Born a Crime – Trevor Noah


“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” – James Baldwin

A good book most times is just about it being as honest as it can be. I can’t begin to explain how stoked I am that I began my 2019 reading season with, ‘Born a Crime’. I’ve recently come to explore the work of Trevor Noah. I knew some of the stories he has written of through the documentary, “You laugh but it’s true”.

This book is a unique meld of wit and tragedy and I’ve never felt so found or represented in that genre as I have with this book. It takes you through a very fullfilling journey, wherein you feel witness to situations, this is only possible because of the ease Trevor has with his audience/ readers. His experiences bring context to a way of living that we are mostly in the dark about, and I don’t mean the mainstream culture and aspirations but the details of everyday life. This book bares the vulnerability of the author as well as his humour. It is a layered book that talks comfortably (the kind of comfort you gather when it’s a lived situation, wherein you know it’s bones) about racism, love trials of a teenager, domestic abuse, apartheid, being an outsider, the feeling of belonging, culture and language, his upbringing, his mother and mostly his respect and love for life.

“People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”

“Being chosen is the greatest gift you can give to another human being.”

“I became a chameleon. My color didn’t change, but I could change your perception of my color. If you spoke Zulu, I replied to you in Zulu. If you spoke to me in Tswana, I replied to you in Tswana. Maybe I didn’t look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you.”

“My mom did what school didn’t. She taught me how to think.”

“The world doesn’t love you. If the police get you, the police don’t love you. When I beat you, I’m trying to save you. When they beat you, they’re trying to kill you.”

I don’t remember the last time I read a book that was so latched into love, even through all its pain and struggles. It makes you want to reach out. It makes you want to educate yourself and it makes you understand what strings us all together as humans. That we’re different yet the same.

Buy this book, let it into your life, experience it – laugh, cry, be astonished that you’re able to do both for a tragic situation. Realise that perspective is an immense gift and that the power to educate oneself is even greater.

Also if you fall in love with the book, much like I did or even if you just want to explore more of Trevor Noah’s work. Do make it a point to watch – “Afraid of the Dark”, “Son of Patricia” and “You laugh but it’s true”. They are all available on Netflix. Not sponsored by these humans but highly recommended by me.

If you’re Native American and you pray to the wolves, you’re a savage. If you’re African and you pray to your ancestors, you’re a primitive. But when white people pray to a guy who turns water into wine, well, that’s just common sense.

— Trevor Noah