Title : Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
Author : Trevor Noah
Year of Publication : 2016
Genre: Non – Fiction, Autobiography
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Born a crime is a roller coaster of a book. Trevor Noah’s narrative of his life is full of ups and downs. It begins on a sad note as you are being introduced to Trevor and his mom as they live their lives in a challenging sociopolitical climate. However as you read on, you begin to flow with the characters and how they make the best of their situation. Humor plays a big role in this book. To be candid, this book would have been a narrative of misery if Trevor and his mom had not adopted a sense of humor towards their challenges.
You see, my prior knowledge of racism in South Africa and apartheid was for the most part from SARAFINA. The movie featuring Whoppi Goldberg , Leleti Khumalo and the legendary Miriam Makeba. Don’t get me wrong, I was aware of what was going on in South Africa but SARAFINA contextualized it in ways a seven year old me could understand. This is why this book is important. Trevor’s account details the impact of apartheid even as it affects South Africa till date.
In my opinion, the real hero in this book is Trevor’s Mom. Despite apartheid, she made a decision to have a colored child. Trevor makes this point effectively in the early parts of the book with the following…
“When most children are a proof of their parents love, I am proof of their criminality”
Born a crime discusses racism and sexism inductively. By presenting racism and sexism as they pertain to his particular life, Trevor helps the reader see the ridiculousness of these practices in South Africa and in the world at large. Using the typical comic tactic of…. Laugh at me, Laugh at him….. Laugh at yourself… now let us all laugh at the world we have created and live in.
Lessons from Born a Crime
You hear people say something in the line of “we may not have lots of money, but we were rich in love”. Well, Trevor’s up bringing and relationship with his mother exemplifies this. Mothers know what love really is. Trevor’s mom is a super hero.
If we could see each other’s pain and empathize with ourselves, it won’t be worth it to maltreat each other. This is a consistent truth in all of human history and that is why one of the core tenants of all types of discrimination is segregation. When you keep people at a distance and threat them as “ the other”, it is easier to perceive them as less human and unworthy of equal treatment.
Another lesson from this book is that our individual struggles are valid but not unique. Everyone struggles. Your worst nightmare could be another man’s dream come true.
Personally, this book has helped me be less judgemental of African – Americans. Being an immigrant, I keep wondering why people just don’t move out of the hood. But in Trevor’s words….
“The hood has a gravitational pull. It never leaves you behind, but it also never lets you leave. Because by making the choice to leave, you are insulting the place that raised you and made you and never turned you away and that place fights you back”
Haven said that , Trevor rightly notes the danger of giving in to the hood life. Although it may be familiar , relatively cheap, and comfortable, it could be dangerous.
“Comfort provides a floor but also provides a ceiling”
The last chapter is nothing short of miraculous. Not to spoil the book but it actually made me question my lack of faith.
This is a really good book. I tweeted this→ after reading the book.
The book is contextual and full of nuisance.
Interestingly, this book made no mention of his success. It seems like part 1 of a success story.