Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime New York Times bestseller about one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa m...

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Title:Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
Author:Trevor Noah
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Edition Language:English

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood Reviews

  • Nat

    Before I start my review, I want to take a minute to praise Trevor Noah's stand up shows because they're one of the few that don't rely on being ignorant. His shows are one of the enlighten ones focusing on race, white-privilege, police brutality, hate speech, prejudice, and so much more.

    I’d highly recommend watching a few before reading this riveting memoir.

    In

    , Trevor Noah takes us on a journey from his childhood being born a crime in apartheid South Africa. Trevor was born to a w

    Before I start my review, I want to take a minute to praise Trevor Noah's stand up shows because they're one of the few that don't rely on being ignorant. His shows are one of the enlighten ones focusing on race, white-privilege, police brutality, hate speech, prejudice, and so much more.

    I’d highly recommend watching a few before reading this riveting memoir.

    In

    , Trevor Noah takes us on a journey from his childhood being born a crime in apartheid South Africa. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. This memoir 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.

    Side note: Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah - his mother - was a powerhouse, a strong woman in every sense. She's a warrior and I only wish I could be a half of the person she is. Also, I love the advice she gave her son—I even wrote a few pieces down to remember:

    This passage had pretty much changed the way I think, the way I precept the world.

    The piece stuck with me.

    Truly though, this memoir was enlighten, brimming with emotion, and I love it when children pay tribute to their hard-working mothers.

    My mind and heart were fully transported while reading everything Trevor went through to get to where he is today and everyone that took part of that journey.

    And even though some of the stories kind of broke my heart, Trevor Noah always managed to bring in his gold humor to ease the tension. There are a couple of chapters that have taken a hold of my soul and won’t let go because either they were extremely hilarious (TREVOR, PRAY & LOOPHOLES) or entirely heart-shattering (MY MOTHER’S LIFE)... or both.

    Slowly and surely, I came to admire Trevor Noah's character and honesty even more than I did before. And I'm pretty sure that I'll end up watching and rewatching his stand-up shows so that I can stop tearing up at the mention of his name.

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  • Jennifer Masterson

    Five HUGE Stars for Trevor Noah's book! Believe the hype! I absolutely loved it. I listened to the audio. Trevor narrates his stories of growing up in South Africa. I highly recommend the audio version. He made this book come to life with his narration. This would actually make a good first listen.

    I just became a fan recently of his and thought I'd give the book a shot. I'm so happy I did! I learned a lot about apartheid and I learned a lot about South Africa. I also learned some gross facts lik

    Five HUGE Stars for Trevor Noah's book! Believe the hype! I absolutely loved it. I listened to the audio. Trevor narrates his stories of growing up in South Africa. I highly recommend the audio version. He made this book come to life with his narration. This would actually make a good first listen.

    I just became a fan recently of his and thought I'd give the book a shot. I'm so happy I did! I learned a lot about apartheid and I learned a lot about South Africa. I also learned some gross facts like the poorest of people eat worms. At one point he and his family were so poor that they were eating them. Yuck!

    Trevor had me laughing. Trevor had me crying. Highly recommended to fans of his and/or people who just want to learn about life in South Africa during apartheid. Great book!

  • Petra X

    These stories, beautifully written, are set in a world quite like our own but at the same time utterly different. Maybe "through a glass darkly". Who goes to church three times on Sunday to Black, White and Coloured ones? Who goes to jail for (not) stealing a car rather than face the wrath of his mother? Who gets a prom date with the most beautiful girl around, but one who doesn't speak the language and is extremely unsociable to boot? None of these things are extraordinary in this world,

    Who cou

    These stories, beautifully written, are set in a world quite like our own but at the same time utterly different. Maybe "through a glass darkly". Who goes to church three times on Sunday to Black, White and Coloured ones? Who goes to jail for (not) stealing a car rather than face the wrath of his mother? Who gets a prom date with the most beautiful girl around, but one who doesn't speak the language and is extremely unsociable to boot? None of these things are extraordinary in this world,

    Who could perform rap at a Jewish school to a wildly-enthusiastic audience and create deadening silence in one second asking respect for Hitler? Repeatedly. I'm not going to spoil this one. It's a brilliant story, very funny, and sadly critical too. Two worlds collide, black and white, and neither understand why the other is so offended.

    In what world can a man standing in front of a policeman not be identified on the video they are both watching of his best friend shoplifting and he with him? But he isn't. Because of the exposure of the video the black figure appeared black but the coloured one, Trevor, appeared white. The police were unable to link in their heads the features of the man on the screen with the one in front of them who was a suspect, because he was white. These South African policemen were blinded by their prejudice. Which was rather lucky for Trevor, and he is our hero.

    He's mine anyway.

    This is a fascinating book that will take you deep into the world of the non-white life of South Africa mostly since apartheid ended. It's funny and tragic, heart-warming and wtf did you do that for. It's tribal and urban and mostly very third world. It's quite something to incorporate all those elements and boast only in ways that are more to do with accomplishment than with ego. But if you don't like politics this isn't for you. Every single incident no matter how funny, how light, and they aren't all, drives home that race decides everything in South Africa.

    I listened to it in the car. The audio is brilliant. narrated by the author (which is why I got it on audio, that's one of the great advantages of the media listening to an author tell his own tale.) It's a 10-star biography.

  • Elyse Walters

    An audiobook *treasure*!

    Trevor is a likable! A charming- guy!!! Listening to him speak is almost magnetic.

    Being thrown out of a car? By his own mother? OUCH! Trevor had my attention in the palm of his hands.

    The ongoing - ongoing - and ONGOING ....dramatic stories Trevor shares about his childhood --were life lesson building blocks. Trevor did the building!! He used every life experience to his advantage-- and that's extraordinary!

    Poverty, abuse, Religious upbringing, crazy chaotic living con

    An audiobook *treasure*!

    Trevor is a likable! A charming- guy!!! Listening to him speak is almost magnetic.

    Being thrown out of a car? By his own mother? OUCH! Trevor had my attention in the palm of his hands.

    The ongoing - ongoing - and ONGOING ....dramatic stories Trevor shares about his childhood --were life lesson building blocks. Trevor did the building!! He used every life experience to his advantage-- and that's extraordinary!

    Poverty, abuse, Religious upbringing, crazy chaotic living conditions, a powerhouse one-of-kind mother....Trevor is a thriving survivor!!!!

    We also get an excellent intimate understanding: .....of the rigid former policy of segregating and economically and politically oppressing the non-white population....

    from the direct experience of Noah being born in South Africa during the laws of apartheid.

    A child who was often guided to play indoors, ( hiding), a 'positive' lifetime result 'today' is that Trevor says he can sit and enjoy his own company for days on out. He is never bored!

    .... sadness of course - tragic times -horrific injustice.....

    but Trevor Noah is warm - charming -filled with love and light!!!! Funny too!!!

  • Emily May

    , at over six months, is the longest library hold I've ever waited for. Normally, if I hadn't already lost interest by that point, I'd just break down and buy it, but I'm generally not a big memoir reader, so I was reluctant to spend money on a book I wasn't sure would be my thing. Well,

    . And my husband and I are currently laughing our way through the audio version, too.

    I just couldn't put this book down. There are many moments of com

    , at over six months, is the longest library hold I've ever waited for. Normally, if I hadn't already lost interest by that point, I'd just break down and buy it, but I'm generally not a big memoir reader, so I was reluctant to spend money on a book I wasn't sure would be my thing. Well,

    . And my husband and I are currently laughing our way through the audio version, too.

    I just couldn't put this book down. There are many moments of comedy gold (that come across even better on audio, but still drew out-loud laughter when I read them in print) and lots of insight into what it was like growing up in South Africa under the later years of apartheid, and after its collapse (which I prefer reading in print so I can take my time to appreciate the gravity of the issues).

    Trevor Noah covers a lot of serious issues like colonialism, apartheid, being an outsider, religion, education, gender roles and more. He talks about how his mother - who comes across as the rugged heroine of his story - played the system well to get her illegal "colored" child into better schools and neighborhoods, and how this often led to him having difficulty fitting in.

    I learned things that, though perhaps not surprising, were horrifying, such as how police refused to file charges in cases of domestic violence because they sympathized with the husband. It's a book about important issues in a country that has, throughout history, largely been portrayed through the eyes of white journalists and writers, but it's also such a

    in many ways.

    is the perfect blend of sociopolitical discussion and a personal tale of family, friendship and first crushes. It is written as a series of short essays, each around a certain theme and not in chronological order, but this actually makes it all easier to digest. Noah's writing is so engaging that I would think "just one more essay" until suddenly a hundred pages had gone by and I realized I might be addicted.

    Definitely one of the best memoirs I've ever read.

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  • Maxwell

    If you're going to read this book,

    listen to the audio version. Trevor Noah is one of the most effortless narrators I've ever listened to. It genuinely feels like he is sitting down with you and telling you his life story. Not only that, but you get to learn quite a bit about pre- and post-Apartheid South Africa from the perspective of someone who hypothetically shouldn't exist. Noah's mother is black and his father is white, and when he was born any mixed-race relationships were ille

    If you're going to read this book,

    listen to the audio version. Trevor Noah is one of the most effortless narrators I've ever listened to. It genuinely feels like he is sitting down with you and telling you his life story. Not only that, but you get to learn quite a bit about pre- and post-Apartheid South Africa from the perspective of someone who hypothetically shouldn't exist. Noah's mother is black and his father is white, and when he was born any mixed-race relationships were illegal. I was instantly intrigued by his story, not only because of this unique perspective but also because he is such a wonderful storyteller.

    I do think the chronology of the book was a bit strange at times—one chapter would be from his childhood and then the next would jump to his teen years, and back. And at the end of each chapter there was always a short snippet that completely changed directions and had pretty much nothing to do with the previous chapter (maybe in the physical copy of the book that section is identifiably set apart?).

    Nonetheless, this was a great listening experience, one that was enlightening, hilarious, heartbreaking, frustrating and well told. Would highly recommend.

  • Larry H

    I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

    I was really surprised when Trevor Noah was named Jon Stewart's successor on

    . I inherently knew that they wouldn't pick someone with a sense of humor and style identical to Stewart's, but I felt that Noah was so different that his selection meant the show would have a really different feel, which might not appeal to long-time fans of the show. But I always root for the underdog, so as he was getting savaged by critics and fans in his first few days on the

    I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

    I was really surprised when Trevor Noah was named Jon Stewart's successor on

    . I inherently knew that they wouldn't pick someone with a sense of humor and style identical to Stewart's, but I felt that Noah was so different that his selection meant the show would have a really different feel, which might not appeal to long-time fans of the show. But I always root for the underdog, so as he was getting savaged by critics and fans in his first few days on the job, I kept hoping he'd be able to tough it out and show the stuff—comedic and otherwise—of which he was made.

    After reading

    , I realize that I needn't have worried about Trevor Noah. For a child growing up in South Africa in the last days of, and the tumult following apartheid, he faced crises far greater than dissatisfied fans. And if he could be raised during such a crazily illogical time in a country where more violence, racism, and mistreatment went unreported than caught the media's eye, he'd have no problem skewering the insanity of our political system, especially leading into the election of 2016!!

    "On February 20, 1984, my mother checked into Hillbrow Hospital for a scheduled C-section delivery. Estranged from her family, pregnant by a man she could not be seen with in public, she was alone. The doctors took her up to the delivery room, cut open her belly, and reached in and pulled out a half-white, half-black child who violated any number of laws, statutes, and regulations—I was born a crime."

    Born to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father, Noah literally spent his earliest days hiding indoors. His parents, who never married, couldn't be seen together, and because his mother looked so different than he did, she couldn't walk through the streets with him, because at any moment someone might accuse her of kidnapping another person's child. Yet while their lives dealt with crushing poverty, violence, and racism from all sides, his deeply religious mother never let anything bother her, or stop her from raising her son to know he was loved, and to know that he truly could accomplish anything he wanted, despite all of the obstacles in his way.

    "She taught me to challenge authority and question the system. The only way it backfired on her was that I constantly challenged and questioned her."

    provides a first-hand account of the last days of apartheid and its aftermath, and what it was like to grow up as a mixed-race child, where he wasn't white enough to be considered white, nor was he black enough to be considered black. While at times this had its advantages, for the most part, it left him on the outside looking in, having to handle everything on his own, fight his own battles, struggle to find people who genuinely liked him for who he was and not the novelty of his skin color, and rebel against a mother who only wanted him to behave.

    If you go into this book expecting to laugh hysterically because of Noah's day job, think again. While the book does include some of the wry humor that has begun endearing him to fans, this is an emotional, brutal, and educational story of a life which flourished despite the odds stacked against it. This is a book about growing up in a culture of poverty and crime, and how easy it was to get caught up in that, especially when it was one of the only ways to make money and be able to feed, clothe, and enjoy yourself. It's also a book about fear, how it motivates you, how it paralyzes you, and how it threatens to take away the one thing you cherish more than any other.

    More than anything, though, this is a book about the unwavering love of a mother for a child she chose to have. She knew it would be difficult raising her son in the age of apartheid, and in fact, she had no idea when he was born that it would end anytime soon. But Noah was a remarkable child, and while he exasperated, frightened, and upset his mother from time to time, she knew he would accomplish great things one day (as soon as he stopped putting cornrows in his hair and hanging out with those awful hoodlums he called friends).

    I enjoyed this book and learned a lot about apartheid, which I really didn't know much about. Noah is a good writer, and delivered his narrative much as I've heard him deliver his lines on

    . This is a funny, thought-provoking, and emotional book, although I felt that some of his anecdotes went on a little too long, while others didn't go on long enough. I also would have liked to have learned how he went from his upbringing in South Africa to one day hosting an acclaimed television show—other than passing mentions of things he did, I have no idea how he made the leap.

    I've heard some people say that the audio version of this book is brilliant because Noah reads it himself, but if you read the print/digital version, you can still hear his voice through his words. Noah's story is a lesson of the inequities of the past, and a warning for what is still possible to happen again in our world. But this isn't heavy-handed; it's fun, insightful, and very compelling.

    See all of my reviews at

    , and see my list of the best books I read in 2016 at

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  • Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

    The author is very charismatic and if you're going to read this book, I would recommend the audiobook since he narrates it!

  • Zoë

    Trevor Noah was a great narrator and had the ability to turn the grimmest of experiences into smart, exciting stories. If this book interests you, I urge you to listen to the audiobook!

    It was fascinating learning about his life growing up as a mixed race child in pre- and post-Apartheid South Africa. Though I learned vague facts about Apartheid in high school history classes, this was the best lesson I've had on the subject.

    The book skips around non-chronologically, which confused me at tim

    Trevor Noah was a great narrator and had the ability to turn the grimmest of experiences into smart, exciting stories. If this book interests you, I urge you to listen to the audiobook!

    It was fascinating learning about his life growing up as a mixed race child in pre- and post-Apartheid South Africa. Though I learned vague facts about Apartheid in high school history classes, this was the best lesson I've had on the subject.

    The book skips around non-chronologically, which confused me at times as he introduces aspects of his earlier years later on in the story, but I remained captivated. I was so into it that, instead of working on the paper that's due soon or studying for my upcoming exam, I read this book in less than 24 hours. Worth it!

    I will say that this probably could have been a tad shorter as he has the tendency to repeat and over explain aspects, but I highly enjoyed it nonetheless.

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