Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah


‘The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate, is what it was. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another and then you can rule them all’

13.4- Born a crime - Celebrity Book Club

Noah was born a crime, son of 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 first 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, take him away.
A collection of eighteen personal stories, Born a Crime tells the story of a mischievous young boy growing into a restless young man as he struggles to find his place in a world where he was never supposed to exist. Born a Crime is equally the story of that young man’s fearless, rebellious and fervently religious mother – a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence and abuse that ultimately threatens her own life.
Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Noah illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and an unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a personal portrait of an unlikely childhood in a dangerous time, as moving and unforgettable as the very best memoirs and as funny as Noah’s own hilarious stand-up. Born a Crime is a must read.

What I thought:

I don’t normally read biographies as much as I find people interesting I prefer delving into the world of fiction. Often biographies can be dry, finding about people from words on paper is less interesting that finding out about them in person when people can add to their story. It’s those small bits I like and most of the time you don’t get them. But I’ve always enjoyed Noah’s comedy (to the point that I was his technician when he came to our uni on the comedy circuit) and find his was of story telling intriguing in the fact that it’s all true and some of the stuff he says is horrible, and yet he’s able to tell it in an a way that seems less so as well as funny. And that follows through in his writing which made this a joy to read.

His first story is about how his mother threw him out of a moving car on their way to church and they don’t stop there. His stories are all as mad as each other and yet he tells them as if they are nothing more than a bit of a mad night out with friends. The truth is that this was simply his life, his very existence was illegal so he couldn’t go out with his black mother let alone his white father. South Africa was hardly the safest place at the time let alone for someone of mixed-race heritage.

I never laughed out loud as it’s not that kind of book, also I’m not that kind of person words on a page won’t make me laugh but the same words said out loud will do. But it did make me smile, each story gripped me as I learnt not just about his life but about how apartheid worked and how it managed to separate the different factions of South Africa and allowed the whit


3 thoughts on “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah

  1. Sounds like an interesting read. Remember the guy being on Mock the Week; now he’s presenting the popular Daily Show over in the US. Quite a career. Could be intriguing to delve into his past, as I too have only a vague recollection of studying the history of South Africa at that time.


  2. I have just began to read this and your review has made me want to leave work so I can continue. Biographies are always tricky as I have read many which have either been really interesting and intriguing, or have been clearly written just for the money. Sometimes they can be hard to get into until you find one moment that really captivates you. Some people do not have patience for that so often give up. From your review and what I have read so far I am pleased to say that this is one book that is worth every word read. I look forward to the rest of the biography and to further reviews.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow, Trevor Noah is an amazing comedian but I didn’t know he had a book! I need to read this as soon as possible! On to the library website I go, my list keeps growing but it is worth it for all the brilliant recommendations.

    Liked by 1 person

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