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Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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By: burgundy bug

“Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah

Source: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah | Penelope Peru Photography

Late night talk show host, Trevor Noah, shares the touching story of growing up in South Africa during the downfall of apartheid, finding a glimmer of humor in some of the most traumatic childhood experiences in his autobiography, “Born a Crime.”

A partial review of “Born a Crime” also appeared in The Burgundy Zine #6: Summer.

A Bit of Context…

Comedian and host of The Daily Show,” an award winning late night talk show on Comedy Central, Noah was born in South Africa as mixed child during apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial segregation in South and West Africa. He was quite literally born a crime.

Since the Population Registration Act of 1950, South Africans were funneled into four categories based on their race: bantu, colored, white, or Asian, according Encyclopedia Britannica.

As Noah details throughout his autobiography, “Born a Crime,” this segregation lead to inevitable prejudice, bloodshed, economic injustice, and wreaked emotional havoc throughout the areas affected by apartheid.

Born a Crime

Read at your own risk!

(Hey, don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

Born a Crime” highlights some of Noah’s most defining moments throughout his coming of age – being thrown out of a moving bus that was hijacked by hostiles, taking a shit on the kitchen floor in front of his blind great-grandmother, being betrayed by his beloved dog, first crushes, reconnecting with his father, hustling bootleg goods on the streets, and the chaos of having an abusive step father.

“I think God made humans shit in the way we do because it brings us back down to earth and gives us humility. I don’t care who you are, we all shit the same. Beyoncé shits. The pope shits. The Queen of England shits. When we shit we forget our airs and our graces, we forget how famous or how rich we are. All of that goes away.”

Trevor Noah – Born a Crime

Where others may shudder with trauma and withhold the experiences in silence, Noah manages to weave humor and hope throughout his narration of the story. The author even manages to extract entertainment and gratitude in spending every Sunday in transit to marathon church sessions with his mother as a child, excitedly describing his young admiration for Biblical tales in a way that makes the reader go, “Damn, now I kinda want to read the Bible, too!”

The complex, tough-love, endearing dynamic between Noah and his mother drives the narrative. Depicted as a strong willed, hard headed, devout believer who strives to shatter the racial boundaries imparted on their country through clever rebellion, his mother’s influence is one of the book’s many highlights.

“Born a Crime” is eye-opening, heartwarming, and delightfully refreshing. Noah’s optimism, his comedic charm, and passion leak from each word on the page, leaving you hungry for just another taste as you close the book. It will forever change your outlook on inequality and simultaneously teach you about apartheid from an intriguing, candid, first-person perspective.

The world needs more Trevor Noahs.

Bug’s Two Cents

I couldn’t have been more captivated by “Born a Crime.” In fact, Noah had me by chapter one, paragraph two, in which he writes, “I was nine years old when my mother threw me out of a moving car.”

Wait, what!? Needless to say, I purchased the book immediately and read through 50 pages in one sitting, right there in the bookstore.

Going into “Born a Crime,” I knew who Noah was – or at least, I thought I did. I had enjoyed watching his show from time to time on Comedy Central, but I had never really taken the time to learn about who he was off camera.

After completing the book, I have a whole new perspective of Noah. He’s far more than a talk show host, a comedian, and an actor; he’s unbelievably brave, clever, and impossibly optimistic.

As much as I wanted to stretch the book for as long as I could, clinging to each page long enough for each word to linger, I was hooked. Couldn’t put it down. Needless to say, I read through it in nine days.

“Born a Crime,” made me laugh, cry, and left me wide-eyed to the horrifying reality of apartheid – a socio-economically devastating political period in which I had never really learned or heard much about. The book has made me think a lot about racial segregation and annexation as a whole.

Hands down, “Born a Crime” gets a five out of five from me.

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burgundy bug


A cynical optimist and mad scientist undercover, burgundy bug is the editor, graphic designer, webmaster, social media manager, and primary photographer for The Burgundy Zine. Entangled in a web of curiosity, burgundy bug’s work embodies a wide variety of topics including: neuroscience, psychology, ecology, biology, cannabis, reviews, fashion, entertainment, and politics. You can learn more about working with burgundy bug by visiting her portfolio website: burgundybug.com

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