Book of the Month: Trevor Noah's Born a Crime

I like to think that I have read a lot of books in this life. But hands down, my favorite memoir has to be Trevor Noah's Born a Crime. I talk a good game about all the books of the month I write about  here, but I'm very excited about this one. Of course I always knew Trevor Noah as a comedian.  I have watched clips of his show here and there. I even went to the taping of his show in New York and had a great time. I always knew him as a brilliant, articulate, and funny person. I also knew he wrote a book but never really got around to it, and frankly, I don't think I heard so much about it from people. Truth is,  nothing could have prepared me for this book.

Interestingly, I randomly bought it at an Amtrak station store while visiting home. I had just finished a grueling presentation and by extension, I was having a terrible day, and was looking around the store while I waited for my parents to come pick me up at the station, and bam I saw it. Meanwhile two nights before, my siblings and I went to New York for his show. So when I saw it at the store, I thought hey, this guy was funny, perhaps his book will be too. TRUST ME when I say, it IS. This book is funny, enlightening, educating, hilarious, and has so much depth. At some point, I had to ask how a book can make you laugh so much and also make you cry a little.

In telling his life's story, Trevor Noah explores various themes of his life while growing up in South Africa. As a child of a white man and a black woman, his very conception was already a crime. I think the brilliance of the book also comes from the fact that although it seems like Trevor Noah was telling his story, he was really telling the story of a phenomenal woman—his  mother. Trevor Noah is a fantastic storyteller. Everyone says Michelle Obama's Becoming was something and I haven't read it yet; I don't really like reading or even consuming any form of entertainment when it's all a rave. I like to take my time to digest it. The point being it will be hard expecting any memoir to trump Noah's.

As usual, I will mention some things that stuck out without revealing too much about the book because this is really a book I want you to read. I say this a lot, but I truly always mean it. I really liked how his mom taught him about women, and also about how to be a man. She told him that he had to learn to respect women and treat women right, and that a man is not a man because of how much he earns. This was especially necessary because as Trevor himself mentions, he never really grew up around men per se, and ahem his step father was not the exemplary father any person should have. There was something about his mom, and by something I mean, she was outright amazing in her perception of the society, her fierceness, and her values. Who am I kidding, their relationship might be the best part of this book.

Something else I really learnt was noticing cycles of abuse; really, abuse in any form. You would understand this better if you read the book. One thing is common, abusers are always nice. They laugh with you, they are charming until they are not. Until something extremely trivial causes a switch to go off and that's it. Because there is always that "good time" that lasts pretty long, the abuse continues to escalate and victims are more likely to suffer. In Trevor's words, "it is sporadic enough that you would think it would not happen again, but it is also frequent enough that you never forget it is possible," and there lies the danger of an abuser. So you see how after an incident, you fight them. Maybe you even go a while without talking to them, then later, you casually say hi and then there is a joke here and there, and slowly life goes back to usual, until they strike again. And knowing typical abusers, they always will.  Another thing is common: lots of societies do not do enough to protect vulnerable women and it's unfortunate.

Interestingly, though a victim of poverty, abuse, apartheid, and injustice, and many more things that would make a person give up, Trevor Noah tells his story in such a way that you do not feel pity for him.  What you are left feeling is complete admiration. That someone could endure all that and still make something for himself is amazing. But he doesn't have the hubris or arrogance that tells people that all you have to do is work hard to be successful. He understands how systems can be designed to harm specific groups of people. I guess you chalk it up to growing up in Apartheid South Africa, no? Either way, this is not a memoir you will forget soon, and as Refinery29 describes:

"This isn't your average comic-writes-a-memoir: it's a unique look at a man who is a product of his culture—and  a nuanced look at a part of the world whose people have known dark times easily pushed aside."

When you do read this, definitely let me know how you think!




  1. I just reviewed this book. It was so good!

    1. So so good! I can't wait to check out your review