Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: A Book Review

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I didn’t know much about Trevor Noah’s book, Born a Crime, when I reserved it from the library.  What I did know was that the book was extremely in demand; I had to wait two months to get it.  Currently there are 92 people on the wait list for the book after me.

Born a Crime is a biography about Trevor Noah’s life growing up during apartheid as a mixed race child (African and Swiss) at a time when race mixing was illegal.  His African mother raises him as a single mother, though he does see his father.  Noah shares his life in little snippets–important moments in his life–rather than in chronological order.

For the most part, the book is both serious and humorous.  Noah was a high energy child who was into everything as a youngster.  As a high schooler, he made a living by illegally creating and selling CDs and then becoming a DJ.  I often found myself impressed with his entrepreneurial skills at the same time I was bothered by all of his illegal activity.  Yet, as a teen, he didn’t think much about it because most of the people he knew took part in some illegal activities just to survive.

He also had an ear for languages, and in a country where different tribes speak different languages, this gave him a distinct advantage.  He was saved from a mugging because he could speak the language of those about to mug him.  He could make his way in a world where colored (people of mixed blood) were often not accepted.

While Noah often saw his biological father, his parents obviously couldn’t live together.  Instead, he lived with his mother who loved him and disciplined him with a firm hand.  They were often poor, so poor that they had to use bones meant for dogs to create soup for themselves and to eat the marrow.  At one point, they were so poor, they ate wild spinach and caterpillars.

Life changed dramatically for Noah when his mother met Abel, whom she married a few years later.  While Abel was charming to the outside world, at home he was an alcoholic who was abusive to both Noah and his mother.  The book takes a serious turn when Noah starts writing about life with Abel.

Trevor Noah takes what could be a depressing, gritty story, and manages to tell even the most traumatizing stories with humor and grace.  I enjoyed this book.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.


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