Happy New Year!
I can’t believe I’m churning out my first review of the year on the 15th day of January. So much for new year goals. Nonetheless, I’m happy to share my review of BORN A CRIME by TREVOR NOAH with you all.
Trevor Noah is the most successful comedian in Africa and is the host of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Noah joined The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in 2014 as a contributor.
I particularly enjoyed reading this book because of the easy humour. The book gave me a deeper insight into the life of Trevor Noah as I barely knew anything about him. Prior to reading this book, I only knew him as some guy who cracked jokes, hosted the DAILY SHOW and also as the guy who was in Conversation with my favourite author – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – a discussion on straddling multiple cultural identities.
Trevor Noah opens his memoir with a story about being thrown from a car by his mother. And I think this was to prepare us for the unique relationship he had with his mother as the story ends and begins with the both of them. Trevor’s mother was obviously the center of his world.
I love that this book made me learn and know more about apartheid South-Africa. I’ve seen movies like SARAFINA and LONG WALK TO FREEDOM but Trevor’s book gave me a different and refreshing understanding. He talked about the languages and how it played a major role in the lives of Black South-Africans. He talked about the segregation in town planning. Those who lived in the ghetto and Soweto and even the coloured people who felt really Superior to the black people.
The difference between British racism and Afrikaner racism was that at least the British gave the natives something to aspire to. If they could learn to speak correct English and dress in proper clothes, if they could Anglicize and civilize themselves, one day they might be welcome in society. The Afrikaners never gave us that option. British racism said, “If the monkey can walk like a man and talk like a man, then perhaps he is a man”. Afrikaner racism said, “Why give a book to a monkey”
Trevor’s mother had a HUGE IMPACT in his life and the man that he has since become. I feel like he may have turned out differently if his mother had not been involved in his upbringing. Imagine being brought up by a mother who is obsessed with Jesus, liberal and strict and who does not care about societal limitations?
At the date assigned to discuss this book at the book club, we saw Trevor Noah’s 2018 documentary on Netflix – SON OF PATRICIA. In that documentary, he talked a lot about his experiences with racism and how his mother’s advice has since made him “care-less” about personal negative racial experiences. She once told him something along the lines of – “take the racial hate, mix it with the love of Jesus and send it back to them”. It was easy to see his mother’s faith and its impact on Trevor Noah.
Most of the incidents Trevor described, including stories of his family members will forever remain memorable to me; like the incident that happened when he was home alone with his great grand mother and didn’t want to use the outhouse. I had such a good laugh!
One point stood out for me in this book, and that is the issue of BLACK TAX;
So many black families spend all of their time trying to fix the problems of the past. That is the curse of being black and poor, and it is a curse that follows you from generation to generation. My mother calls it “the black tax”. Because the generation who came before you have been pillaged, rather than being free to use skills and education to move forward, you lose everything just trying to bring everyone behind you back up to zero.
I read the above paragraph over and over again. Trevor couldn’t have said it better. Most Africans can relate to this. When I raised this point at the bookclub, everyone agreed and came up with personal stories to reinstate this sad reality. This book has a lot of hidden gems and hard truths. You’ll laugh but it’s true.
What I didn’t like however, was how Trevor’s book didn’t cover his career growth. How did he become THE TREVOR NOAH? After high school, Trevor talked about hanging out in “the hood” with Sizwe and others for about two years. We didn’t get to know if he went to the University or how he began his comedy career. I want to believe that it wasn’t the focus of the book and we may get to know about that in his second memoir – that’s if there would be any.
In my Book Club, we had a debate and the question was :
Do you think the issue of racism has been over-flogged? Should more books, documentaries and movies on racial issues be produced? Both the FOR team and the AGAINST team gave strong points. And I would love to hear yours?
Share your thoughts below – about the debate topic and about the book if you’ve read it!
P/S: After reading this book, I can now say : I KNOW TREVOR NOAH! I know that he speaks EIGHT LANGUAGES. I know that he sold pirated CD’s as a kid. I know he once “dated” a girl who couldn’t understand or speak English. I know he once sneaked into a chapel and ate the entire “body” and “blood” of Jesus Christ before Eucharist. And. I know that he is the SON of PATRICIA NOMBUYISELO NOAH.