“Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah [Book Review]

born-a-crimeIf you only read one book this summer, it should be “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah. Most of my life I thought being born “illegitimate” was the worst state in which one could be born. Being born illegitimate means your parents weren’t married.

I was born illegitimate. My mother and father never married. And it was an embarrassment. It was one of those things I didn’t want my friends, or anyone else for that matter, to know.

Well, Trevor Noah’s birth trumps mine. He was born a crime. In South Africa during Apartheid, it was against the law for a Black person and a White person to have sex. The penalty–time in prison if they were caught or somehow found out.

Trevor is the product of a White man and a Black (African) woman, conceived and born during Apartheid. Trevor tells the story of his life in an unvarnished, unpretentious, bare-it-all kind of way. He shares the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yet he does so with eloquence and humor.

Trevor’s story is like none I’ve ever read before. His life is a paradox. A contradiction. There are numerous occasions in his childhood where he’s met with circumstances that force him to make difficult choices because he’s “not black enough” or he’s “not white enough”; or conversely he’s “too black” or “too white.” It was those difficult circumstances his mother used to teach him never to pity himself and to look at life’s setbacks and challenges with humor.

When you look at this bright-face, handsome, intelligent young man, chosen by Jon Stewart to replace him on The Daily Show, you would not have guessed he rose from extreme poverty. Nor would you have thought he had to be hidden by his parents and couldn’t play outside with the other children for fear his secret, or rather his parents’ secret would be found out.

His early childhood was filled with the normal hijinks of most little boys. By his own admission, he was “naughty as sh…” Trevor’s mother, however, was a strong Christian woman and a stern disciplinarian. She disciplined Trevor out of love. She didn’t give him an easy pass because he was her son — knowing the world wouldn’t either — a world that would often judge him because of his skin color or treat him with hostility.

Trevor’s story will make you laugh. It might make you cry. But it will certainly entertain and educate you about the harsh realities of a cruel and unjust society that values people based upon their skin color. But most of all, it will fill you with joy and hope as you read about the resilience of this young boy, and the steel-will of his mother determined to expose him to things beyond their grasp to give him the ability to dream and to soar.

This is a story of love, hope, and the power of unquenchable faith. It’s the story of a modern-day miracle. If you don’t believe me, read his story for yourself. Then drop me a line and tell me what you think.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Catherine

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