Book Review: Trevor Noah's Born a Crime


"As the British Empire fell, the Afrikaner rose up to claim South Africa as his rightful inheritance. To maintain power in the face of the country's rising restless black majority, the government realized they needed a newer and more robust set of tools. They set up a formal commission to go out to study institutionalized racism all over the world...They saw what worked and what didn't. Then they came back and published a report, the government used that knowledge to build the most advanced system of racial oppression known to man.


Trevor Noah brings raucous hilarity and sobering candor to his 2017 memoir, Born a Crime. An account of his childhood during South Africa’s apartheid, Noah shows us the household effects of acutely crafted institutionalized racism.


“Soweto was meant to be bombed---that's how forward thinking the architects of apartheid were. The township was a city unto itself, with a population of nearly one million. There were only two roads in and out. That was so the military could lock us in, quell any rebellion."

In this shocking memoir / Dear Mom letter, Noah’s story invites bewilderment, awe, sadness, and leaves you laughing until you cry. An emotional coming-of-age tale of race, class and colorism, Born a Crime is the perfect balance of historical context and comedic wit, yielding a true storytelling success.


"My mom would always say, 'My job is to feed your body, feed your spirit, feed your mind.'"

Quote. Unquote.

Excerpts from Born a Crime

Where most children are proof of their parents' love, I was the proof of their criminality.


That's how a police state works---everyone thinks everyone else is police.

They were ready to do me violent harm, until they felt that we were part of the same tribe, and then we were cool. That, and so many smaller incidents in my life, made me realize that the language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.


Taking action over and over again strengthens your will, nurtures the seed, and establishes the foundation for a new habit to grow.


Why teach a black child white things? Neighbors and relatives used to pester my mom. "Why do all this? Why show him the world when he's never going to leave the ghetto?" "Because," she would say, "even if he never leaves the ghetto, he will the that the ghetto is not the world.


He has been given more potential, but he has not been given more opportunity. He has been given an awareness of the world that is out there, but he has not been given a means to reach it.


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