Reader's Advisory Matrix: Born a Crime

Author: Trevor Noah
Title: Born a Crime
Publication date: November 15, 2016
Number of pages: 304
Geographic setting: South Africa
Time period: 1990s
Subject headings: Noah, Trevor--1984-.Comedians--Biography. Television personalities--Biography.
Type: Biography, Memoir
Series notes: N/A

Book summary:
As the current host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah is broadcast into millions of homes, sharing his specific worldview and experience with them. And despite "apartheid Africa" being a familiar idea, many know little to nothing about the lives of those who lived under it. As a mixed child, the son of a white Swiss man and black Xhosa woman, born in Johannesburg, Noah's very existence was illegal.

In this episodic memoir, Noah recounts his sometimes violent upbringing with his signature wit and self-deprecation, sparing little detail or embarrassment. He tells of having to hide away when seeing his white father and having to pretend to be the nanny's son because he was lighter than his mother. Noah writes of how powerful language was in his world, able to pretend to be someone else because he could speak their language. And instead of focusing on his rise to fame, Noah espouses the virtues of his fierce, devoted, loving mother and her fight to save him from the life she wanted him to rise above.

Reading elements:
 Characterization - As Noah himself is the author and holds little back, the reader comes away feeling as if they know him well. He deftly introduces those in his life without much judgment, instead letting their actions speak for themselves--even his mother, even though he obviously loves deeply.
 Learning/Experiencing - While the reader learns a lot about apartheid itself, Noah focuses more on how apartheid affected his upbringing, bringing the history to life through experience, rather than general facts.
 Pace - Because each chapter largely tells its own individual story, the pacing is fast. Noah doesn't follow his own life chronologically, instead creating overarching points with his stories.
 Tone - Reflective, Candid

Born in South Africa to a white man and black woman during apartheid, Trevor Noah's very existence was against the law. Using a freeform kind of structure, Noah uses humor to tell stories that would otherwise read as tragic and champions the unwavering character of his mother. A deeply informative yet also highly entertaining read.

Similar works:
Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (I hesitate to recommend this in general because of the recent allegations against him, but it fits as a recommendation based on the tone and subjects involved.)
Black, White, and Jewish by Rebecca Walker
My Booky Wook by Russell Brand


  1. Hi Rachel! Wow, this looks incredibly interesting! This book seems to prove that "fame isn't everything." It is fascinating to read that someone as famous as Trevor Noah had been through something that painful. I would never have known that had I not come across your review. It seems like a very real book and that provides a lot of depth and background information about his life. I think I might put this on my "to be read" list.

    1. What I liked was that it provides so much background on him and his opinions! You have such a good idea of where he comes from and what has shaped him.

  2. Excellent job! I listened to the audiobook and was a big fan of this memoir. Full points!

    1. I did too! I'm not a big audiobook listener, but I loved that I could know how the words were really pronounced, especially--and I found myself finding excuses to listen to the book outside of driving!


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