Born A Crime is a FANTASTIC book about the life of Trevor Noah. As you may know, Trevor is the host of the Daily Show, an American late-night talk show and news satire program. He was born in South Africa during apartheid to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother when such a relationship was punishable by five years in prison. As a result of these laws, Trevor often had to remain in hiding during his early years so that his light skin would not land his parents in jail.
Often the role of the mother is pivotal in how a child grows into adulthood, but I can’t overstate enough how the strength and just pure guts of Trevor’s mother propelled him to where he is today. Trevor’s mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah, is a rock star. She is a strong, fearless woman who, while living in severe poverty, showed her son that there was a world beyond their neighborhood. Trevor says “we had a very Tom and Jerry relationship, me and my mom. She was the strict disciplinarian; I was naughty as shit.” And you see how this plays out over and over in stories that are both heart-felt and difficult to hear, but also funny beyond belief.
Trevor’s mother is deeply religious, and church played an ever-present role for the family. “I grew up in a home with very little exposure to popular culture. Boys II Men were not allowed in my mother’s house. Songs about some guy grinding on a girl all night long? No, no, no. That was forbidden…. The only music I knew was from church: soaring, uplifting songs praising Jesus.”
Trevor’s stories are also a nod to the importance of diversity and inclusion. During apartheid, the South African leaders made every effort to control and hold down anyone who was not of European descent. Instead of appreciating that diversity can bring more ideas, innovation, and success to a society, they feared people who were different from them. Trevor, of course, is a success story, but convincing everyone of the benefits of diversity and inclusion is still a work in process. While apartheid has officially ended in South Africa, eradicating racism will be a challenge that multiple generations will need to work towards.
Born A Crime will help you better understand South African culture, living in extreme poverty without electricity and running water, and racism. It is not a story that if you just work hard, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Instead, it is a story that if we give people a chance with a good education plus the right resources, anyone can be successful.
While Trevor credits many in his life, especially his mother, for providing him with the right combination of education and resources, I am still utterly amazed that Trevor Noah grew up as he did and at the ripe old age of 35, is now on television for a global audience. I both listened to and then read the book so that I could absorb all the rich detail. The audio version is excellent and read by Trevor. I particularly enjoy audio books that are read by the author, and this one hits the mark.
Have you read Born A Crime, and if so, what did you think of the book?
If you could say one thing to Trevor’s mom, Patricia, what would it be?
What other books have you read that really made you think about people who are different from you?