I don’t review a lot of books anymore, but this one got to me. There are lots of books written by people — including me — who had a hard time growing up. Abusive parents, poverty, oppression. War. There is a lot of awful stuff children endure.

Trevor Noah endured all of it. Name something bad that a kid can experience and it probably happened to him. Born under apartheid, his existence was illegal. His birth was, as the title of his book suggests, a crime.

born-a-crime-coverAs the child of a white father and a black mother under South Africa during apartheid, if he had been noticed by the authorities, they would have taken him from his family and put him … somewhere. So merely surviving until the end of apartheid was no mean feat. Add to that extreme poverty, violence and life under the most oppressive, racist regime you can imagine. Actually, you may not be able to imagine it. I knew it was bad, but South Africa refined oppression into an art form.

One of the other noteworthy things about this book was that I learned great deal about things I thought I already knew. I don’t know if Noah intended it as a cautionary tale, but it is. Chilling.

I didn’t read the book. I listened to the audiobook because Noah reads it himself. He has a beautiful, melodic voice and a lovely cadence. It was a treat for my ears and my brain.

You might think with all of this terrible stuff — and some of it is really horrific — that this would be an angry, possibly embittered man. But he isn’t.

He’s funny when humor is possible. Even when he’s serious, there is grace and wit —  plus a sweetness and generosity of spirit that’s rather uplifting. I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a book. It’s not a word I use lightly. Trevor Noah is a rare person, able to appreciate the good stuff in his life and not obsess over the considerable amount of injustice he has experienced.

I’m not a big fan of celebrity memoirs or autobiographies, but this is exceptional. If you have the patience, listen to it as an audiobook. Otherwise, consider reading it. He’s a smart guy, a good writer, and an astute observer of humanity, government, politics, and relationships. Insightful, witty, and entertaining, I highly recommend it.

Amazon has all the various formats and probably so do other online booksellers and maybe your local bookstore, too — if you are lucky enough to have one.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

14 thoughts on “BORN A CRIME – TREVOR NOAH”

  1. NPR had an interview with him last week and it was interesting but not something I felt I had any interest in. Until now. I also think Lynn would be interested in it even though she may not know who he is. And I do like his voice so I might just spring for the audiobook. We are going on a long trip today- about 4 hours. Too bad I can’t get my hands on it before we leave. Thanks for the review, Marilyn!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can download the audiobook. Amazon is Audible’s parent company, so you can buy Audible stuff on Amazon, but I’m not sure how you’d play it. I can play audible files on my phone, computers, and Kindle. I’m sure there are other ways, too. It’s a way better book than I expected and despite everything, entertaining and not grim. Have a good trip!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. He has a particular story to tell. Being bi-racial was especially difficult from where he comes from. It is good that the problems within the society didn’t break his spirit.


    1. I was looking at the reviews for it while adding my own. It’s the only book I’ve seen with over 300 reviews, all five stars. It’s not just that he’s now a celebrity. It’s that he tells his story with charm, wit, and compassion … and considering the nature of his life and experiences, that’s kind of amazing. I think you will enjoy it.


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