Review: Born a Crime

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Trevor Noah

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Publication date: 15-Nov-2016
Date Finished: 13-Jan-2017
Format: Audiobook
Pages: 288
Genres: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Biography, Audiobook, Humor
ISBN: 9780399588174
Source: Audible
Rating:4 star
Reading Challenges: Goodreads, Beat the Backlist


The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

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.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love. ”



The Daily Show with John Stewart was a show I began watching religiously during its last two years. In 2015 Trevor Noah took over the show, and my love for it never wavered. Trevor Noah is a hilarious comedian who gives The Daily Show an outsider’s perspective. Once I found out about Noah’s memoir, I had to get a hold of it. Then when I heard that the audiobook was narrated by him, I jumped on that one too.

Trevor Noah has a wonderful voice and as he is also a TV host I was able to imagine him telling me his stories directly. For a couple weeks, I listened to parts of his memoirs for a half hour or so before I went to bed. This voice kept me interested instead of lulling me to sleep. The excitement and struggle he faced in his life showed through his text and narration.

Prior to this book, the apartheid was something I had never heard of before. While this is not necessarily the main topic of the memoir, it stood prominently throughout the book as a struggle Noah had to face. The apartheid of South Africa is not something that was taught in American schools when I feel it should be. It was the perfect portrayal of systemic racism, and by educating the young on the awful effects of it, we can grow to be a more tolerant people.

There were many quotes in Born a Crime I want to be immortalized, one, in particular, is, “We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and depending on where you came from, your imagination can be quite limited.” This truly shows the disparities around the world, and within each country itself. As Noah tells in his book, the whites of South Africa can dream far and wide, whereas the blacks can only dream so far because that is all they know they can. The same can be seen within the United States as well. There are children in certain areas whose only goals are to graduate from high school, and that is as far as their imagination can take them because of the community they reside within.

Overall Noah’s memoir is a wonderfully written, entertaining collection of memories that span Noah’s life in South Africa. I recommend this book to those who adore the Daily Show, those who want to learn more about the effects of the South African apartheid, and those who enjoy celebrity memoirs.

About the Author

Trevor Noah is a South African comedian, television and radio host, and actor. He currently hosts The Daily Show, a late-night television talk show on Comedy Central. -information from Goodreads

2 thoughts on “Review: Born a Crime

  1. Wonderful review! I’ve had my eye on this one because I was really intrigued about a comedian memoir that tackles such tough issues! I must admit that I am not familiar with any of his work (The Daily Show) but I’m sure that is not necessary to enjoy the book?

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