Review: Born a Crime

Born a Crime
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was at high school I loved history, and I remember sitting in history lessons listening to Sister Mary Leonard telling us about apartheid as we studied South Africa for our school certificate. I’m not sure why there wasn’t any New Zealand history taught to us because there was plenty of injustice in our history, but we studied South Africa. I found it fascinating and awful. Those lessons were probably partly to blame for my political views and outrage at social injustices all my life.

It was only recently that I heard about this book and I decided I needed to read it immediately. I’m really glad I did. Trevor Noah had a very interesting childhood and this is a collection of his recollections of growing up in South Africa as a coloured child under and then after apartheid. It is called Born a Crime because his mother, a black woman was forbidden under apartheid to have a child with a white man, it was also illegal for his father to have a child with a black woman – basically any fraternisation between whites and blacks was forbidden, having a child who was a mix was proof that this had happened and therefore Trevor Noah was proof of a crime being committed. This book which is chock full of great yarns about what it was like to grow up coloured, unaccepted by both black and white communities and not fitting in with the world in which he was being raised.

I read this as an audiobook, narrated by the author and that was a great choice, his voice is great, he reads it brilliantly. Inserting accents and different voices for the various people in the stories, this could have been horrible, but it worked well. The stories in the book are at times funny, frequently shocking and downright horrifying. His was an upbringing which was full of adventure and terror. You need to read the book to find out the details. I loved the short pieces at the beginning of the chapters which gave stats and statistics and anecdotes, l thought those were completely fascinating as they told of life in South Africa.

This is nowhere near the usual celebrity autobiography, this is much more gripping, more serious and informative. I’m grateful to our history teacher for suggesting it.

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