into racism, crime, language and skin color. The book goes beyond the life of the subject into some ideas in general.