Books Magazine

Born a Crime #BookReview

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll

Book: Born a Crime: stories from a South African childhood by Trevor Noah
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Publication date: 2016
Pages: 304

Source: Hardcover from library

Summary: Trevor Noah was "born a crime" to a black mother and white father, a strictly forbidden relationship in apartheid South Africa. His upbringing and education crossed lines that were designed not to be breached. His very existence proved how silly and unsustainable those lines were.

Thoughts: This was the June selection for the Community of Understanding and Hope Book Group, a book club focused on books about race in America (and, sometimes, beyond).

June 2018 was the tenth anniversary of our first meeting. That's a long time to sustain a book group, especially one focused on a topic that is considered difficult. I think our group can attest that the topic of a race causes more problems when you don't talk about it - the solutions begin in conversation.

Our book group spent quite a bit of time talking about Trevor Noah's mom who is a real hero of this story. We were all women that night, so we really appreciated that aspect. He recognizes that her tough love helped him survive and, eventually, thrive.

We didn't talk about it in book group, because I forgot to bring it up, but I was fascinated by how this memoir works in spite of a lack of chronology. In general, the early part is about Noah's younger days and the later part is about when he is older, but the organization is thematic. It works, but I'm kind of surprised that it works. At some moments, it's more like reading a collection of essays than an autobiography.

The subtitle tells us what this story is about - Noah's childhood in South Africa. It goes up until, maybe, his early twenties. Of course, our group had lots of questions at the end. What's up with his mom now? Did he ever find out more about his dad? How did he get from where Born a Crime ends to where The Daily Show begins?

Challenges: This is the seventh of twelve nonfiction books that I pledged to read at Doing Dewey - check out the Nonfiction Friday feature on that blog.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Born Crime #BookReview
Born a Crime #BookReview

About Joy Weese Moll

a librarian writing about books

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