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January 8, 2018

Born a Crime



Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Memoir
2016 Audible Studios
Read by the author
Finished on January 25, 2017
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man's coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

Trevor Noah's unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa's tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man's relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother: his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother's unconventional, unconditional love.

Reminiscent of Rick Bragg's All Over but the Shoutin', Born A Crime is another touching and humorous tribute to a mother. It was interesting to learn about apartheid from Trevor's point of view. Some of his stories are very funny and some a bit unsettling. The last chapter just about brought me to tears as he recalled the specific details of a shooting. The emotions he experienced were all too familiar and heartbreaking. All in all, a very good book, but not quite as good as Bragg's, which was not only tender and funny, but also very lyrical.

8 comments:

  1. I liked this book and Bragg's book too. I listened to this one and enjoyed hearing him speak Xhosa.

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    1. Kathy, I enjoyed listening to Trevor read his memoir, too. It's rare that an author (and especially an actor/celebrity) does such a good job with their own book, but he did! Yes, hearing him speak Xhosa was special.

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  2. I've read a few other reviews of this book, and they all agreed with you, that the book was good but not amazing.

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    1. Angela, I wanted to be utterly wowed by this book and while it wasn't disappointing, it just isn't one I'd rush out to buy to have on my shelf. Not like Bragg's All Over But the Shoutin' or Anderson Cooper's Dispatches from the Edge. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

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  3. I really want to read this one but I keep hearing the audio is great so while I typically don't do audiobooks I think I may need to make an exception!

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    1. Iliana, I don't know if I would have stuck with the book had I not listened to the audio. Trevor is a great reader and I loved listening to him speak in his native tongue. He can be very funny and very emotional and it comes through in his narration on the audio. I'm not sure it would in the book, but who knows. You could always do a read/listen combo.

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  4. I keep hearing this is a wonderful book. I am glad to hear your honest opinions.

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    1. Deb, it was worthwhile, but I wasn't completely blown away.

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