Book Review: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah


In the hood, even if you’re not a hardcore criminal, crime is in your life in some way or another. There are degrees of it. It’s everyone from the mom buying some food that fell off the back of a truck to feed her family, all the way up to the gangs selling military-grade weapons and hardware. The hood made me realize that crime succeeds because crime does one thing the government doesn’t do: crime cares. Crime is grassroots. Crime looks for young kids who need support and lifting hand. Crime offers internship programs and summer jobs and opportunities for advancement. Crime gets involved in the community. Crime doesn’t discriminate.  

Title: Born a Crime

Author: Trevor Noah

Genre: Memoir

As described by Goodreads, ‘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.

Trevor Noah not only let’s readers into how life was for him when growing up, but has additionally, given a glimpse of how life was growing up in a country that was marred by racism. Apartheid to say the least. Having being born of a Swiss-German father and a Xhosa South African mother, back then in South Africa, this was a crime since it was considered a serious offence for one to indulge in sexual relations with a person from another race. Thus, Trevor’s parents went against the then set law of South Africa. To avoid being charged of this crime, Trevor’s parents came up with strategies of how they’d appear with him in public. Most of the times they’d pretend that Trevor was not their son. And the only time he felt the love of his parents was indoors. Even though he describes the scenarios humorously, this is something that’s so tormenting for a child.

The government was so serious about mixed relationships to the extreme level of sentencing someone to five years in prison. And not just that, there was a whole police squad whose job was to move around peeking through windows of people houses. What saddened me was how blacks were treated should they get caught;

The police would kick down the door, drag the people out, beat them, arrest them. With the white person, it was more like, “Look, I’ll just say you were drunk, but don’t do it again, eh? Cheers.”  

Should a black man get caught, he would either be charged with rape or be beaten to death. How sad?

Despite the fact that blacks were looked down upon and oppressed, Trevor chose to be black. He felt comfortable being black. This led him to copy a leaf from his mom who would talk any language just to fit in. He learnt the art of camouflaging himself to gain acceptance in schools and on the streets.

On the flip side of it…, we all know how funny and comical this guy is right? He didn’t exempt this trait when writing this memoir. I found myself laughing hard like a retard in a public bus more than once, reading through some of his scenarios. What made me laugh hard was the talent show his friend, Tom, had invited him, in the ghettos, and even went ahead to suggest to him what to wear just to look dapper not knowing what awaits him. Tom had organised an event where Spliff Star (Busta Rhymes’s hype man) was to perform. But as it turned out, Trevor was Spliff Star and he had to perform just to save his friend’s ass. He impersonated Trevor without his knowledge and no remorse at all!

When in high school, Trevor had already learnt how to make money for himself. He had become an enterprising businessman, copying and selling pirated CDs; he’d soon go ahead and venture into the D.J. business, throwing raucous dance parties in Alexandra, “a tiny, dense pocket of a shantytown,” known as Gomorrah because it had “the wildest parties and the worst crimes.”

The last chapter though, just as most of those who’ve read it, was heart wrenching and so emotional.I wasn’t ready for that part. Yes Trevor hints what his mother goes through in the hands of his abusive, violent stepfather, Abel. He spills it all out in the last chapter in a way that leaves you questioning the relevance of the police force in the society.

Reading through the book one can’t help falling in love with Trevor’s mom. Her fierceness, her faith and belief in God, the extent at which she went in instilling discipline in Trevor, her hard work in making sure that Trevor attended the best schools and lived in a descent home. A woman who miraculously survived a gunshot in her head. That is Trevor’s mom!

In a very humorous style of painting these events to us, Born a Crime acted as a wealth source of information to me by describing in detail how people were treated back then. The discrimination black people faced living in South Africa. Something I didn’t get to know much of in my History class. I’ve watched ‘Sarafina’ more than once and in as much as I tear every time I watch it (it’s always a first for me guys lol), there’s some in-depth information that was eliminated which comes to one’s realization when reading this book.

I have to admit that Trevor Noah had a very eventful childhood growing up. I loved his relationship with his mother. I admire the man he is despite the hardships he faced when growing up. I’m in awe knowing he didn’t let his childhood define who he’d become. There’s just so much to pick from him.

I recommend this book to every fun who loves watching his stand-ups. Everyone seeking to dig deeper in the history of apartheid, and generally everyone who loves reading bibliographies and non-fiction books.

Being my first post this month of March, how about having yourselves a wonderful month huh?



3 thoughts on “Book Review: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah”

  1. […] Born a Crime: I loved how real and comical Trevor Noah was with his autobiography. I still remember my most hilarious scenarios and how people kept staring at me as though I was a retarded mad woman in a public bus. This book will have you holding a lot of respect for Trevor Noah and also give a deeper insight on apartheid from a first-hand view so grab it if you haven’t read it already […]


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