Trevor Noah, best known to Americans these days as the successor host of The Daily Show, has a fascinating life story. In his book, Born A Crime, he recounts stories of his life growing up as a non-white in South Africa at the end of apartheid.
He was born to a black mother and a white Swiss father. At the time, during apartheid, this was illegal. Because of his mixed race, he spent most of his life as an outsider. He didn’t fit in with the whites, he didn’t fit in with the blacks, he didn’t even feel like he fit in with the other mixed race (Coloured) kids.
He tells about his life as a young child — going to church three times every Sunday, being pushed out of a moving car by his mother to save their lives from men who were sure to kill them because of their ethnicity. He tells about his school life and raising hell as an adolescent — shoplifting, running from police, building a pirated music empire complete with his own middlemen.
It is also the story of Trevor’s relationship with his mother. She is a fierce woman full of wisdom and advice who instilled the belief in her son that he could do anything, be anyone. And at a time when she had no reason to believe apartheid would end. She showed him a world outside the black ghettos, taught him English as a first language, and pushed him hard out of unconditional love.
“Learn from your past, and be better because of your past. But don’t cry about your past. Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you, but don’t hold onto it. Don’t be bitter.”
The stories in this book are funny, heartwarming, and tragic. While not told in a chronological order, he still manages to create a cohesive story of what it was like in his world. It made me laugh, it broke my heart, and it made me reflect on my own life.
With each story, he gives unique insight into the politics and social aspects of racism, class, and a country struggling with democracy. This book taught me a lot about the intricacies of apartheid and how it affected the lives of ordinary people. Trevor Noah brought to light the foolishness of the unsustainable and sometimes arbitrary rules and decisions based on race.
We live in a world where we don’t see the ramifications of what we do to others because we don’t live with them.
If we could see one another’s pain, and empathize with one another, it would never be worth it to us to commit the crimes in the first place.
I highly recommend this book. It’s well-written and thought-provoking with a large dose of humor.