“Born a Crime” – Trevor Noah (5/5 ★)

This book… Was simply unforgettable…

I laughed and I cried while reading it, both thanks to dozens of hilarious moments but also to a tragic one towards the end. This book simply hooks you from the first sentences on (which you can see yourself within the first quote) and I applaud either Trevor Noah’s writing talent or the talent of the editing team behind the book because it’s definitely a one of a kind of read!

“Sometimes in big Hollywood movies they’ll have these crazy chase scenes where somebody jumps or gets thrown from a moving car. The person hits the ground and rolls for a bit. Then they come to a stop and pop up and dust themselves off, like it was no big deal. Whenever I see that I think, That’s rubbish. Getting thrown out of a moving car hurts way worse than that.
I was nine years old when my mother threw me out of a moving car. It happened on a Sunday. I know it was on a Sunday because we were coming home from church, and every Sunday in my childhood meant church. We never missed church. My mother was – and still is – a deeply religious woman. Very Christian. Like indigenous peoples around the world, black South Africans adopted the religion of our colonizers. By ‘adopt’ I mean it was forced on us. The white man was quite stern with the native. ‘You need to pray to Jesus,’ he said. ‘Jesus will save you.’ To which the native replied, ‘Well, we do need to be saved – saved from you, but that’s beside the point. So let’s give this Jesus thing a shot.’ ” (p. 5-6)

This piece of writing is the author’s autobiographical memoir narrating the part of his life which he spent growing up in South Africa. From the moment I started this book, I wanted to cancel all my plans and simply stay at home reading it. By the time I got through it at the speed of lightning, I was longing for more and I do really hope that he might write another book, telling more about his life in America.
As it’s apparent from the first quote on, the author’s mother had a huge impact on his life and their relationship is definitely something that could fill comedies:

“Tuesday nights, the prayer meeting came to my grandmother’s house, and I was always excited, for two reasons. One, I got to clap along on the beat for the singing. And two, I loved to pray. My grandmother always told me that she loved my prayers. She believed my prayers were more powerful, because I prayed in English. Everyone knows that Jesus, who’s white, speaks English. The Bible is in English. Yes, the Bible wasn’t written in English, but the Bible came to South Africa in English so to us it’s in English. Which made my prayers the best prayers because English prayers get answered first. How do we know this? Look at white people. Clearly they’re getting through to the right person.” (p. 40)

“He and my mom got into a huge fight. ‘Your son has burned down my life!’ But there was no punishment for me that day. My mom was too much in shock. There’s naughty, and then there’s burning down a white person’s house. She didn’t know what to do.” (p. 90)

What was extremely special about this book, was not only its unique sense of humour (which was very dark at times) but also the mix of a personal narrative going along with historical comments of the time of apartheid in South Africa. It had this beautiful mix of being both entertaining, as well as educative, as the passage below illustrates:

“In South Africa, the atrocities of apartheid have never been taught that way. We weren’t taught judgement or shame. We were taught history the way it’s taught in America. In America, the history of racism is taught like this: ‘There was slavery and then there was Jim Crow and then there was Martin Luther King Jr. and now it’s done.’ It was the same for us. ‘Apartheid was bad. Nelson Mandela was freed. Let’s move on.’ ” (p. 183)

Even if you’ve never heard anything about Trevor Noah before (which was the case for me, I haven’t seen any of his performances as a comedian), I can assure that you will still like the book! 🙂 Trust me 😉 There was just one short part of about 20 pages, that wasn’t as exciting but even that wasn’t significant enough to result in a star reduction. I can see this being a really great book to load you up on positivity if you’re feeling down, have a good laugh and even inspire you.

“The rules about communion at Friday mass […] made absolutely no sense. We’d be in there for an hour of kneeling, standing, sitting, kneeling, standing, sitting, and by the end of it I’d be starving, but I was never allowed to take communion because I wasn’t Catholic. The other kids could eat Jesus’ body and drink Jesus’ blood, but I couldn’t. And Jesus’ blood was grape juice. Grape juice and crackers – what more could a kid want?” (p. 86)

Even though this was the first book I read in July 2020, I have a strong feeling that it will be my most favourite book of the month after already having added it on my list as the favourite memoir I’ve ever read!

★★★★★ (5/5)

Edition: ISBN 978-0-525-50902-8
One World Publishing, Penguin Random House

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