Book 2 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from January 01 - 04
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Summary (via Goodreads)
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 her 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 eighteen personal essays 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.
5 star read. Anything I want to say feels inadequate. Yes, he is a comedian and the book is funny and the stories are presented in an entertaining way but I hope the format doesn't minimize what readers could learn from his experiences and insight. I really hope he writes another book with the rest of his story once he found success and I would also love to know more about his mother, who sounds unimaginably strong.
The very first paragraph reads, "The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate, is what it was. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another so you can run them all." I know we don't label it as such here but it sounded so familiar, like he could be talking about our country today.
I also had an "Amen" moment when he was talking about the missing link to the ever popular phrase "give a man to fish and he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime". Mr. Noah makes the excellent point that it's not enough to teach someone to fish, you also have to provide them with the rod. People need resources to succeed (and it's not a handout to get the resources because they still have to make good use of them). It sounded so simple when he said it and that's an outlook I will definitely hang on to.
I laughed at his anecdote about getting detention every day for being late. "The names of the kids with detention were announced at every assembly, and I was always one of them. Always. Every single day. It was a running joke. The prefect would say, "Detentions for today..." and I would stand up automatically. It was like the Oscars and I was Meryl Streep."
A Few Quotes from the Book
"[His mother was] 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."
"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."
"Human beings like to laugh, and lucky for me pretty girls are human beings."