It is hard to find a South African who does not know Trevor Noah, the country’s national treasure who now graces the international screen. In 2016, Trevor Noah took a step back from stand-up comedy to permanently establish his jokes and South African childhood with ink on paper. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood stands as Noah’s autobiographical masterpiece. 

With only 304 pages, Noah manages to take readers on the hilarious, fascinating, sentimental, and fervent journey of his childhood. The combination of humor and emotion that bursts from the pages of this book makes it truly captivating. As Noah recounts the journey of his youth,, he allows the reader to see into his past in such a vulnerable manner that one cannot help but feel that they are part of the story.

This recount of his life is filled with flames, failed youthful romances, and mischievous quests all wrapped together in laughter, accomplishing something very few books have managed to do. Through these life stories, he subtly weaves a vivid image of South African life. As a South African, reading this book was bittersweet from the beginning to the end.

Noah speaks of fascinating and kind people, a South African characteristic that rests in all of us. He also delves into the violence and anger that has grown around such kindness, a chemical reaction formulated by Apartheid that continues to fester and infect so many lives. It is a kindness and violence that South Africans know too well. The beauty and pain are masterfully transcribed through one person’s life, allowing the individual to fade into the backdrop and creating a book that describes South Africa truthfully and passionately. 

As one delves into the chronological stories of Trevor Noah’s life growing up in South Africa, one gains insight into people and places that may never be physically seen. The life and heart of the township Alexandra are described with such beauty that readers become disheartened that all the people on the street, with their fascinating tales, will likely never cross their paths. The complexity of navigating life with a black mother and a white father during Apartheid, while coated with funny anecdotes, is described in such unconventional beauty.

To read this book is to fall in love with two things: South Africa and Patricia Noah, Trevor Noah’s mother. The book’s soul is that of Patricia Noah, a woman of intelligence, beauty, strength, passion, and love. Readers should thank Trevor Noah for creating this book in a way that passes on his mother’s wisdom, advice, and wit. This wonderful book is an easy read, filled with twists and turns, evoking laughter and tears, shock and anger. But most wonderfully, it offers a deeper understanding of the heart and soul of South Africa. 

Special thanks are owed to Pan Macmillan for their generosity in recommending and providing the book.

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