Review of Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Why are you smiling? my daughter asks me. You never smile.
It's funny I say. The book.
Oh my daughter says. That's good.
And it is funny. It's almost light-hearted as it touches on the different aspects of growing up mixed-race in apartheid and early-post apartheid South Africa. Obviously, none of the racism, sexism, colourism, poverty, domestic violence, general violence, etc., is funny or light-hearted, but Noah's approach makes all the heavy stuff manageable. He pokes fun at the inane society he was born into, taking its power away by demonstrating how ridiculous apartheid and its consequences are. Some of it is shtick (what memoir isn't?), but it's a genuinely well-written, well-thought-out memoir about South Africa in transition, about his mother (who I loved), about being a kid and doing stupid things in a brutal world.
And, thankfully, it's not rags-to-riches, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps-despite-injustice read. As Noah himself writes:
People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.
Maybe some of our neo-con politicians need to sit down and think about that.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah went on sale November 15, 2016.
I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.