Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (Author & Narrator)
Published November 15th 2016 by Audible Studios, Doubleday Canada
I listened to the audiobook of Born a Crime, narrated by the author, Trevor Noah. This is his story from his birth until before he moves to the US. Being born during apartheid he could not let anyone know that his father was white, although everyone knew based on his lighter skin. He shares his life with the reader in a humorous way, but still sad and enlightening. His tongue in cheek manner makes this terrible time in history palatable. This was the story of an ordinary family living in South Africa. It told of the way he was treated by “blacks” and “coloureds” as well as “whites”. He wasn’t sure where he fit, but his mother wanted him to be coloured. There was racism within the races themselves. He told of going to school and the issues he encountered there. With his humour, he shared the time he worked “in the hood” selling stolen goods, bargaining to get goods cheap and selling up etc. He shared the horrors of being arrested as well. I enjoyed learning about his family life. His mother was a strong, independent woman who would do whatever she had to do to support and save her family. I laughed when he talked about the three different kinds of churches he went to each week and what they were all like. Throughout everything that happened, his mother never lost her faith.
His descriptions of the people in this book make them come to life, especially his mother, who raised Noah under difficult circumstances and to whom the book is dedicated. Noah doesn’t sugarcoat her actions which sometimes made it difficult to fully understand the devotion he felt toward her, when she put him down, or beat him. When his mother remarries to a violent, drunken, gambling man, their life changes yet again. He squanders their money, beat his mother and the children and almost kills his mother, yet through it all, his mother stuck by him, hoping with prayer, he would change. This is a story that I had wanted to read for quite a long time. My daughter actually went to a Trevor Noah show in South Africa several years ago, which first put him on my radar. I recommend this memoir to anyone who enjoys memoirs, wants to learn something about apartheid and its effect on this citizens and well as the changes after that and to those who enjoy Trevor Noah. A story that I am very glad I listened to.
About the Book: Trevor Noah, one of the comedy world’s fastest-rising stars and host of The Daily Show, tells his wild coming-of-age story during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. In this Audible Studios production, Noah provides something deeper than traditional memoirists: powerfully funny observations about how farcical political and social systems play out in our lives.
“Nelson Mandela once said, ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’ He was so right. When you make the effort to speak someone else’s language, even if it’s just basic phrases here and there, you are saying to them, ‘I understand that you have a culture and identity that exists beyond me. I see you as a human being.'” (Trevor Noah)
Attuned to the power of language at a young age – as a means of acceptance and influence in a country divided, then subdivided, into groups at odds with one another – Noah’s raw, personal journey becomes something extraordinary in audio: a true testament to the power of storytelling. With brutal honesty and piercing wit, he forgoes an ordinary reading and, instead, delivers something more intimate, sharing his story with the openness and candor of a close friend. His chameleon-like ability to mimic accents and dialects, to shift effortlessly between languages including English, Xhosa, and Zulu, and to embody characters throughout his childhood – his mother, his gran, his schoolmates, first crushes and infatuations – brings each memory to life in vivid detail. Hearing him directly, you’re reminded of the gift inherent in telling one’s story and having it heard; of connecting with another, and seeing them as a human being.
The stories Noah tells are by turns hilarious, bizarre, tender, dark, and poignant – subsisting on caterpillars during months of extreme poverty, making comically pitiful attempts at teenage romance in a color-obsessed world, thrown into jail as the hapless fall guy for a crime he didn’t commit, thrown by his mother from a speeding car driven by murderous gangsters, and more.