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Book Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah Born a Crime cover

I adore Trevor Noah. I enjoyed his stand-up specials, and I love The Daily Show. So when I found out that he had written a book, I was eager to read it. And Born a Crime has got to be one of my favourite non-fiction books I’ve ever read.

Noah was born to a black mother and a white father in apartheid South Africa, where interracial babymaking was illegal. He was literally born a crime. He details his early life by all the crimes he was involved in. Some he committed, some he was a victim of. He somehow makes it delightful. I have to admit, some of the things he’s done were a little bit unnerving for the goody-two-shoes in me, but that’s not what this book is about. Like Noah says in the book, it’s easy to judge when I’ve grown up privileged and away from the crimes. For those who haven’t, like Noah, it’s not that simple.

This book isn’t just funny. To understand Noah’s life and childhood it is crucial to understand the political and cultural aspects of South Africa. And Trevor does a fantastic job at guiding the readers through it all. I learned so much about apartheid, more than any history classes I’ve taken.

The most gripping part of the book is the last chapter, about his abusive stepfather. Up until that chapter, the book is quite humorous, but most of that chapter really isn’t. The whole time I was terrified for him, even though I already know he has grown up to be a very fine man. It was very moving, but be warned that for those with domestic abuse related trauma, it may be triggering.

Noah is a stand-up comedian who hosts a news satire show, so I expected the book to be entertaining and informative. What I didn’t know is that I was also going to be so touched by his relationship with his mother. She is an extraordinary woman who raised a naughty boy to be an exceptional man.

I hope Trevor Noah writes another book one day.

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