Born a Crime

Read:  2017

Author:  Trevor Noah

Published:  2016

Genre:  Autobiography

Pages:  304 (hardcover)

Selected By:  Lady Esbe

Lady Esbe’s Score:  Scoring Loved Book

“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 fire 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.”

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Lady Esbe’s Review

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not that big into written biographies. However, this one was suggested to me and I took the Audible version because it was suggested.  I too must suggest that if you decide to delve into the world of apartheid through the eyes of Trevor Noah, you must listen to the Audible version.

I say listen to the Audible version simply because Noah is a comedian who has perfected accents and imitating folks he has observed.  He speaks multiple languages including approximately four of the multitude of the languages in South Africa, from which he hails.  His mother was wise in insisting that he learn multiple languages and the ability to adapt to his circumstances and locations.  He shows us a little of his aptitude by speaking in each dialect and then translating.  Something I never noticed in say watching The Daily Show, is that he does have a slightly weird enunciation at times that had me cocking my head and thinking of a child learning how to say certain words.

Another aspect of the autobiography that I enjoyed is his explanation of apartheid; how it came to be and why it was effective.  I never thought much about it.  I knew it ended in my lifetime and since I have no desire to travel to third world countries, I wasn’t all that interested in anything that had to do with the country.  Which is incredibly narrow-minded of myself.  However, Noah’s explanation of the research made and methodical decision making of the government to create this “caste” system was insane.  The ability to isolate so many people from one another and antagonize tensions was diabolically masterful.  Noah’s concise but thorough explanation peaked my interest.

Which leads us to the title of the novel Born A Crime.  In explaining apartheid, Noah also explains that his very existence, before apartheid fell, was in fact a crime in the country.  His mother was clear in what she wanted, a child.  A child with a Swiss German ex-patriot to be exact.  While Noah’s father is not a native of South Africa, he was still beholden to the laws no matter how absurd he found it.  However, after being worn down by Noah’s persistent mother, nine months later enter a child whose existence is the very evidence of their crime and could cause them all more heart ache and trouble than anyone would want to bargain for.  However, they took their lumps and they also made a nice little unconventional family.  Each person was true to themselves and to each other in their own way.

Noah is indeed a very intelligent individual.  Wayward by his own admission, but brilliant nonetheless.  I feel like some of his travails are a result of his brilliance and being bored.  However, in his search of his own identity in this world of turmoil during and post apartheid, it’s no wonder that he lost the plot a few times.  He sought out people he identified with, not to make his life easier but because something about those folks appealed to him.  Yet some of those folks were probably not the best influence in his life.  He took every single one of his lessons like a champ and quite frankly there were times I was thinking, “typical teenage guy” down right stupid, no matter how intelligent he is.

Noah illustrates that no matter where you are in the world, that if you do not have a good sense of yourself, where you want to go and what you want to achieve, it is easy to lose yourself.  Whether through his experience or through the experience of his mother and other friends, it was just crazy.  I feel for him in what he and his family endured at the hands of Abel, his drunkard step-father.  However, there was one scene he describes that before he even mentioned that he was chanting “shut up” in his head, that I too was thinking, “lady, just shut up,” yet his mother is so headstrong that she couldn’t see the forest for the trees and what would cause her and her family more heartache for a time.

Noah admits he was a self-indulgent, wayward child.  However, I think that it was kind of par for the course.  His mother set good yet horrible examples for him and I could understand that he did turn out the way he did.  However, the treatment by other family members and how deeply ingrained apartheid was in them that while he told a humorous story, it hurt your heart that he and his family had to endure such ridiculousness.

If you are interested in Noah’s life at all or even apartheid, this is actually a well thought out and amazing read.  I personally am glad I did the Audible version.  It was like sitting in the car with a friend who was just telling you interesting stories for a time and teaching you a thing or two.  The only thing that would have been better was that it was an actual conversation so I could ask additional questions, share disgust, disbelief, relief and show appreciation via laughter and conversation.    Great job, Mr. Noah.  Great job, indeed.

Esbe listened to the Audible version of this selection.

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