Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah is a South African comedian who I came to know as the host of The Daily Show in the US. On the show, he is incredibly funny. In 2016 he published his autobiography Born a Crime as he was born the son of a black woman and a white man during the apartheid period in South Africa. In Born a Crime he describes his upbringing during apartheid, the time after it ended and his violent childhood. 

If you watch Trevor Noah on The Daily Show or during interviews you see a seemingly carefree, young man who is witty and charming. While reading his memoir I started respecting Noah more than I did before. He grew up during a time, when his entire existence was a crime. He had a proud and independent black mother and a Swiss, white father. While he identifies himself as black, for most parts he did not fit in wherever he was. He was neither black nor white.

It was really interesting to read about how he felt during his time in school and how he always had to pick a side.

“I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t an outcast. I was everywhere with everybody,  and at the same time I was all by myself.”

This quote speaks to me on so many levels as it could describe my time in secondary school as well. And I also feel like it sums up Noah’s feelings about school too.

Throughout the entire book you get to know his special bond with his mother and how she taught him lessons on how to treat women and how to survive the world. What irked me a little bit was how casually he talked about his mother’s corporal punishment. I know times used to be different and that is why his casualness bothers me that much. Later in the book he writes about how his mother’s disciplining changed because of him and that this is the reason why his little brother never got smacked by her. However, he also writes about his understanding for her way of punishing him.

There is also a chapter about a guy named Hitler, who used to be Noah’s friend that has a weird vibe to it. Maybe that’s because I am Austrian and that is the way I have been taught to react to things like “Hitler is my friend”. His explanation why you would even find a first name like that was very interesting, though, and made a lot of sense.

The most emotional parts of the book were Noah’s reunion with his father and his abusive stepfather and the whole domestic violent situation. It was also the part of the book that made my blood boil. The way Noah’s mother had been treated by the police and the fact that her ex-husband never went to jail for shooting her – she survived, by the way – just makes me so angry. Why do we as a society keep doing that to women? Not taking the domestic violence serious and then lamenting about how women just stay in relationships like that.

Overall, Born a Crime was a fantastic read and I would recommend it to anyone, whether or not you know Trevor Noah as a stand-up comedian, the Daily Show host or not at all. Let me know if you have read the book and what you thought of it.

Title: Born a Crime/Farbenblind
Author: Trevor Noah
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau/Blessing Verlag
Publication Date: 15-11-2016/06.03.2017


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