Review: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #8 for 2017
Better World Books Challenge Task: A book by a person of color
Personal Reading Challenge: The first book you see in a bookstore
Legendary Book Club of Habitica’s Ultimate Reading Challenge: A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited
Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge Prompts:
– A book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative
– A book set more than 5000 miles from your location
Possible Book Bingo Squares:
– A 2016 Bestseller
– An Author’s Debut
– An Audiobook
– A Book Written by a Celebrity
– A Book by an Author of Color
PopSugar Challenge Prompts:
– An audiobook
– A book by a person of color
– A book with a subtitle
– A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited
– A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you
– A book written by someone you admire
– A bestseller from 2016
– A book about an immigrant or refugee
– A book about a difficult topic

I started this book with the thought of using it for the humor challenge as well, but this turned out to be a surprisingly serious book. Sure, there were some episodes of Noah’s childhood that he presented with his trademark comic delivery, and picturing little Trevor in my mind made me smile, but the humor was quite dark. Even when it was funny, I found I had a hard time actually laughing. I mean, the book is about growing up colored during apartheid in South Africa. How grim is that?

It’s flat-out amazing that Noah was able to survive and escape such a dangerous environment, and then he went on to thrive. But his personal history certainly explains the cynicism that drives his humor, and I can see why Steward picked him to take over The Daily Show. The man has real depth, and he has witnessed firsthand the horrors of man’s inhumanity to man, so he knows the importance of calling them out and exposing them to the light of day, pointing out how ridiculous they are. He’s our Professor Lupin, teaching us with a cabinet full of boggarts.

If you can possibly listen to the audiobook version of this, do so. Noah dedicated this book to his mother, and his love for her comes out beautifully in the warmth of his voice. He skips around enough that the story line can be hard to follow at times, but everything ultimately revolves around his mother, and he always comes back to her as he tells his own story. Fans of The Daily Show will enjoy this book, of course, but I would also recommend this to anybody wanting to learn more about South African apartheid or with an interest in family dynamics or stories of dealing with adversity.

View all my reviews

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