Born a Crime

Rating:
Author: Trevor Noah
Genres: Memoir, Non Fiction
Pub. date: Nov. 2016 (re-read Jul. 2019 on Audible)

I read Born a Crime several weeks ago as an Audiobook. I first read Born a Crime as an e-book with my Book Club in 2017 and absolutely loved it. But I was feeling like a re-read and decided to go with the audiobook this time since it’s narrator by Trevor Noah. Either way, you definitely can’t go wrong with this book, but I’d say the audiobook definitely has an edge over the e-book.

I wasn’t planning to write a review for this book because I thought I’d already written one, but when I went back and checked my goodreads, I’d only written a little blurb that was never posted to my blog, so I’ve decided to write a proper review since I love this book so much.
I recommend this book to people a lot. They always look at me kind of like “really? Trevor Noah? The comedian?”, but I totally stand by my recommendation because this book has so much going for it! It’s hilarious, interesting, and it damn matters. Sure there’s a lot of comedic memoirs out there, but Trevor Noah’s memoir is all about growing up ‘coloured’ in Apartheid and post-Apartheid South Africa.
South Africa’s have been broken down into factions for many years: white, black, and coloured, which is everyone in between. In Trevor’s case, he was considered coloured because he was mixed race – his mom was a black South African and his dad a white Swiss. Trevor was literally “born a crime” and had the interesting experience in his childhood of never really being allowed to be seen with either of his parents. Whites and blacks weren’t allowed to date or marry, but Trevor’s mom wanted to have a baby anyways and largely kept their relationship a secret.
In post-apartheid South Africa (when Trevor was around 10 I believe), they could finally be seen together, but Trevor struggled for years with his identity. He had a decent relationship with his Dad, but they eventually drifted apart, so everyone else in Trevor’s life was black. He is pushed to identify as coloured and for a while tries to access all the different sides of his identity, but eventually comes to the conclusion that while he looks coloured, he is black.
Trevor crams a lot of hilarious stories into this short memoir and it is definitely one of the few books that had me laughing out loud throughout. Even when he gets serious about South African politics and all the shit his mother went through, he still infuses a lot of humour into the story, which makes it a joy to read. His childhood was fascinating, as were his formative years growing up and trying to make it in Johannesburg. If you’re looking for an account of how he became a successful comedian, you won’t find it in this book, but you will find a lot of anecdotes about South African culture and oppression.
But the real hero of this story is Trevor’s mom. I talked about her briefly in my first review, but she is really what made this book for me. It’s hard to believe a poor, coloured boy who was literally born a crime could become so successful, but after learning about his mom, I know exactly how it happened. She is an independent and headstrong woman who is not afraid to go after what she wants, even when the deck is stacked against her. She acts as a wonderful foil to Trevor’s childhood antics, but you can tell everything she does is grounded in a deep love for her children and a deep love for God.
Say what you want about religion. But I absolutely believe in the God that Trevor’s Mom believe’s in. She is a zealous woman, but her faith is inspiring. The final chapter of this book is pretty much the most insane thing I’ve ever read, but it can’t help but make you believe that Patricia Noah knows something that the rest of us don’t about faith and religion.
Ultimately, this is a series of stories from Trevor’s childhood and young adult life. Every story offers a different insight into South African culture, but they all weave together a story of a remarkable mother and son.
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Top 5 Reads in 2017

This is the sister-post to my Top 10 Books of 2017 post. I read way too many books this year to pick only 10, so I split them into my 10 favourite new releases and my top 5 favourites that weren’t published this year (but that I read this year). Here’s the other 5:

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (Fantasy)

I talked up the Shades of Magic trilogy in my other post, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone was definitely my favourite fantasy series that I read this year. This is the first book in a trilogy about a world of angels and demons that have been at war for decades, but the war is slowly starting to bleed into the human world. Karou is a art student in Prague; she was raised in the human world by two beings, Brimstone and Issa, that could only be described as monsters. Brimstone and Issa never enter the human world, but through their shop, Karou can open doors to anywhere she wants in the world and begrudgingly runs errands for Brimstone all over the globe. Until one day when an angel, Akiva, shows up a destroys all of Brimstone’s portals, disconnecting Karou from those who raised her and leaving her stranded alone in Prague.

It’s a pretty epic story and it had some really amazing characters. There were so many interesting concepts and fantasy elements introduced into the story and Taylor’s writing in this series is fantastic! But setting was key for me. I loved Taylor’s depiction of Prague and later Morocco. She created a really good atmosphere and I loved learning all about Karou’s Prague and Akiva’s world.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand (Young Adult)

If any book bridges the gap between genres, it’s this one. I’ve listed it as Young Adult, but it’s also part Historical Fiction, part Fantasy, part HILARITY. I picked it up because I loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and pretty much every review I read compared it to My Lady Jane. Together they were definitely the two funniest books I read this year.

My Lady Jane is essentially the re-imagined history of Lady Jane Grey, the 9-days queen from the 1500’s who reigned for 9 days and then literally lost her head. It’s told from 3 different points of view – Jane, King Edward (who dies and leaves Jane as Queen), and G (her betrothed) – and it’s actually written by 3 different YA authors. The premise of the story is based in fact, but the authors take a lot of liberty after that and infuse some fun fantasy elements into the story. I loved it! Plus I discovered they’re writing two more novels about historical Janes, so watch for My Plain Jane next year!

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Mystery)

Why have I never picked up an Agatha Christie novel before this year? They are so much fun!! I read 3 of her books this year, but And Then There Were None was definitely my favourite. From what I understand this is the quintessential Christie novel. 10 strangers are invited to attend a party in a mansion on an island owned by a wealthy mystery host, but when they arrive they find the host missing. One by one the guests start dropping dead and with no way off the island everyone starts to descend into a state of panic. After a thorough search of the (small) island reveals no one else is present, the remaining guests must face the dark realization that the killer is hiding in plain sight. So deliciously fun!!

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (Memoir)

Confession, I didn’t even know who Trevor Noah was until my book club picked Born a Crime as one of our monthly reads. I always say I dislike memoirs, but I may need to change that opinion because I’ve read several this year and I loved all of them! I wasn’t expecting much out of this book, but Noah delivered a hilarious, yet sobering, story about his experience growing up ‘coloured’ (mixed-race) in South Africa both during and after Apartheid. If you’re interested in learning about how he ended up on The Daily Show in this book, you’ll be disappointed because he doesn’t talk about it, but if you’re looking to learn a bit more about what it might have been like growing up in post-apartheid South Africa while simultaneously having a good laugh, then this is the book for you! I loved Trevor’s writing and I’m now a fan of both his stand-up comedy and The Daily Show!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Science Fiction)

This was another book club selection that I was not interested in reading, but then loved once I started it! Dark Matter is one of those fast-paced, un-put-downable novels. I don’t even know how to describe this novel. Jason Dessen is abducted one day by a masked assailant and wakes up in a life that is not his own. In this new life he is a renown Scientist, but his wife is unknown to him and his son has never been born. Jason is pulled into a world he never knew existed, but more than anything, he just wants to return to the wife and son he’s left behind. In order to do so, he must go on an epic journey through both space and time. I thought the plot sounded so bizarre, but it was so enthralling! You don’t need to be a big sci-fi fan to enjoy this!