[692]: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

A personal and political account of what it’s like to grow up in South Africa.

Born A Crime
by Trevor Noah

It is sometimes weird to see him at the desk where Jon Stewart used to slay conservative politicians and pundits alike. In all honesty, I’ve never really acclimated to seeing him there. I’m a big fan of Jon Stewart. He is the one who got me interested in American politics after all. Satire or not, The Daily Show was even more educational than any other cable news on air.

When I learned that Stewart was quitting and was being replaced by this unknown comedian, I was saddened. Because I knew things will never be the same. I’m not gonna lie, I have not watched a single episode of the show ever since he left. Aside from snippets shown on their Facebook page, I’ve never actually sat through a full episode. So when the opportunity to read and review this book came my way, I had to grab the chance. Because I wanted to know a little about this man. I wanted to know how a South African comedian charmed his way into the annals of a sometimes entertaining, more often frustrating American political satire arena.

During the presidential election campaign, he’s become more prominent because he assumed Jon Stewart’s role with great gusto. He was funny and candid; harsh and honest. But as I observed him during the few moments that I’ve seen his shtick, there’s still a bit of him that’s a little uncomfortable. Like, he couldn’t fully play the role of a man commenting on the absurdities of the American politics and life. Like he doesn’t belong.

 I’ve never seen his comedic act before hosting The Daily Show, but it is more or less in this book where he recounts the tales of growing up during and after apartheid. And the stories are funny, sometimes bleak, and in turns, alarming. He tells us that because he was born out of wedlock and a “half-white”, “half-black”, he didn’t really find acceptance.

The only way he could spend time with his Swiss-national father was away from the scrutiny of the public. And because he’s light-skinned, they sometimes resorted to pretending his mother was his nanny. His world was inside the gates of their home because his grandmother feared he would get abducted. He spent most of his time alone but he claimed he was never lonely. He read a lot of books and was perfectly comfortable being in the company of himself. Language, he learned early on, was the key to hiding the fact that he didn’t belong in either white or black community. Because if he could speak a variety of languages, kids could respect him.

If you spoke to me in 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.”

His mother was, by all accounts, the constant figure in his life that made him the man that he is. A woman who never lost faith in her God no matter the odds. The woman who took her kids to three churches on Sundays, whom at one point, threw Trevor off the bus, then jumped with his brother in her arms, to get away from an inevitable rape, and worst, death. She was a woman with conviction who knew what she wanted even if it meant a lifetime of ridicule and persecution because she’d “born a crime”, a half-white child whose Swiss-German father could never really own him. And amidst poverty, hardship, and violence, raised Trevor and his brother with the same dreams and hopes as any loving mother would do.

“For my mother. My first fan. Thank you for making me a man,”

he writes in his dedication. It is true that without his mother and her defiant spirit, he’d never be where he is right now. One of the biggest South African exports, a boy who grew up in small towns and one who was always looking for a place to belong.

  • Wow, I have no idea who this man because I don’t get American TV, but your review of his books makes me want to find out more about his life.
    This would make a great Guest Review on Literary Flits if you’d like to share it there 😉

  • I am South African, so him replacing Jon Stewart was a pleasant surprise. I live in Australia now, and have for some time, so I don’t know his comedy nor can I watch him on the show unless it’s bits posted wherever. I’ve seen this book around and it made me curious about him — I know nothing about him at all — so knowing how his mother shaped him is a bit of insight I like. I need to add to this to my TBR I think. Great review!

  • Gorgeous review Joy. <3 I'm so glad you ended up enjoying this one a lot. Since I don't live in the US, I don't watch this show at all, lol. But curious about it and the host 🙂 This book do sound pretty amazing too. Thank you for sharing about it. <3

  • This book! I hope to get my review up sometime soon, but I enjoyed this one as well. I had no idea of the extent of Trevor’s past.

  • I don’t generally watch late night TV – ah, the life of a teacher – so I can’t say I know much about Jon Stewart or Trevor Noah, but I think the title of this one is very attention grabbing. I believe I first heard about this one when Noah was talking about why he chose Born a Crime as a title.

  • While I wasn’t ever a big Jon Stewart follower, I respected and appreciated his view, and I’ve found much the same with what I’ve seen of Trevor Noah. I’ve been very intrigued by this book since I read about his birth, and really want to read it soon. You’ve more than sold me on his mother, to be sure. 🙂

  • Joy, this sounds like a read that is full of tiny and large wisdoms and lots of heartfelt moments. Thanks for putting this on my radar and you thoughts on it!!

  • I have this on audiobook. I plan to listen to it very soon. I’m a huge Daily Show fan. I was worried about him taking over too. (I really wanted Jessica Williams to get the part after Sam Bee got her own show on TBS). I have watched him since he started. It took him a little bit to find his grove, but I think he has really taken ownership of the show. I’m listening to The Daily Show (The Book) An Oral History. I think you would love it. It starts at the beginning, but doesn’t cover a lot about the Craig Kilborn age. Mostly they cover him to cover the transition to Stewart. I’m not done with it, so I don’t know how far it will go to. My guess will be through the transition to Trevor. They interviewed a ton of people for this book. Tons of comments. You have me very excited to get to Trevor’s book. I might tackle it after I do a review book (I can’t behind on them LOL).

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads

  • In all honesty, I stopped watching that show way back before Jon even left. It just sort of fizzled from my mind and I forgot about it 🙁 But good for Trevor and hope he grows in the new position. This book seems really interesting too. I’d love to read his story and learn more about the man. As usual, thank you for your wonderful and honest review.

  • Karen

    I’ve been watching him since Jon left, and he’s a little uneven, but I think he’ll find his footing.

    I really want to read this and I’m thinking it might be good on audio.

    Karen @For What It’s Worth

  • I love Trevor. I was sad when we lost Stewart too, but Trevor hit the ground running. I’ve seen several reviews on this book lately and I’m insanely curious.

  • Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    This is by far my favorite review of yours. It’s SO well-written and I really love how you lay out this book while also injecting your own personal experience with Comedy Central/Jon Stewart/Trevor Noah. Like you, I’ve seen clips of Noah’s hosting but never actually sat down to watch a full episode. I know he has many fans, but also many critics–I’ve read a LOT of very critical claims about his hosting, in fact, so it’s interesting to see a different side of him emerge with this book and review. I’ll definitely need to check this out, so thanks for putting it on my radar, Joy! Amazing review, dear!!

  • Jazmen

    This sounds like quite the read, Joy. AND, to be honest I never would’ve though to pick it up before.

  • shootingstarsmag

    I’ve seen bits and pieces, but I’ve never really watched it the way I watched Jon Stewart. I’ll admit i didn’t watch Stewart every single night either, but Trevor far less. It’s nothing personal, but I did love John Stewart. At any rate, I really want to read this one. It sounds really fascinating!


  • oh this sounds very interesting, and I do love the idea of the setting here. I always like learning new things especially about such a popular figure that is inspiring.

  • *sigh* I love and miss Jon Stewart, I’ve not been able to warm to Trevor Noah in the role I’m afraid; I much prefer to watch John Oliver’s show instead.

    I know a number of South Africans (most are a generation up from me in age), all but one of them is white. And all the white ones are appallingly racist. I’m not sure if it’s a generational thing or a culture thing, but geeeeesh the stuff that I have heard come out of their mouths makes me so uncomfortable. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to live through apartheid, but I guess I’ve met the product of the other side of that. And it’s pretty gross.

    It sounds like he got through it though, for better or worse. I do like an underdog story, maybe I should pay more attention to him!

  • An important topic there. I didn’t know about this one

  • I had no idea he had retired…but then I do not watch the show. So maybe I had seen a snippet somewhere

  • I’ve been seeing quite a bit of this book lately. Can’t say I’ve heard of the man, but it sounds interesting!

  • I keep seeing this book advertised every time I log onto Audible, but never checked to see what it was about. Didn’t know Jon Stewart retired, and that Noah was his replacement. Sounds like he led an interesting life, and triumphed in the face of prejudice. I like it when someone oppressed comes out on top. Wonderful review, Joy! 🙂

  • This sounds great. I similarly have not accepted Noah as a great replacement, mainly because he refuses to bring the ranting and raving that Jon Stewart never shied away from. I am interested in his life story though I may or may not pick this up. Excellent review!!

  • I recently picked up the audio for this one. I saw that it was getting excellent reviews but to be honest I know nothing about this man. I never watched The Daily Show so that doen’t mean much to me. It does sound like he has lived an interesting life and I am looking forward to this. Glad you enjoyed it. Great review!

  • I’ll admit that I had the same attitude toward him that you did but over the last political season, I’ve become more and more curious about him. This book sounds like a good read and it’s going on my list. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Joy. As always, you do good work!

  • I’ve been seeing this book around, but I honestly had no idea what it was. Now I’m definitely intrigued.

  • I have been seeing this around a lot lately. It sounds like a wonderfully inspiring story. Congrats on already reading more nonfiction in 2017! I know it was one of your goals.

  • kindlemom1

    Wow this sounds like it would be an amazing story to read. I couldn’t even imagine. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Oh wow, this sounds like a very difficult life to live. It’s amazing that he has written about it and shared about it. Thank you so much for introducing me to this novel, otherwise I would never have known. It’s on my TBR. I can’t even imagine having to pretend your mother was a nanny… and the struggle of trying to fit in must have been so hard to carry.

  • Jasprit

    I love all these new books that you bring on my radar Joy, and its always with books that I typically don’t read, or wouldn’t have considered. But this book sounds like it leaves such a great impression with you, that I will certainly consider giving it a go! Lovely review as always! 🙂

  • I love Jon Stewart too and was saddened by the news of his departure but I think Trevor is doing a good job in his own way too. I had heard much about his story growing up in SA, which is technically one of my neighboring countries, so I definitely want to read more about him. I’m glad this was a good read and that you learned more about him.