Book Review: Born A Crime

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We all know the saying,” when life hands your lemons, make lemonade.”
What do we say when life hands different colours?
Ranging shades; some bright and others blue. Others dull and not so blue. Roses are red, and violets are blue, so?
To answer this question one ought to speak a language I will let you know all about.
“Language, even more than colour, defines who you are to people.”
― Trevor Noah, Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
Trevor Noah is the host of the Daily show known for his candid demeanour as he shares on absurdities around the globe.
He describes a raw account of life in one of the most colourful sensitive times in history was Apartheid. Trevor Noah tells us all about it in a slick and yet emotional tone. (I highly recommend one to listen to the audiobook if an opportune moment presents itself)
In the lens of this Noah family, the focus is Trevor; Born to a white Swiss-German father and a black Xhosa. Trevor Noah, born in the face of two colours which by the way was an abomination. (insert heavy Nigerian accent)
He describes snapshots from his life where he is forced to say indoors and make friends with characters in books and make imaginary friends; while his mother employs all sorts of incidental measures to hide him away from the wrath of the law; because it is a clearly black white, affair, nothing less, nothing else because just like he says;
“But the real world doesn’t go away. Racism exists. People are getting hurt. And just because it’s not happening to you, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. And at some point, you must choose; black or white, pick a side. You can try to hide from it. You can say, oh I don’t take sides, but at some point, life will force you to pick a side.”
― Trevor Noah, Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
He describes how his mother picks a side; sometimes it meant denying him, throwing him out of a moving vehicle and other interactions with mother in a collection of 18-person essays that spell out mischief, unbridled confidence, and candid jokes.
For example, when he pisses right before his grandmother and then prayers are held to cast out these “perceived evil spirits” or when he eats mopane worms which describes as a meal for the poorest of people. He describes the means he pursues to make ends meet from learning how to disc jockey at gigs in a shanty town of Alexandra also known as Gomorrah for the wildest parties as well as heading a team with killer dancers.
But it all comes back to the language of colour.(In my head, I think that this can be a title to one of the chapters in the book.)Nevertheless, One of the greatest truths he writes about on language, (which is where this post started) is “Nelson Mandela once said, ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’ He was so right. When you make the effort to speak someone else’s language, even if it’s just basic phrases here and there, you are saying to them, ‘I understand that you have a culture and identity that exists beyond me. I see you as a human being”
Trevor also teaches you how to become a chameleon;
“if you spoke to me Zulu, I replied to you in Zulu.” if you spoke to me Tanami, I replied to you in Tswana.Maybe I didn’t look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you.
Trevor grows up in different neighbourhoods and he stops seeing his biological father when her mother marries her abusive boyfriend, Abel whose Tsonga name means “be afraid”. This man throws fiery darts of anger as he struggles with acute drinking problems’ mother endures his wrath until one day she calls it quits, after him drinking away her money as she became the provider in the home. She even bears a child for him.
What I believe Trevor is saying is be careful when hanging out with the angry because you may get hit by a stray bullet.
A small spoiler. Guess how Abel repays back Patricia who now a new husband by has aimlessly shooting their family and one of the bullets passes through Patricia Noah’s head. His mother, Personally I think she should win the mother of the year award (if there’s one). He says
“My mom did what school didn’t. She taught me how to think.”
She is a staunch religious woman instils in his reverence of God and stubborn Trevor refuses to acknowledge this until she survives by a whisker, that’s one miracle Trevor writes with a profound love. In fact, he dedicates this whole book to his mother
“For my mother. My first fan. Thank you for making me a man.”

This book is an amazing read and can be purchased online and if you are in East Africa Turn the Page has you covered.

BY Mugabi Patsy (

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