Born a Crime is a best selling collection of 18 essays written by Trevor Noah, comedian and host of the Daily Show. His first book describes his childhood and experiences born during apartheid and growing up in the early days of freedom. Although I have an copy of the book, I was lucky to get an audio version (thanks May) and it is one of the best audiobooks that I have listened to.
The title, Born a Crime, refers to his being born to a black mother and a white Swiss father. At the time, this was a crime punished by prison time so he spent his young years mainly inside being shielded from the law. He spoke of his struggles with his identity as a black boy when he was lighter than his cousins and friends.
Noah is a great performer. He told of his attempted kidnapping where he was thrown out of a car and shared amusing stories of an active childhood including the time he stole batteries, when he ended up in jail after he “borrowed” a car from his step-father’s shop and how he avoided the corporal punishment from his mother who wanted to bring him up right. He grew up poor and although it is sad to hear how his mother struggled to feed her family, the way he tells the story of eating caterpillars was funny. He also shared the experience of his first date when he arrived at a dance and learned that he did not speak the same language as the beautiful girl he had brought. With each story, the reader can imagine the scene and the audio version makes the listener want to slow down and enjoy the narration.
Although he saw his white father, he had limited access to him. His mother was devoutly religious and dragged him along to church, sometimes even attending 3 different church services on a Sunday. She protected him and worked hard to support him, as a single mother, before marrying the car mechanic who turned their worlds upside down with substance abuse, anger and violence.
Born a Crime was a terrific book and I would highly recommend the audio version. Memoirs are my favourite genre to listen to while driving and I especially enjoy it when the author narrates their own book. Noah’s enthusiasm and humour is apparent and I appreciated the voices he used when speaking for his mother and the others characters in his tales.