Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Audiobook Review: "Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood" by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood Trevor Noah
Date Finished: January 25, 2017
Published: November 15, 2016
Genre: Memoir
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this audiobook if you like: The Daily Show, Stories about Apartheid, Humorous memoirs

Trevor Noah's unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle. 

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

My Thoughts:
I won't say that I'm a huge Trevor Noah fan.  Honestly, I find him a bit inexperienced to be hosting The Daily Show (although he is improving).  When this audiobook was first released, I was lukewarm...and then I fell for all the rave reviews and decided to give it a try.

And I'm so glad that I did.  First of all, I prefer this Trevor Noah to the one on TV--not that I especially dislike him on The Daily Show, but I think his immaturity (for lack of a better word) works better when he is telling his own story than when he's doing satire of current events.  I'm not going to say that I felt that Noah seems more mature after listening to his audiobook (he doesn't), but I felt that I was able to understand him a bit more.

I'm ashamed to admit that my knowledge of South Africa is limited.  I knew about Apartheid, of course. However, I didn't realize how life was for non-white South Africans after Aprartheid ended (hint: it was not totally dissimilar to life for African Americans, especially in the south, in the pre-Civil Rights era).  Noah is able to relate this world to the reader/listener with child-like innocence.  Well, maybe not so innocent....

One thing that this memoir does not have--and I appreciate its absence--is that Noah doesn't tell us how he was able to go from post-Apartheid South Africa to the United States and, ultimately, the desk at The Daily Show.  While this would have been expected, I think that its inclusion would have distracted from the central narrative (and, hey, it also gives Noah material for his next memoir!).

My only nitpick is that I would have organized some of the chapters a bit differently.  I'm not saying that the organization of the book is "bad," just that I would have made different choices.  As it is, there is a lot of looping back to certain topics and the narrative isn't strictly chronological.  If I had my dithers, I would have streamlined a bit more.

All in all, this is a book that lived up to its substantial hype.  Even if you don't watch The Daily Show, this is still a memoir that will both entertain and educate.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

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