Born a Crime – a review

The wonderful Olivia-Savanah from Olivia’s Catastrophe gifted me Born a Crime, she read it and really enjoyed it and thought that I would too. And she was right!! I loved this book and my copy has got so many tabs!

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I’ve not specifically sat and watched any of Noah’s comedy, but what I have seen has always made me laugh, and I was really looking forward to getting an insight into life as a “Coloured” person in South Africa so I had high hopes for this memoir which spans all of his childhood after being born to a white Swiss father and a Black Xhosa mother, at a time where relationships between Black and white people was illegal.

As always I’ll start with my negative, which in this case is that the timeline of the book jumps around quite a lot. The events which it jumps to are related, but we do go back and forth with at least one event being repeated. This does mean the book feels a little disjointed and it takes away from the natural flow. That was what brought this book down to a 4 star rather than a 5, but other than that? This was an amazing book.

My tabs can be broken down into basics:

  • Funny
  • Sad
  • Learning
  • interesting

The funny is self explanatory, Trevor Noah is a comedian and this of course bleeds through into this book. He’s lived through some very funny moments and gotten up to a lot of antics as a kid which were fun and cringy to read about! Even just the reactions of himself or those around him in mundane points of life was a lot of fun to read about. And going to three different churches every Sunday rain or shine? Well of course I loved reading about mama Noah!

There were some sad points in this book, as there are in almost everyone’s lives. There weren’t too many here, but the ones that were there were poignant and heartfelt. Given that I was tabbing up the book anyways it felt wrong to leave these sections unmarked as they made me stop and reflect.

Whilst I had learnt about apartheid in school, as many of us do, the technicalities of the overarching laws and regulations doesn’t exactly tell you what it was like living within the country at the time. For example, Trevor’s mother and father having a relationship was fully illegal, and yet here he is. Whenever there are laws there will be people who break them, and sometimes that’s a good thing! It was really interesting to learn those intricate facts about daily life growing up during this time.

The “interesting” tabs came about because there were points that I already knew, but that I really enjoyed the way he worded them and which made me think about things in a new light. I almost put them into the “learning” section but it didn’t feel quite right, so instead this category was born.

I also, accidentally, was reading Long Walk to Freedom at the same time as I was reading this (I’d been reading it for a few months already, it’s a big boi). Somehow I had a section where the two lined up, I read a chapter from Born a Crime about the destruction of Sophiatown and how this directly impacted Trevor. I decided I wanted to read a chapter from Long Walk to Freedom and what would you know? Sophiatown was being destroyed! I wasn’t very far into Mandela’s biography so I hadn’t been expecting the two to line up at that moment in time and it was a little surreal. It also, for me, added an extra layer to how I was think about these events because I had the perception of both a political activist and a child. And those two together? They’re powerful.

Honestly this book is fantastic, and I think even those who don’t usually read non-fiction or memoirs will enjoy this book as well as getting a lot out of it! Not only is there important commentary on race, both in South Africa and around the globe, but it’s humorous, insightful and just a fun time to read!

Highlight here for trigger warnings: domestic abuse, racial slurs, racism, violence

Thank you so so much to Olivia for gifting me this! I adored it and I’m sure I’ll be re-reading it in the future!

2 thoughts on “Born a Crime – a review”

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