There are few books which are capable of engaging you from the beginning to the end but Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood has the ability to do just that, and more. Trevor Noah is known by many as the host of The Daily Show, a satirical show that looks at, and critiques the American culture, more so the political culture. But long before Trevor was the host, he was a stand-up comedian –still is, and in the early days of his career, he focused on the sociopolitical state of his home country, South Africa. He soon gained recognition and Jon Stewart saw it right to have the rib cracker replace him on air at the Daily Show.
Born a crime is a book that will leave you in stitches from the first page, and all throughout the book. Before beginning the masterful narration of his upbringing, Trevor Noah dedicates the book to his mother and remarks, “For my mother. My first fan. Thank you for making me a man.” That in itself will lead you to investigate the memoir and see how his mother made him a man.
The beginning statement is enough to rope you in into reading –and rereading the book. Trevor recalls being shoved off a moving bus by his mother when he was just nine years old. This leads to a funny conversation between mother and son, but it also shows the countries state of politics and tribalism at the time.
Trevor Noah was born to a South African mother and a Swiss-German father. Mundane as that may seem today, back then it was an issue. Especially because of apartheid, which separated the Africans from foreigners. Trevor notes the only place he could freely interact with his father was at home, behind closed doors. On the street, he and his mother had to walk on one side of the street, while his father would be on the opposite side of the street. As if that is not enough to traumatize a child, his mother had to pretend she didn’t know him when they were near the police.
Growing up, Trevor Noah had a hard time adjusting to his being different. He was not a foreigner, neither was he a local, he was caught somewhere in the middle. He eventually had to adapt, and with time, he used his unique abilities to fit into almost every tribe in South Africa. This ability was aided by his mastery of various languages, both local and international. His Swiss-German father would eventually leave for Cape Town, and his mother remarried to an auto mechanic called Abel. As Trevor recalls, Abel was sweet on the surface, but a beast within, and he would end up shooting Trevor’s mother in the head.
Trevor recalls he would spend hours reading books and playing with his toy at his grandmother’s place. He would go ahead to create imaginary worlds where he would ‘stay’ for hours. He says he loved living in his imaginary world and to date, he prefers his own company over that of others.
There are plans underway to adopt a motion picture based on the book and Lupita Nyong’o is set to play as Trevor Noah’s stern mother. Having read the book, I’m not certain what the movie will deliver, but I eagerly await for it.
Born a crime is more than just a hilarious book in a comedian’s life, it’s a book about the bond between mother and son, about a child finding his place in a world that neither wanted him nor understood him, and a book about rising up above challenges and oppression. You can purchase the book for KES 1290 at The Magunga Bookstore.