I don’t really do memoirs so much but had heard so many good things about this book that I was convinced to try it. All the good reviews are right, and this book is great.
I hadn’t heard of Trevor Noah before he took over The Daily Show, and while I still miss Jon Stewart (I mean, who doesn’t?) Noah has grown on me. After this book, I like him even more. This is not a comedian’s memoir; rather, it’s a growing-up memoir, stories about a boy trying to make his way in a confused and confusing world, and it sheds a light on Noah’s perspective on current events. Also, it is fun to read.
“Racism teaches us that we are different because of the color of our skin. But because racism is stupid, it’s easily tricked.”
Noah’s mother is Khosa and his father is Swiss–which made their union, which resulted in Trevor, a crime under South Africa’s Immorality Act. He grew up in South Africa as apartheid fell apart, navigating the different groups with creativity, grit, and what can only be described as an entrepreneurial spirit. His mother was (and i assume still is) fierce and uncompromising as she raised a biracial son, and the stories of the scrapes he got into, and her reactions, are very funny. Some stories had me literally laughing out loud and later repeating them to my husband, because they were at once so poignant and so hilarious. The dancer named Hitler! The time his best friend got caught shoplifting! What’s so striking about many of these stories is how he uses them to make you laugh and then immediately make you think.
“Relationships are built in the silences. You spend time with people, you observe them and interact with them, and you come to know them—and that is what apartheid stole from us: time.”
This book is a lot of things: rags to riches, coming of age…and a pithy, funny deconstruction of the worst iterations of human nature: domestic violence, apartheid. It’s also a window into growing up in a totally, totally different context. I know a little about South Africa now, as an adult, but before this book could not really have guessed what it was like to be a kid there in the 80s!
My one complaint is that the ending is a bit abrupt, and the chronology is a little out of order, so that at some points I couldn’t figure out where in the timeline we were. No biggie, but some sections could have used one last shuffle to make it flow a little better.
Pick it up if you want something incredibly serious that will also have you laughing out loud.