Review: Born a Crime

Trevor Noah is the current host of The Daily Show and, before I read this book, I only knew him as that. I knew he was from South Africa, but nothing more. I watched his show because I liked his style, but it wasn’t until I saw him interviewed by Stephen Colbert on The Late Show (yeah, I’m a fan of late-night talk shows) that I found out about his book. Three minutes was all it took to convince me of purchasing it on Amazon.

“Nearly one million people lived in Soweto. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the, were black – and then there was me. I was famous in my neighborhood just because of the color of my skin. I was so unique people would give directions using me as a landmark.”

In Born a Crime, Noah shares with us what it was like for him to grow up biracial in a world with no opportunity for such people. You were either black or white, either Xhosa or Zulu, either from one street or another, you couldn’t be both. In Noah’s case, he couldn’t be either. But he wasn’t raised to conform to society’s limitations. His mother, a deeply religious, fearlessly stubborn, and incredibly independent woman raised him to exceed expectations, to stand for what he believed in, to be himself, even if it meant being alone for a while, and to keep moving. Eventually, he found a way to navigate those waters: language. By the time he was a teenager, he could speak English, German, Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, and Tswana (among others), and could move from group to group, from color to color, and adapt to almost any situation.

“Language brings with it an identity and a culture, or at least the perception of it. A shared language says ‘We’re the same’. A language barrier says ‘We’re different’.”

Through a series of hilarious, witty, and sometimes heartbreaking anecdotes, Born a Crime gives us a glimpse into a young man’s search for an identity. It shows his ability to get into and out of trouble, his capacity to understand the other person’s point of view, to forgive, and forget, and, most importantly, us how it is possible to be better persons despite whatever situation we’re thrust into.

I don’t know what else I can say to tell you how much I loved this book, how much it inspired me. I can tell you one thing, though: Born a Crime changed the way I see the world and I think it’s one of the best books I’ve read in my life.

  My edition:  Kindle Edition, published in 2016 by Spiegel & Grau.
My edition: Kindle Edition, published in 2016 by Spiegel & Grau.