Book Review : Born a Crime – Trevor Noah

Over the holidays, I read the book, “Born a Crime” by South African comedian, Trevor Noah. And what a wonderful read it is!

Trevor weaves stories from his childhood into the greater debate on social challenges and nation building so wonderfully that I found myself nodding as I turn every page, not to mention the fact that I was laughing after virtually every chapter.

Trevor shares various stories from his childhood, most of which are brutally honest about his upbringing. He chronicles life in the township from an early age with some harrowing stories, one of which where his mother threw him out of a moving taxi in order to save him from a dangerous situation. But there are also funny vignettes from his many debates – and hidings – with his mother. In truth, his childhood was just like those who grew up in sub-economic, pre-democracy South Africa.

But in his stories, he eloquently elaborates on the social challenges facing those who lived in the townships. Many of us came from single parent households, or were reared by our grandparents. Trevor’s biological father was Swiss-German, and because of the apartheid laws, he wasn’t allowed to be seen with him in public. Hence, apart from the weekly visits to him, he didn’t know his father very well, which is all too common in this situation. Later on, he outlines how abusive his stepfather was, to the point of shooting his mother in a rage-filled attack. Again, domestic violence is a blight on the South African psyche, and a phenomenon all too common in the townships.

Which leads to the 3rd area where Trevor’s book strikes a nerve. He very rightly notes that resources for underprivileged people are essential for poverty alleviation. In the book, he takes the analogy of ‘Teach a man to fish’ one step further, by noting that, without a fishing rod, the man won’t be able to fish anyway. And he’s 100% correct. Previously disadvantaged people need resources AS WELL AS education in order to break the cycle of poverty. This will be the best way to achieve sustainable growth and a prosperous South Africa for all. Of course, that would mean that the ‘Haves’ will have to give to the ‘Have nots’ like never before, but that’s another story for another post.

All in all, it is a wonderful book that is an easy read, and gives you a fantastic insight into his life.

Read this book.