Last year, at the beginning of November, I put Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah, on hold at the library, just because it looked like an interesting book. I admire Trevor Noah. Then the 2017 Reading Challenge came along, and I decided to use this book for the Challenge, somehow. I suspended the hold until January 2nd. On January 2nd, the hold resumed, and Born a Crime immediately went “In Transit” to the Capitol Hill Library.
There are several categories in which Born a Crime could fit into. I’d planned on filling some categories with books without such wide choices before I got to this book. I hadn’t planned on my hold coming in so quickly. Public library holds add that extra element of surprise.
Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah, was published in 2016. It contains the shortest “About the Author” section I have ever seen: Trevor Noah is a comedian from South Africa.
Trevor Noah was born in 1984, during apartheid.
Apartheid was a police state, a system of surveillance and laws designed to keep black people under control. A full compendium of those laws would run more than three thousand pages and weigh approximately ten pounds, but the general thrust of it should be easy enough for any American to understand. In America you had the forced removal of the natives onto reservations coupled with slavery followed by segregation. Imagine all three of those things happening to the same group of people at the same time. That was apartheid.
His mother is Xhosa, which classified her as black. His father is Swiss/German, which classified him as white. For his parents to be together at all was a crime which was punishable by five years in prison. Trevor Noah’s existence as a mixed-race child was illegal. He was born a crime.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood is exactly what the subtitle says it is. It contains stories about how a black woman and a white man managed to meet in a country of extreme segregation, and how they kept their relationship, and their child, a secret. It is about growing up with a fiercely rebellious mother and an absentee father. It is about the power of racism, the power of religion, and the power of language. It is about growing up as a mixed boy who passed for colored, giving him fewer rights than the whites but more privileges than the blacks. White people saw him as black, and black people saw him as white. It about a young man growing up.
These stories are told with a matter-of-fact humor. Apartheid was horrible, he tells us, but it was also ridiculous.
Trevor Noah became a stand-up comedian, and the host of The Daily Show, but that’s not included in this book.
I enjoyed Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood at lot.
- A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited