Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Nonfiction > Memoir
This book blew me away. It should be required reading for every high school student, and if you’re not a high school student, it should be required reading for you and on your to-buy list as a gift for all the readers in your life.
I knew nothing about this book before I read it except it was by Trevor Noah, a man whose stand-up I’ve enjoyed and am now a fan of on The Daily Show, so I was expecting your typical humorous my-road-to-becoming-a-successful comedian memoir. That was not this at all. There is virtually no humor in this book. This is a history of apartheid and the technical end of apartheid, told from the point of view of a child who had a black mother and white father, which made his mere existence a crime.
The stories he told were so eye opening. Parts of it sound familiar to stories (in fiction and nonfiction books, fictionalized films and documentaries) of the American experience of the history of slavery and race relations and policing, but parts were jaw-droppingly eye-opening. For example, I never thought about the fact that not everyone is educated about Hitler the way we are today in the U.S. If your only options are to go work in a mine or as a maid or some other form of slavery, you have no reason to be taught history. However, your Dutch and British oppressors do deem it necessary to inflict their religious beliefs on you, and they want your children to have anglicized first names. Many of the kids were thus named after characters in the Bible, but other kids were given names of people that sounded powerful, thus, you might name your kid Hitler. (!)
His insights about the difference between committing crime and being a criminal, domestic violence—this guy can really write, and a lot more than just jokes.
There are dozens of passages that are quote-worthy—far too many to recount here (which is why you should read his book).
He mentions that he started touring as a comedian, and that’s it. Not how he got his start, not how he went from being an outsider bootlegging CDs to becoming a headlining comedian. His insights on race are truly illuminating. An outstanding work.