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Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times • Newsday • Esquire • NPR • Booklist

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 mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

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.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

285 pages, Audio CD

First published November 15, 2016

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About the author

Trevor Noah

10 books10.6k followers
Trevor Noah is a South African comedian, television and radio host and actor. He currently hosts The Daily Show, a late-night television talk show on Comedy Central.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 53,520 reviews
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,514 reviews29.4k followers
January 11, 2017
I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

I was really surprised when Trevor Noah was named Jon Stewart's successor on The Daily Show . 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 Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood , 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."

Born a Crime 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 The Daily Show . 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 http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo..., and see my list of the best books I read in 2016 at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2016.html.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,992 reviews298k followers
January 25, 2018
This was fantastic.

Born a Crime, 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, I've ended up buying it anyway. 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 warm, lovable, funny book in many ways.

Born a Crime 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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Profile Image for Petra on hiatus, really unwell.
2,457 reviews34.4k followers
February 10, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,173 reviews8,383 followers
February 7, 2017
If you're going to read this book, definitely 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.
Profile Image for Natalie.
567 reviews3,196 followers
August 24, 2020
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 enlightened 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 Born a Crime, 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:

“Abel wanted a traditional marriage with a traditional wife. For a long time I wondered why he ever married a woman like my mom in the first place, as she was the opposite of that in every way. If he wanted a woman to bow to him, there were plenty of girls back in Tzaneen being raised solely for that purpose. The way my mother always explained it, the traditional man wants a woman to be subservient, but he never falls in love with subservient women. He’s attracted to independent women. “He’s like an exotic bird collector,” she said. “He only wants a woman who is free because his dream is to put her in a cage.”

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

“She’d tell me not to worry. She always came back to the phrase she lived by: “If God is with me, who can be against me?” She was never scared. Even when she should have been.”

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.

“There was no stepfather in the picture yet, no baby brother crying in the night. It was me and her, alone. There was this sense of the two of us embarking on a grand adventure. She’d say things to me like, “It’s you and me against the world.” I understood even from an early age that we weren’t just mother and son. We were a team.”

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.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

5/5 stars

*Note: I'm an Amazon Affiliate. If you're interested in buying Born a Crime, just click on the image below to go through my link. I'll make a small commission!*

This review and more can be found on my blog.
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews65.8k followers
September 5, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Warda.
1,208 reviews19.7k followers
May 30, 2020

“I soon learned that the quickest way to bridge the race gap was through language.”

Where do I even begin to explain how incredible this autobiography was?!
Trevor Noah brought this story to life, but ultimately, it was his mother that was the main character, the MVP, of this book.

Trevor Noah is narrating his account on being raised in Apartheid South Africa. (I look at that word and cannot fathom the audacity of it. It existed.) The issues growing up as a mixed-race child and a mother who defied all societal standard and called bullshit before anyone even dared do it.
Colonialism. Poverty. Race. Living under a police state. Privilege.
Whilst reading, I was aware these kind of ludicrous laws existed, but it still managed to shock me all over again.
This was a world where interracial marriage/relationships was banned.
Where Trevor could not be seen with either his mother or father.
Where white people were put on such a pedestal, his grandmother refused to discipline him, because she ‘didn’t want to kill a white person’ as he was ‘white-passing.’
Where animosity was purposely sowed between people so the whites could be looked at for help. Yet, the blacks could never dream of getting to that social status and would be denied at every turn even though the ‘American Dream’ was dangled in front of them.

Though his world was completely different from our own, Trevor Noah still managed to make it relatable. His relationship with his mother was a delight to read. His desperation to fit in called to others. His first kiss. Trying to take the most beautiful girl to prom. Everything going disastrously wrong and beautifully twining that with wisdom and lessons that he learned along the way.

I just became enamoured with his mother though. The strength she possessed was almost not human. I‘m pretty sure it’s not human. Her faith played a massive part in solidifying her personality and how she viewed the world and it was incredible to see her overcome troubles that would make others crumble with humour, love and Jesus.

Trevor Noah is honestly a gem. We have his mother to thank for that. I highly recommend the audiobook for this. I didn’t even touch the book once and it gave me hope in trying other audiobooks. It was completely engaging story, intimate, heartbreaking and provided you a front-seat view into Apartheid and what it did to the lives of others.

I cannot wait for the movie adaptation!
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews600 followers
February 10, 2017
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!!!

Profile Image for Adina .
890 reviews3,543 followers
May 26, 2021

This is my 2nd attempt to read this memoir and I am glad I failed to pass the 2nd chapter the 1st time. I got so much more out of it now. I decided to buy the ebook a few years ago because of all the praise but I did not know who the author was so I could not feel connected with his story.

Meanwhile, during the pandemic, I started to watch stand-up comedy because I needed an escape from all the fear and gloom. Trevor Noah soon became one of my favourite comedians; I watched his 2 Netflix specials and also followed The Daily Show on a regular basis. I enjoyed his humour because we both have a love for languages and different cultures. I did not know then that it was a survival skill he had to learn to be accepted. I also realised that in order to fully appreciate the book, I had to listen to it as narrated by the author. That is what I did and it was the best decision ever. My advice is to listen to the audiobook and listen to some of his comedy before.

Yes, the book is funny but it is so much more. It is a book about Trevor’s love for his mother even the relationship was sometimes intense, It’s a book about being poor and colored in Apartheid South Africa and its aftermath, it is a book about survival, about race, crime, religion, politics, the condition of women. It also a book about the adventures of an African childhood.

This memoir was excellent, charming, funny and sometimes sad, it made me angry of the injustice black and colored people had to suffer. I like Trevor even more after listening to him narrating this memoir. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Bibi.
1,288 reviews3,232 followers
August 25, 2021
When he took over from John Stewart I'll admit I stopped watching TDS; however, intermittently, I would come across Trevor's comedy shows online which would have me doubling over fighting for air (watch the "Australian apple" and "Escalator" skits), and within a short period, I became an even more ardent fan of TDS.

In my opinion, Trevor is one of the most intelligent people on TV (or elsewhere) and this book shows us how he became the astute, authentic, resilient and insightful person that he now is.

As an aside, special shout out to his Ma, Patricia, whom I understand will be played by Lupita in the upcoming movie adaptation, and while I like Lupita enough, I believe she is unsuited for this role as she herself must well know. South African women have a certain look which is def not Lupita and it would be a shame for Trevor to cede control of casting simply because she was the first person to contact him about movie options. Just saying.

Overall, Born a Crime is an important piece of literature that provides a young man's view of the effects of apartheid, the family dynamic that devolved from being born a crime, and the power of a mother's love.
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews99 followers
June 16, 2018

This is great! I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read it. A celebrity memoir by a mixed-race guy who was born in South Africa under apartheid didn’t sound like it would be a smart, funny, and charming pleasure to read, but it is. Not that he minimizes the circumstances, but there more fact than lamentation. It’s a shame about those people who don’t enjoy audiobooks. His performance adds to fantastic storytelling.


The stories from his childhood reminded me of something Art Linkletter said about the children chosen for the “Kids Say the Darndest Things" segment of his show. “It asked the dear teachers to give us the four children they would most like to have out of the class for a few blessed hours. The teachers would laugh and send me the rascals.” Not that that little Trevor was a bad kid, he is just one of those people that belong on a stage. He was a bit conflicted when exhorted to pray for God to kill the demon who had done the bad thing.
”Dear Lord, please protect us, um, you know, from whoever did this, like, we don’t know what happened exactly and maybe it was a big misunderstanding and, you know, maybe we shouldn’t be quick to judge when we don’t know the whole story and, I mean, of course you know best, Heavenly Father, but maybe this time it wasn’t actually a demon, because who can say for certain, so maybe cut whoever it was a break…”

I love his mother.

descriptionPatricia Nombuyiselo Noah

While this is Trevor's story, but it very much a loving tribute to her.

Profile Image for Kenny.
507 reviews937 followers
September 16, 2021
“Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.”
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood ~~ Trevor Noah


Trevor Noah's BORN A CRIME is hilarious, heartbreaking & always told through a sympathetic lense. Noah moves from comedy to tragedy seamlessly. He understands the human condition better than most writers, no, most people. BORN A CRIME is one one of the best books I've read this year & maybe the best memoir I've ever read.

BORN A CRIME is a book of fascinating tales from Noah's youth. He was born and raised in South Africa. Being born half white and half black, the birth of an "illegal" union, he is "born a crime". Noah's stories sketch his life, with his mother, in South Africa.

BORN A CRIME deals with the horrors of both pre & post-apartheid South Africa. Noah's style is very matter-of-fact. He never downplays, nor does he embellish the tragedy of what South Africa was. Noah knew no other way of life & sees racism in all its many facets as a routine way of life. However, the book isn't just filled with tales of darkness & suffering. Noah brilliantly balances this tragedy with mayhem, mischief & love throughout his stories.

BORN A CRIME is as much a loving memoir to Noah's mother, Patricia as it is his own story. Noah's love and respect for his mother & the way she raised him shines through on nearly every page. She knowingly broke apartheid laws designating it to be a crime for sexual intercourse between people of different races. Yet, she didn't care. With a man she loved, a Swiss man, she persuaded him to be the father to the child she so desperately wanted. Resulting from this crime was Trevor Noah ~~neither black nor white ~~ yet born into a world that hated him for the color of his skin.

Noah credits his mother With shaping him into the man he is today. It’s her discipline and loving heart that pushed Noah to succeed. BORN A CRIME begins and ends with Patricia's story. This is as much her story as it is Noah's.


Noah’s stories of his childhood & adolescence in this ever changing world cleverly avoid sermonizing. Instead, Noah describes a resilient and opportunistic boy whose intuitive street smarts lead him into a hustler’s life. The ways in which Noah learns to navigate the changing world around him is worth the read itself.

Along the way we learn of Noah's pooping in the kitchen and having to drive a demon out of the family home from that resulting poop, an abusive step-father, his early heart breaks with his first crushes, and his life as a music pirate ~~ it never occurred to Noah he was doing anything wrong, "if copying CDs is wrong, why would they make CD writers?” We learn of his run ins with the cops, and the tragedy that befell his mother.

I definitely hope to read more of his work in the future. I loved seeing this world Trevor Noah's eyes.

Profile Image for Jennifer Masterson.
200 reviews1,168 followers
December 6, 2016
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!
Profile Image for Meredith (Trying to catch up!).
815 reviews12.7k followers
June 2, 2021
4.5 stars!

This book made me love Trevor Noah even more than I already did.

I was both enthralled and at times horrified, reading about Noah's experiences growing up during the tail end of apartheid in South Africa. Born on A Crime is filled with heart, humor, trauma, and tears. This was a moving read that had me laughing and crying. My only regret was not choosing the audio version, as I would have loved to hear Noah narrate his experiences.

I highly recommend!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews30 followers
February 23, 2022
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood, Trevor Noah

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood is an autobiographical comedy book written by the South African comedian Trevor Noah, first published in 2016. Born a Crime is funny and wise and sad and reveals much about the writer.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دهم ماه سپتامبر سال2019میلادی

عنوان: زاده‌ی جرم: داستان‌های دوران کودکی در آفریقای جنوبی؛ نویسنده: ترور نوآ؛ مترجم مریم آقایی؛ تهران کتابسرای تندیس، سال‏‫1398؛ در304ص؛ شابک9786001825736؛ موضوع یادمانهای نویسندگان افریقای جنوبی - سده21م‬

داستان «مجرم به دنیا آمده (زاده ی جرم)» زندگی «ترِوِر نوآ»، یک شخص با مادر سیاه‌پوست، و پدری سفیدپوست در دوران آپارتاید در آفریقای جنوبی است، و نژادپرستی و مشکلات دوران آپارتاید، و پس از آن (همانند فقر بین سیاه‌پوستان، خشونت خانگی و ...) را با واژه ها به تصویر می‌کشند؛ «زاده ی جرم» داستان پسر کوچک شیطان و مرد جوان بیقراری که در حال تلاش برای پیدا کردن جایگاهش در دنیایی است که قرار نبود، در آن وجود داشته باشد؛ همچنین داستان رابطه ی او با مادر بی باک، سرکش، و به شدت مذهبی اش است - هم تیمی اش، زنی که مصمم بود پسرش را از چرخه ی فقر، خشونت، و بی عدالتی نجات دهد؛ چرخه ای که سرانجام جان خودش را هم به خطر انداخت؛ داستانهای این کتاب خنده دار، و اثرگذار هستند؛ «تروِر» چه در دوران دشواریها که باید شام کرم میخورد، و آنگاه که در حال فرار از دست آدم ربایان، از ماشین در حال حرکت به بیرون پرتاب شد، یا حتی در دوران دبیرستان، دنیای عجیب خویش را با نور هوشیاری و صداقتی راسخ روشن میکند؛ داستانها در هم میآمیزند تا تصویری خنده دار از پسری را شکل دهند، که در دورانی خطرناک و در دنیایی ویران شده، راه خویش را پیدا میکند؛ آن هم در حالیکه تنها سلاحش حس شوخ طبعی، و عشق بی قید و شرط و غیرعادی مادرش است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 11/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 03/12/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Sam.
142 reviews338 followers
March 2, 2017
Overall, Born a Crime is a fascinating story, but the loose editing and too casual a writing style meant it lacked narrative cohesion for me, so it's a solid 3 star review.

Trevor Noah's childhood memoir definitely showcases his fresh, witty perspective and provide a lot of history and context of life under apartheid and life just after the end of apartheid, from a macro level of the forces and powers at work and warring against each other, to the micro level of Trevor and his family's experiences in that time. I've visited South Africa before and felt I knew a decent amount about the country's culture and history, but Noah really brought to light intricacies of daily life and nuances about how different groups interacted and experienced each other under and after apartheid.

Noah's family is mostly seen in brief anecdotes and sketches, but his mother is a central figure and the most compelling character we encounter. Her faith, her hustle, her perseverance, and her sense of humor are palpable in Noah's writing, and we are shown the complex but very loving relationship between Trevor and his mother expand and grow over the years.

Because the anecdotes and stories are presented in a non linear fashion, it can be difficult to get a fix on sense of time and when things are happening for Trevor and his mother and brothers. It also chops up the narrative flow, which meant that I was less interested in Trevor's own story since it kept hopping around in the timeline, and more interested in his family story and the larger context about how his race/color was being constantly perceived and redefined by different groups, and also by himself. As a multiracial American, I could relate to many aspects of Trevor's own shifting identity for himself and his peers, but many other aspects were completely foreign and indeed eye opening for me.

The casual way Trevor narrates is both a highlight and a fault: it definitely jumps off the page is being securely in his voice, so it has a true feeling of authenticity. But it also has an effect of little editing and a lack of polish, so where other memoirists link events within a larger narrative framework and immerse you in the story AND the writing, here it's more disjointed, less cohesive, so you appreciate some of the parts more than the sum of their parts. And not all of the individual anecdotes feel fully worthy of inclusion. And the ending feels less like a natural ending and more like Noah ran out of steam (though the final story of the attempted murder of his mother is powerful and scary and was probably hard to write).

Ultimately if you're a fan of Trevor Noah, or are interested in a unique perspective that unites childhood under and after apartheid with larger historical and social context of South Africa, Born a Crime is a solid choice. It's an easy read, but it took me longer than usual to finish since I was not really engaged with the non linear narrative and the style and format of the writing itself, though the subject matter was interesting.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
August 1, 2019
‘we tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.’

this is one of the most touching love letters to a mother i have ever read. although this is presented as a collection of coming-of-age stories in a time where his existence was literally a crime, trevors words radiate pure and unconditional love for his mom. i am beyond humbled by the lessons trevors childhood taught him, his struggles, the way he see the world, how he treats others (especially women), and how his mom was there every step of the way.

so heres to all the mothers who broaden our imaginations and give our dreams the space to soar.

PS. i wholeheartedly regret not listening to this as an audiobook. i cant even imagine what an amazing experience it would be to hear trevor noah tells these stories personally. worthy of 100 stars, probably.

5 stars
Profile Image for Julie .
4,078 reviews59k followers
December 28, 2016
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah is a 2016 Spiegel & Grau publication.

I’ve been a fan of Trevor Noah since he started hosting ‘The Daily Show’, but after reading this book, I’m an even bigger fan.

I admit I know virtually nothing about South Africa other than the absolute obvious, like what is reported in the news. So, Trevor gives readers like myself a bit of a history and a maybe a civics lesson too, in how people are divided by class and race and the thought process or mindset of those who live in this country.

Noah is of mixed race, born right before the end of apartheid, which made his birth illegal because whites and blacks were not allowed to have intercourse, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

Despite his unique heritage, and his early isolation, Trevor’s mother provided him with an unconventional upbringing, one that obviously shaped him into the man and the success he would become as an adult.

So, while this book is a memoir centered around Trevor’s childhood memories, and is an enlightening peek into the culture of South Africa, what I took away from this book was how much his mother loved him, how her parenting influenced him, made him strong, taught him respect, and protected him from serious missteps.

I think, in his way, this book is not only a collection of Trevor’s vivid childhood memories and experiences, it’s an ode to his mother.

These stories are often hysterically funny, but of course there are few difficult passages, too. But, overall, I enjoyed this book all the way from start to finish. Trevor’s voice is fresh and real, and his stories seem to come from his heart, showing a deep affection for his mom, detailing his adventures, both good and bad, with wry wit and humor that captured my heart and imagination.

Trevor Noah is a wonderful comedic talent, but he’s proven he can write with equal success. I hope he continues to drop by the book world from time to time and of course wish him much luck with his hosting duties on ��The Daily Show’.

4.5 stars

Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,605 reviews2,309 followers
November 23, 2016
Born a Crime Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah is such an interesting look into the life of a talented young man. I am a big fan of Trevor and watched his special on Netflix where he speaks of his life growing up but this goes into so much detail, it is stunning all that this guy goes through and is not a bitter man. He describes the horrible laws and society he is born into and the way he is looked at in his society. How he tries to see himself. His life in poverty, with a very religious mother, an abusive step father, his struggles to find himself and diligent acts, his family, the horrible times in his life and the good times in his life. Through it all, he keeps his humor and love alive and shares it with us in this wonderful book. There is so much in here and he tells it so well. He has a good heart and it comes out in this book. He is not jaded by his past but seems to be inspired to be better because of it. Great job Trevor, we love you! Thanks NetGalley for allowing me to read this wonderful, touching book!
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,177 reviews539 followers
February 10, 2017
An amazing story of a young man and his mother who went around the block a few times and beat the odds.

Despite a few inaccuracies in his tale, it remains a well-told story that kept me reading and reading until the very end. Trevor Noah has that intelligent kindness like an astral light around him. He has that look of wisdom and experience in his eyes which allow people to like and want to listen to him. He is a gentle soul. I guess he can thank his mom for that. She was on his case, saving his soul since the day he was born.

Trevor Noah starts out his book with his usual irony. He establishes a high-speed tone that promises a suspense thriller on the spot. He was thrown out of a car and it was not a Hollywood movie at all ! From there he introduces his mother and grandmother which sets the tone of this book.

My whole family is religious, but where my mother was Team Jesus all the way, my grandmother balanced her Christian faith with the traditional Xhosa beliefs she’d grown up with, communicating with the spirits of our ancestors. For a long time I didn’t understand why so many black people had abandoned their indigenous faith for Christianity. But the more we went to church and the longer I sat in those pews the more I learned about how Christianity works: If you’re Native American and you pray to the wolves, you’re a savage. If you’re African and you pray to your ancestors, you’re a primitive. But when white people pray to a guy who turns water into wine, well, that’s just common sense.


My mom didn’t want my mind polluted by movies with sex and violence. So the Bible was my action movie. Samson was my superhero. He was my He-Man. A guy beating a thousand people to death with the jawbone of a donkey? That’s pretty badass.

He shares his personal story with so much wit and candor. Some incidences were so funny I just sat back and laughed and laughed. But then there were the moments of pain and sadness, so intense, that I felt like standing in his aura and hearing his thoughts before he expressed them. Tragic, yet destined to turn out to be miracles in the end.

He shares many aspects of South African history and culture as background to his story, which enhances the experience for the reader. His sense of humor is always ready to jump in at the most unexpected moments. It was really a great read!

As background to Trevor Noah's story, I want to provide a few tidbits of information.

"Apartheid" was an American concept that was applied to the South African landscape. Not many people realize that. When the Americans thought it a good idea to provide reservations for the indigenous people, the South African government thought is was a brilliant idea as well and follow it up with their own interpretation. When Americans thought there should not be social interaction between races in public premises, the South Africans followed suit.

Black-only bus stops serviced Black-only buses. Black-only ambulances stopped at Black-only hospitals. Black-only education was provided at Black-only schools and universities. Beaches, bridges, swimming pools, washrooms, cinemas, benches, parks and even burial grounds were all segregated. Interracial marriages were strictly forbidden.

Black people had their own magazines, newspapers, authors, journalists, movies, artists, musicians, music concerts, businesses and communities. Many wealthy Black people lived in the separated areas (there were even a wealthy black suburb called Beverly Hills in SOWETO) and made a good living. Black lawyers, doctors, teachers, and religious leaders served their own community. For instance, Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe both studied at the University of Fort Hare and finished their further studies at other universities, such as the universities of the Witwatersrand(WITS) and South Africa(UNISA). Their training were subsidized by the Apartheid government. They enjoyed free education as a result, while the White community had to pay for everything. Trevor Noah himself could have gone to university on the same principles with even more bursaries available to him than there were for white people. It is still the case.

Biggest issue: Black people were denied the vote.

His 'Hitler' story also lacked insight into the Afrikaner history (and neither did he knew about the HOLOCAUST and the Jewish experience). Trevor and his young adult friends were simply ignorant young men doing their own thing. Of course he did not have to know it, since it was never part of his own life. He described the Afrikaners's "love" for Hitler, but did not know how it worked. The Afrikaners lost their families in the Anglo-Boer war in which Britain followed a scorched-earth policy, leaving the Afrikaner farmers bankrupt and their families destroyed, dead in the concentration camps. The impoverished farmers abandoned their farms, which were immediately grabbed by the British government and handed over to British soldiers as payment for their services against the Afrikaners during the war.

When the world declared war against Hitler, a small group of embittered Afrikaners organized themselves into a rebellion to assist Hitler against Britain. They simply hated the English. They would join any country declaring war against England. However, the vast majority of Afrikaners joined Britain in combat against Hitler. My father was one of them. We are from German descend. The South African soldiers, the majority being from the Afrikaner community who joined Great Britain were all descendants of the French, Dutch and German. They were joining the English forces who were shipped from the British colonies at the time. I just wanted to clear that up.

Trevor and his mom were not part of the elite. They lived in the moderate, poor areas where workers and entrepreneurs felt at home. I was so happy that he mentioned the cultural cuisine. The 'smileys' he mentioned, sheep's head, are still highly popular. There are even sheep head clubs in the country.

His revolt for sheep's eyes, which is also something to fight and die for by the dedicated eaters, had me almost falling off my bed with laughter. I cannot stand it either, although my husband and his farmer friends would make sure they can all enjoy it by buying themselves enough sheep heads for their club meetings and ensure nobody misses out on the eyes! Yes, be strong, dear friends. We could all have been like that, so don't laugh! ;-)

"Walkie-talkies", which he did not mention, are the heads and feet of chickens, which are also popular delicacies in the Asian communities. Trevor Noah's mom, however, knew it was the only dish that would get him to stay home for dinner instead of going out and enjoy his beloved Macdonalds.

And then there is the 'Marogo' which he enjoyed, which I grew up with. It is a healthy weed, cooked like green beans with potato and unions, and normally enjoyed as a side dish, heaped onto 'mieliepap' (maize porridge). You're simply not South African if you have not eaten Marog and pap! It taste like spinach with a creamy effect.

He took me back to my own childhood days, in a different time and place of course, but the nostalgia of that time came rushing over me while reading this book. We had so many happy moments, despite circumstances, and like Trevor, we as children never knew about Apartheid. Adults did not talk about it. It was quite a revelation when we finally grasped the meaning. We were the generation who brought it to en end.

His story is so inspirational. A feel-good experience. I can only congratulate him and wish him all the best in the world He deserves it. And, most importantly, he will make it.

You gooooo Trevor!!!! Thank you for the wonderful memories you shared. You made this world a much better place to be in, just by being you and sharing your heartfelt, often funny story.

Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews158k followers
April 25, 2017
I’m joining the club of other Rioters who have read and loved this one. Something you should know about me: memoirs are NOT my jam. I can count on one hand the memoirs I’ve read and enjoyed, so I was honestly shocked by how much I loved reading Born a Crime. Noah can tell a story like nobody’s business, and very often his tales weave tragedy and comedy together in the best way imaginable. I also have to admire Noah’s bare-bones honesty; he really doesn’t front at all. If you’re the type of person who wants a book that can make you laugh and cry in public, this is the one you’ve been looking for.

— Tasha Brandstatter

from The Best Books We Read In February 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/02/28/riot-r...

Never have I experienced such alternatively intense emotions as I have listening to this book, where Noah recounts stories of his childhood in truly terrible conditions with humor and matter-of-factness. I had moments where I felt crushed by the realities of Apartheid, wondering how humans can be so cruel, followed by long stretches of laughter where I must have looked batty while driving, such was my delight in a chapter about sneaky pooping (and the aftermath). I’m talking crying laughing, gasping for air, and then eased back into some more sobering tales of close calls, losing friends, running from those who threatened him or his family. It’s only January, but this book is absolutely in my personal top 5 for the year. If nothing else, Born a Crime speaks in universals about human experiences, even simple things like learning to speak someone else’s native language and reaping the social benefits. It’s just set in a world that’s very far from my own.

–Kristina Pino

from The Best Books We Read In January 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/02/01/riot-r...

He might be the baby-faced host of The Daily Show, but he was also raised a mixed-race child during Apartheid. Listening to him narrate the story of his childhood and all of the dangers that came with his very existence showed me that he’s a lot more than Jon Stewart’s slightly-less-beloved replacement. I may be frustrated recently with his call for other people of color to be moderate in their reactions to the incoming administration, but getting a bit of insight into the pain and tragedy he suffered at the hands of similarly-minded people was informative for me and has changed the way I view him.

— Elizabeth Allen

from The Best Books We Read In December 2016: http://bookriot.com/2017/01/03/riot-r...
February 19, 2017

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I consider myself an unofficial expert on celebrity memoirs. I haven't read all of them (although I would like to - even the stupid ones, because I am incredibly nosy and devour celebrity gossip the way other people devour Dorritos or fake news), but I've read a fair amount, and they usually follow a typical narrative arc. In BORN A CRIME, Trevor Noah takes that arc, flattens it out, and beats you over the head with it.

I love Trevor Noah. I love what he brings to The Daily Show. I think he's incredibly funny, intellectual, erudite, and charming. I also think he's cute, but that's neither here nor there. I actually first learned about him through his (in)famous video with "she who shall not be named" (no, not Voldemort's sister - but close). I was really impressed by how he went about the interview. That could have been really ugly - but it wasn't; it was a somewhat civil discourse between two opposing views, about why the political beliefs of a certain demographic can be incredibly problematic.

When I found out that this Trevor Noah person, this cool political cucumber, had a memoir out, I immediately put myself on hold for it at the library. Unfortunately, so did about a billion other people. It took two freaking months for me to finally get my hands on BORN A CRIME. Normally, when I wait that long, I start to lose interest and by the time I get the book I sometimes forget why I even bothered to put it on hold in the first place. Not so, here.

Trevor Noah's memoir is not like other memoirs because he doesn't talk about his "famous" life at all. BORN A CRIME is about Trevor Noah's childhood growing up in South Africa while it was still under apartheid. He talks about slavery, segregation, racism, poverty, domestic violence and abuse, and all manner of other troubling topics, but he does it in a way that, while not exactly unpleasant, never becomes so graphic or unpleasant that I had to put the book down and take a deep breath. At times, he even manages to make the terrible situation he's describing funny, which is truly a testament to his amazing sense of humor.

There's a lot more I can say, but most of it would just be recaps from the memoir and more praise about Trevor himself. I really, really loved this book. It kind of reminds me of another memoir I read about a biracial man, THE COLOR OF WATER by James McBride, but I feel like BORN A CRIME is going to be a lot more accessible because a) he's a pop-cultural icon, b) Noah's book is broader in scope in terms of topics discussed, and c) he's a millennial so his language will resonate with a lot of people, especially the young bloggers, who are reading and reviewing this book.

Read this book. It was totally worth waiting for two months for.

5 stars
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,458 followers
May 29, 2017
ETA: The more I think about this book after having finished it, the more annoyed I become. I have changed my rating to one star. I did not like this book. What tipped the balance for me is the "Go Hitler" chant. The author's explanation was not adequate and I found the whole episode inappropriately drawn.


I was perpetually annoyed while reading this book. Perhaps this is my own fault. I misunderstood what its central focus was to be. It is less a book about growing up in South Africa than about adolescence, a dysfunctional family and physical abuse. In addition, I did not like the writing style.

The first section of the book does offer a bit on South African history but only in sweeping terms. Apartheid practices are viewed through personal events. We see how race and religion came to shape the author’s life. The book does not follow a strictly chronological order, and I found this at times confusing.

The central portion of the book deals with the author’s adolescence. Here the writing mirrors adolescent emotions. It is filled with swear words and smart aleck expressions. We hear of his problems with acne, dating and not fitting in. Drinking, hip-hop dancing, a disastrous prom night, bootlegging of CDs and DJ parties may interest others, but not me!

I came to understand the author and the strong bond he felt for his mother, but his mother’s behavior is not covered with adequate depth. While her strong religiosity is emphasized, these beliefs do not always fit well with her other life choices. This left me puzzled.

The final events of the book take a very dramatic turn. Ending on this note a reader may feel drawn to express sympathy and compassion. Does the exciting conclusion and the horror and sympathy all readers come to feel influence one’s rating of the book? My rating is based solely on my evaluation of the book and does not reflect the compassion I came to feel for the family.

The humor did not make me laugh, and I found the author’s philosophical generalizations sophomoric.

There is an all too long section on defecation. I found this disgusting. It should have been removed or at least shortened! The conjoining philosophical commentary is ridiculous. It is stated that when we defecate we are all on equal terms. Wow, I am terribly impressed with such remarkable wisdom. I am being sarcastic!

The author reads his own audiobook. The reading is clear and easy to follow. I think by listening to his words one better understand his emotions and what he wishes to convey.

I thought the book would have much more about life in South Africa and less about physical abuse in a dysfunctional family. The dramatic ending may appeal to some. The central portion will most certainly appeal more to young than to mature readers.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,393 reviews4,903 followers
November 2, 2021

4.5 stars

Trevor Noah, a comedian and the current host of 'The Daily Show' is a very funny guy.....and I expected this memoir to be full of witty jokes. It's not. The book is about Trevor growing up in South Africa when apartheid was coming to an end. Apartheid and it's aftermath left the impoverished black population of South Africa with hard lives and few opportunities. Nevertheless, Trevor infuses his story with hope and humor.

Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah (Trevor's mother)

Adult Trevor Noah with his father Robert Noah

Trevor was born in 1984, to a white Swiss father and a black mother from the Xhosa tribe. At that time, apartheid was still in effect and mixing of the races was forbidden by law. Thus, light-skinned Trevor was evidence of a crime. The child - who lived with his mother in a black neighborhood - had to stay hidden inside during his early childhood....lest he be grabbed by the authorities and taken to an orphanage.

Trevor Noah with his mother

Little Trevor Noah

Young Trevor rarely went outside because mixed race children could be taken away

School age Trevor Noah

Nomalizo Frances Noah (Trevor's grandmother) in front of her house, where Trevor lived as a kid

Trevor's grandmother inside her home

Trevor's grandmother is proud of her family

Trevor's grandmother was reluctant to discipline him because she might damage his light skin

The dismantling of apartheid in the early 1990's eased the situation for blacks and people of mixed race (classified as 'colored'), and Trevor and his mother - named Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah - embarked on a rather tumultuous life. Patricia acquired secretarial skills and got an office job, which meant the Noahs were a little bit better off than many black South African families. Patricia even had a junky old car which - being a devout Christian - she used to 'schlep' Trevor to three or four different churches every Sunday.

South African church

When Patricia wasn't working or at church she loaded Trevor into the car and took him to places that cost no money, like parks, picnics, and sightseeing past white people's mansions. Trevor's mom had the attitude "I'm going to give you everything I never had." Patricia made it her mission to provide food for Trevor's body and books for his mind - and to afford this, spent almost no money on anything else.

As Trevor describes it: their car was a tin can on wheels; they lived in the middle of nowhere; they had shabby furniture; they changed the channels on their tiny black and white TV with pliers; and they wore clothes from thrift stores.

During good times Trevor's family ate chicken, but when times were tough they ate food meant for dogs like 'sawdust' (meat scraps) and 'soup bones.' During one terrible month - when the mechanic business of Trevor's stepfather was failing - the family had to live on marogo (wild spinach) cooked with mopane worms (caterpillars). Trevor describes this as the worst time of his life.


Mopane worms

Trevor was a self-described 'naughty child' whose high energy level and mischievous pranks got him into lots of trouble. Trevor also loved fire and once burned down the house of a white family. To escape spankings from his mother, Trevor would streak out of the house and through the neighborhood - with Patricia close behind. As a result Trevor became a very fast runner, a talent that would be useful later on - when he had to run away from cops and tough guys. Though Patricia didn't spare the spankings, she punished Trevor 'out of love' - and he reciprocated the affection.

Trevor was an enterprising youth and found inventive ways to make money. By the time he was in high school Trevor was selling pirated CDs he made at home - an enterprise that led to deejaying parties in black townships. Trevor also partnered up with a couple of friends to run a kind of 'loan and barter' business, which netted plenty of extra cash for McDonald's, beer, and electronic equipment.

Trevor Noah looking cool

On the downside, Trevor never fit in anywhere. Being a light-skinned black, Trevor wasn't accepted by blacks, whites, Indians, Asians, or colored people (most of whom have a complicated ancestry beginning with Dutch settlers and black women). To compensate Trevor made it his business to learn many of the languages spoken in South Africa, including English, Afrikaans, Sotho, Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, and more. This made Trevor a sort of 'chameleon' who could get by with everyone.

Trevor also had bad luck with girls, partly because he had terrible acne. Trevor describes several attempts to get a girlfriend, and these tales are amusing....and a little heartbreaking. In high school, for example, Trevor's friend set him up with a beautiful girl named Babiki for the matric dance (prom). Trevor and his friend hung out with Babiki and her sisters for a couple of months before the dance, getting acquainted. Then, on the night of the matric dance, Babiki refused to get out of the car and go inside. Trevor realized - for the very first time - that Babiki couldn't speak English and he couldn't speak Pedi (her language). Ha ha ha.

Trevor Noah attended school at HC Jack in Highlands North, Johannesburg

Girls dressed up for the matric dance

The worst thing that happened in Trevor's life was his mother's marriage to Abel, a car mechanic with a murderous temper and a strong 'master of the house' attitude. Patricia sold her house, quit her job, and impoverished the family to help Abel with his mechanic business....to no avail. Abel was a terrible businessman who drank up the profits and came home intoxicated and abusive. In fits of anger Abel would hit Patricia and slap Trevor around. By the time Trevor finished high school he had to move out. Patricia ultimately left Abel, who eventually became so distraught that he shot her in the head.

In addition to his personal story Trevor talks about the evils of apartheid.....how the system purposely fomented discord among black tribes (especially Zulu and Xhosa), impoverished the non-white population, denied non-whites a decent education, left them untrained for jobs, made them feel inferior, took their homes and land, forced them into barren homelands, etc. etc. etc. Trevor touches on how this affected himself, his extended family, and his friends.....and the story is sad, bleak and dismaying.

Zulu tribe celebration

Xhosa tribe celebration (Trevor's mother belonged to the Xhosa tribe)

Trevor's mother survived being shot in the head.....and the book ends there. Trevor doesn't talk about becoming a comedian, his show business career, or becoming host of The Daily Show. The program's original host, Jon Stewart, was terrific and I was sad when he left. Still, Trevor is doing a good job (in my opinion). He's personable, smart and funny.....and his impressions and accents are spot on. Trevor makes me laugh every time I watch the show. If Trevor writes a sequel to this book, I'll read it for sure. :)

Trevor Noah sharing his book with a friend

Profile Image for Iris P.
171 reviews206 followers
February 10, 2017
Born a Crime

 photo trevor-noah-daily-show_zpswoii1b4c.jpg
Funny guy- The very charming Trevor Noah
"People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing."
Trevor Noah

By the time Trevor Noah was born in 1984, Apartheid, the system that institutionalized segregation and racial discrimination in his native South Africa, was already in its last throes. But young Trevor still got to experience plenty of the negative effects of that horrific system.

The relationship between his black African mother and his white Swiss father, was legally prohibited by the 1927 "Immorality Act", a crime that could carry up to 5 years in prison. These laws were not a mere abstraction, they were actively enforced by the authorities.

Noah did a good job at giving us a condensed version of the history of Apartheid. He explains how it was used to create fissures among the black population, and give us an insider's perspective of the real life consequences it had in the lives of millions of people.

My sense is that this book was written with a Western audience in mind, so he takes the time to compare Apartheid to similar repressive movements in other parts of the world, such as the removal of Native Americans, European Colonialism and Slavery and the Jim Crow era in America.

On this topic he remarks:
"In America you had the forced removal of the native 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."

 photo 273B9A2C00000578-0-image-a-72_1428006624881_zpsch2e6vit.jpg
Baby Trevor growing up in South Africa

The issue of race is a complicated one and Noah acknowledges how being biracial was a source of distress and confusion, while at the same time protected him and enhanced his social status.

Personally I can relate to this. Colorism was something I encountered in the society where I grew up. Having a lighter skin didn't guarantee success, but it certainly helped remove a potential obstacle and it opened doors that otherwise could have remained closed.

And yet, young Trevor frequently felt like an outsider, tolerated but not fully accepted. This started to change once he moved from her family home and started looking for ways to make a living.

From his mother, he inherited an entrepreneurial spirit and started making some money by utilizing his many skills; he was multi-lingual, good with technology and had a knack for mixing music that his peers loved.

If necessity is the mother of invention, Trevor and his fellow hustlers were the embodiment of that maxim. Eventually things turned bad when he became involved in petty crimes and got in trouble with the law.

I think the most important chapter of this book is the one where Noah describes the social dynamics of the "hood" and how difficult it is for a kid without a support system to break the cycle of poverty and violence.

"We tell people to follow their dreams" he says,"but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited."

Trevor's mother is the one constant and positive presence in his life, a deeply religious, strong woman who taught him to "challenge authority and question the system". By the end of the memoir he realizes that she more than anyone, is the person he can count on. She is his saving grace.

There are plenty of funny moments and hilarious anecdotes on Born a Crime, so it would be tempting to categorize this as just a rag-to-riches, pull up by your bootstraps kind of story.

In reality though, Noah has written a profound account about his humble beginnings, the pervasive presence of violence in his home and his country at large, and his own racial identity crisis, the result of having been born in a place where the frequent reaction to a person of mixed race was astonishment, contempt or both.

The fact that Noah was able to overcome such a difficult upbringing it almost miraculous and reason enough to read his story. But I think his views on poverty, racism, domestic violence are also worth listening to, mainly because he has the emotional scars to prove his credentials as a reliable witness.

This is a very moving memoir that will make you laugh and cry, but I trust that it will also leave you with a good dose of optimism.
Profile Image for Christy.
3,915 reviews33k followers
June 22, 2020
4 stars

Born a Crime is a memoir about Trevor Noah’s childhood in South Africa. I honestly don’t know much about Trevor Noah and I’ve never watched any of his stuff, but I got this as a freebie on audible forever ago and thought now would be a good time to read it. I’m so glad I did.

The best part about this audiobook is that Trevor Noah narrated it. With the different languages spoken and dialects, it was great to hear it all in Noah’s voice. Also, as heavy as it was at times, his humor really shined through.

It’s so interesting to me to see how different things are in other countries. I am close to the same age as Trevor Noah and I can’t imagine growing up the way he did. Reading others stories that aren’t like yours is so important. This story is important, it’s powerful, and if you’re going to read it, I can’t recommend the audiobook enough. The narration is spectacular.
“People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
350 reviews942 followers
August 17, 2017
Once again, I decided to read something from the non-fiction/biography genres. Partly because I adore Trevor Noah as a person. Partly because I love Trevor Noah's voice & appreciate when authors tell their own stories, both fictional and non-fictional. & Partly because I want to try and get more comfortable with reads like this that are outside of my normal realm.

In this Trevor tells many stories from his childhood in South Africa. He is funny, well-spoken, and insightful as he discusses how being the product of a white Swiss father and a black South African mother both worked for and against him, depending on the situation.

This was an excellent book, though I wish he hadn't jumped around on his timeline as much as he did. It wasn't really a big deal but I sort of had trouble keeping up with the chronological order of the events he was describing.

I would very much recommend this for everyone, even if you don't particularly like Trevor Noah! My friend Michael talks about how much he enjoyed the book in his review, despite not being the author's biggest fan.
Profile Image for Malia.
Author 6 books569 followers
August 28, 2017
I was lucky to see Trevor Noah speak about this book recently, and the way he talked about his story, and his life growing up in South Africa made me all the more eager to read it! The book is a cohesive collection of stories from his childhood and early adulthood, and though I am not typically a reader of much non-fiction, I found this book truly compelling and hard to put down!
Noah has a way of really drawing you in, and making you feel as though you are there with him, experiencing his memories and seeing South Africa during and after apartheid as he did. He doesn't glorify himself and doesn't shy from describing certain flaws in himself, his family and the world he grew up in, which makes it seem very real and believable, and makes me wish I knew even more.
I have never visited South Africa, but I felt like a true armchair traveler reading "Born a Crime", and learning about the way of life of "ordinary" people, instead of monumental historical figures like Nelson Mandela. I liked how Noah gave character to individual neighborhood I had never heard of, but can now visualize with a sense of greater understanding. His descriptions of the people in this book make them come to life, especially his mother, who raised Noah under difficult circumstances and to whom the book is dedicated. She is such a central character, if you will, of this book, and Noah doesn't sugarcoat her actions or mentality, which sometimes made it difficult for me to fully understand the devotion he felt toward her, when she so often put him down, beat him, and forced him to accept that her second husband and father of Noah's two younger brothers was a violent, deeply unpleasant man, whom she did not leave until it was almost too late. This was difficult to read, at times, but definitely served to paint a truly vivid image of her and of their, sometimes fraught, but ultimately loving relationship.
The explanation of segregation and divides between race were another element that fascinated me about this story, especially in light of the racial tensions that have arisen in society and culture recently, made more visible through social media and the fast pace of news (though they have obviously been there a long time). I knew, of course, of the way apartheid worked, and the extreme division and misery it created, but I did not know of the many different classifications that existed within African communities themselves, that "colored" people, as Noah describes those of mixed race, were not included in black communities or white communities, and that he, being the son of a white man and a black woman, never felt he fit in properly. It is interesting to read about this, and though the book is set in Africa, I think it is, in a way, quite timely, and well worth reading, if only to see that change for the better can happen. Segregation and racism exist everywhere, and therefore people must collectively work against it to create societies that value tolerance and diversity.
This was a well-written, thought-provoking book and I would recommend it to fans Trevor Noah, or even those who have never heard of him, but what to be entertained, and learn something in the bargain.
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