Born A Crime | Trevor Noah (Book Review)

Hardcover, 224 pages
Published November 15th 2016 by Doubleday Canada
ISBN 0385689225 (ISBN13: 9780385689229)


Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother: his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.


The only thing I knew about Trevor Noah before I read his book was that he was a comedian from South Africa and that he hosts The Daily Show. I started watching The Daily Show well, daily, a couple months ago but if I’m honest before that I used to only see gif sets of him online and I never even knew that he was from South Africa until I heard his accent. The point is it’s truly amazing how little you can know about a person that you watch on the telly and it’s even more wild how truly incredible their story can be.Trevor is only 5 years older than I am and every time I think about that and then I think about the fact that he grew up during apartheid it blows my mind. In my mind it doesn’t seem possible that someone my age could have grown up in such a world. It doesn’t seem possible yet reading this book was a huge reminder of what the world can really be like. Even when you know it happened sometimes being confronted with it in such a real way changes your perspective.

Being born during apartheid to a black mother and white father Trevor isn’t being hyperbolic when he says he was born a crime. That’s just a fact and that’s where his story starts. Being hidden in the house for most of his childhood. Not being able to walk down the street with his parents, having to constantly worry about that something as simple as his DNA could destroy their lives forever.

The book is honest and gritty and if you’re like me a lot of the stuff is unfathomable. I don’t remember ever truly learning about apartheid other than it happened and then Nelson Mandela became president and democracy came and things were better. We learned about the Holocaust and read books like Night and watched Schindler’s List in school. We learned about the wars and conflicts that America had a hand in. So to read a book that isn’t only stories of his childhood but truly explains the conflicts and the horrors of apartheid it was almost like a history lesson as well. I finished the book with not only knowing about Trevor but with a newfound understanding of what happened during that time.

He’s truly a natural storyteller and while each chapter is a story about his life and childhood they are all woven with a social context and a lesson to them. There’s not just oh this is what happened and then this. The pictures he paints are vivid and the morals behind them are too. Even though he’s a comedian the book isn’t really funny mostly because a lot of the subject matters are really heavy yet you’ll find yourself laughing out loud. There were multiple times I busted out laughing.

The very best part of the book for me was reading about his mother. She is truly an incredible woman and she is absolutely the heroine of his story. So many people have described the book as a “love letter to his mother” and it truly is. She is a fierce, brave, and admirable woman and absolutely someone that’s worthy of having her story be told.

Even if you don’t know who Trevor Noah is or you don’t watch The Daily Show this is still a book for you. I don’t read celebrity autobiographies very often unless I know they truly have a story to tell and he does. This isn’t about him being a comedian and how he got to be on TV and how cool he is because he’s on TV. It’s a story that should be told even if nobody knew who he was.

Click to Buy – Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
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