Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Paperback)
December 2016 Indie Next List
“Noah's perspective of growing up as the son of a black woman and white man in South Africa during apartheid, mixed with his trademark humor, is both insightful and poignant. We in the U.S. are often presented with what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has termed 'the danger of the single story,' which depicts history only from the point of view of the oppressors. It is refreshing and enlightening to learn history from someone directly affected by the heinousness of the apartheid laws.”
— Karena Fagan (E), Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
After I read this book, I felt like I knew Trevor Noah as deeply as a close friend. He tells you his story about growing up as a colored person in South Africa during the Apartheid, born to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father at a time when such a union was illegal. He lived between worlds, neither black nor white, in a country of severe systemic racism. If that sounds too heavy and serious, take heart! Trevor weaves his stories with laugh-out-loud humor as he accounts the most ridiculous, heart-breaking, comical, and thought-provoking moments in his life on a journey of breaking out of the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that threatened his own mother’s life.
--James, Bookseller— From Staff Picks
“Noah’s childhood stories are told with all the hilarity and intellect that characterizes his comedy, while illuminating a dark and brutal period in South Africa’s history that must never be forgotten.”—Esquire
Winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor and an NAACP Image Award • Named one of the best books of the year by The New York Time, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Esquire, Newsday, and Booklist
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 his 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 stories 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.
“By turns alarming, sad and funny . . . not just an unnerving account of growing up in South Africa under apartheid, but a love letter to the author’s remarkable mother.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a comic’s origin story better than the one Trevor Noah serves up in Born a Crime. . . . Witty truth-telling . . . brilliant comedy.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Remarkable . . . smart . . . extraordinary . . . essential reading on every level.”—The Seattle Times
“[Noah] thrives with the help of his astonishingly fearless mother. . . . Their fierce bond makes this story soar.”—People
“When I think of Trevor Noah, the first image I see is from his brilliant memoir, Born a Crime, of Trevor’s mother throwing him out of a moving vehicle while he’s asleep in order to save his life. Through other eyes this could be remembered as traumatic and harrowing. Through Trevor’s it is bonding and hilarious, a testament to the love of someone who truly had to think on their feet. That is how Trevor sees the world. A fantastic storyteller, he has always been a defier of rules, which he broke simply by being born in his native country.”—Lupita Nyong’o, Time
“Noah’s not the main character in his own story—his mother is the constant . . . and by the end, Noah lovingly makes clear that the book belongs to her. . . . Noah proves to be a gifted storyteller, able to deftly lace his poignant tales with amusing irony.”—Entertainment Weekly
“[An] unforgettable memoir.”—Parade
“This isn’t your average comic-writes-a-memoir: It’s a unique look at a man who is a product of his culture—and a nuanced look at a part of the world whose people have known dark times easily pushed aside.”—Refinery29
“[Noah’s] electrifying memoir sparkles with funny stories . . . and his candid and compassionate essays deepen our perception of the complexities of race, gender, and class.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Powerful prose . . . told through stories and vignettes that are sharply observed, deftly conveyed and consistently candid. Growing organically from them is an affecting investigation of identity, ethnicity, language, masculinity, nationality and, most of all, humanity.”—Mail & Guardian (South Africa)
“[Noah’s] story of surviving—and thriving—is mind-blowing.”—Cosmopolitan
“Noah has a real tale to tell, and he tells it well. . . . Among the many virtues of Born a Crime is a frank and telling portrait of life in South Africa during the 1980s and ’90s.”—Newsday
“An affecting memoir, Born a Crime [is] a love letter to his mother.”—The Washington Post
“Witty and revealing . . . Noah’s story is the story of modern South Africa.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)