Book Review: “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah – “Don’t fight the system, mock the system.” – By Nimandra Gunasekera

Book Review: “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah – “Don’t fight the system, mock the system.” – By Nimandra Gunasekera

Source : Qld Sri Lankan Newsletter – Dæhæna – April 2024

Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” is an engaging and thoughtprovoking memoir that chronicles the comedian’s life growing up in apartheid South Africa.


Image Source : openlibrary

The title “Born a Crime” refers to Noah’s own mixed-race heritage, which was illegal under apartheid laws at the time of his
birth in 1984. Noah’s mother was Black, and his father was White, which made Noah’s mere existence a crime in the eyes of the government.

This reality sets the stage for much of Noah’s childhood, as he navigated the complexities of being neither fully black nor white in a society that was strictly divided along racial lines. “In my head white and black and brown were like types of chocolate” says Noah. “Dad was the white chocolate, mom was the dark chocolate, and I was the milk chocolate. But we were all just chocolate. I didn’t know any of it had anything to do with ‘race’.”

Through his memoir, Noah offers readers a glimpse into his personal experiences with racism, poverty, and violence in a way that is both heart-wrenching and humorous. “The first time Abel hit me I felt something I had never felt before. I felt terror.,” writes Noah, describing the violent household he grew up in owing to his stepfather Abel. Having grown up in poverty, sometimes resorting to dog bones for meals, Trevor describing his aspiration to eat McDonalds because to him it represented wealth, that unattainable American dream, is heartwarming and comical – “with money, I experienced freedom on a whole new level: I went to McDonald’s.” 

He shares stories of his mother’s resilient, rebellious, and determined spirit in the face of extreme adversity. “If my mother had one goal, it was to free my mind”. People would say “Why show him the world when he’s never going to leave the ghetto?’ ‘Because’ his mum would say, ‘even if he never leaves the ghetto, he will know that the ghetto is not the world.”

Trevor’s mother Patricia raises him with a sense of believing that the world was his oyster, that he should speak up for himself, that his ideas and thoughts and decisions mattered. Surely, this upbringing had much to do with Trevor’s eventual rise to fame as a comedian and an influential social commentator over the last decade.

“Born a Crime” is not just a collection of anecdotes and memories, but rather a powerful examination of race, identity, and the human experience. Noah’s ability to tackle heavy topics with humour and grace, to make readers laugh even as he recounts some of the most difficult moments of his life is a testament to his ability to find hope in the darkest of situations and his skill as a great storyteller.

Nimandra GunasekeraNimandra Gunasekera
Nimandra works in the renewable energy industry, and
enjoys reading and dabbling in a bit of writing




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