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Born a Crime – Trevor Noah | Book Review

Born a Crime - Trevor Noah

Getting a book that tells a powerful story in a simple, humorous, and deeply personal way is hard. This is one such book. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah is one of my best books. It ranks at the top of the list of memoirs I’ve read. It is so good that it is my standard for my memoir.

Trevor’s intelligence, wit, and storytelling ability are all evident in this book. He carries the reader through apartheid South Africa, his family struggles, and the drama with his mother. Let’s go back a bit.

Trevor Noah’s very existence was a crime, hence the title. He was born to a Swiss father and a black Xhosa woman. In apartheid South Africa, sex between different races was one of the highest crimes anyone could commit. Yet, in Trevor’s telling, his mother chose him and wanted him. It was she who devised the way to keep and work hard.

In this story, we meet Trevor’s mother, a ferocious, loving, innovative, loyal woman who will do anything for her family. She will go through different marriages, including one with a very abusive man, a man who almost killed her. This is the part that I hated the most in this story. Reading Trevor’s mother’s struggles with her abusive husband was painful. We can never understand or explain how marriage ties one to a person. She loved him to a fault; it was ugly to read.

Oh, I forgot to mention an important part. Trevor’s mother was deeply religious. Mehn. Trevor had religion poured down his throat; he hated it. His mother took him to so many different churches. He learned many kinds of prayers and devised new ways to deceive her. It is not hard to understand that religion provided a pivot for Trevor’s mother.

The mother we saw in this book was a woman who sent her son to the best school, a woman who got her son the best books, and a woman who did everything to protect him, or rather, hide him until it was not illegal to have a white son. In appreciation of his mother, Trevor Noah wrote, “Being chosen is the greatest gift you can give to another human being.” She chose him!

As Trevor grows into a teenager, we see a rebellious son who always puts himself and those around him in trouble. He torments everyone. Due to his white skin (by South African standards), they could not flog him. One time, he committed a severe crime with his cousins. When his grandma caught them, she dealt with everyone except Trevor. When his mother returned, she asked for details, and the grandma told her she had flogged everyone except Trevor. The grandma said she just could not beat the boy. She didn’t want to touch him and then watch him turn orange. She had an erroneous belief that a white child was a master.

Through his teenage years and high school, he engaged in several hustling activities that kept him going. Here, he makes a unique point. Hustling makes you think life is going great, but in a real sense, nothing is happening. You are going around in circles when you are hustling, not growing. For your life to truly change, you must grow, not just hustle.

I liked the chapter about his visit to his father. At that point, he hadn’t seen his father in years and travelled to “connect with him.” When he got to his dad, he had a list of questions to ask him. His dad calmed down and told him to watch and enjoy the silent moment. According to Trevor, those calm few days with his dad taught him so much about the kind of man his dad was.

As stated earlier, Trevor throws so much history in this book. In one chapter, he talked about how he and his band were invited to dance at a Jewish school. In their team was a great dancer named “Hitler.” As their performance continued, the ban cleared a middle section and allowed Hitler to be in the middle. Then they started chanting, “Go Hitler, Go Hitler.” The whole hall went silent. These were Jewish kids and teachers.

One of the teachers went and unplugged the music. They threw out the band. Instead of just disappearing, Trevor’s band turned around and gave the school some bits of their insults. In their minds, the Jewish school was the one being racist. While in the minds of the school, the band was being racist. This story illustrated two things for me. First, Ignorance is dangerous both for the oppressor and the oppressed. Secondly, while it is easy to see two angles in an event, perhaps there is a third one. Always seek the third perspective.

In Born a Crime, you will find the story of Trevor’s school, first relationship, adventures through South African streets, hustling in the trenches, terrorizing his grandma, jumping into buses, dodging bullets with his mama

This book is delightful. It is an easy read. Entertaining. Educative. And deeply touching.

Today, it is easy to see what a wonderful life Trevor has created for himself. After reading this book, you will realize he deserves such a life. He has been in the trenches.

Here Are My Favourite Quotes From This

“I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in life, any choice I’ve made. But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say. We spend so much time being afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear the most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to. “What if…” “If only…” “I wonder what would have…” You will never, never know, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days.”

“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”

“My mom did what school didn’t. She taught me how to think.”

Actionable Insights For You

🎯Try to write your childhood memories. Just put them on paper or in whatever format you choose.

🎯If you can’t write, record them in audio formats and keep them on Google Drive. You will never regret doing this.

After reading the book, I listened to the audiobook, which was also great. It is the best audiobook I’ve listened to; no match for this one yet.

Born a Crime is a 5-star book; I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a blend of humour, personal narrative, and insight into social issues. It’s particularly appealing to readers who appreciate autobiographies with a fresh perspective. If you’re into stories that delve into themes like identity, race, and resilience, this book will resonate with you.

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