I’m an introvert, and if there’s one thing I hate it’s interacting with people I don’t know. So when I finished reading Born a Crime while on an airplane, and found myself fighting the urge to wake up the woman next to me and tell her how great it was, I knew this book must be pretty special.
Born a Crime is the story of Trevor Noah’s childhood growing up in South Africa. Trevor’s father is white, and his mother black. Since he was born under apartheid, their relationship was illegal (hence the title of the book). Growing up, Noah didn’t feel like he fit in with anyone very well–not black people, white people, or those designated as “Coloured” in South Africa–a designation meant for those whose lineage included both white and black ancestors. Although Noah, who is light-skinned, may have looked like a “Coloured” person, he technically wasn’t since his parents were not. A lot of the book is devoted to him discussing his difficulties fitting in and finding his place when he was young. When Noah was still a child, apartheid ended, and Born a Crime is a really fascinating look at growing up both under apartheid, and in a post-apartheid world.
Trevor Noah’s childhood was truly unique due to two things: his racial heritage, and his mother. Noah’s mother is unforgettable. Her life as a black woman living under apartheid was difficult and dangerous, but she refused to follow the rules. She honestly sounds like a total badass and tough as nails. Born a Crime is a memoir, but it’s also a sort of a tribute (although a very honest one that also talks about her faults) to the woman who raised Noah and shaped his future.
This is a great book. It’s funny, but I also found it incredibly interesting to read about someone who is about the same age as me and yet had this childhood that was nothing like mine. By the time I got to the final, shocking vignette about his mother and stepfather, I couldn’t put it down. More than just a memoir, it’s the story of Noah’s relationship with his mother and the ways in which they helped and hurt each other. I don’t even like memoirs, but I 100% recommend this one.