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.
As 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.