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Reading this book is like being in one long comedy session. Trevor Noah has done an amazing work of narrating his journey as a colored person in apartheid South Africa.

Similar to his comedy, Noah tells the stories of his childhood with a wit and a sarcasm, but also a realism and startling and brutal honesty. He seems to revel in pointing out what should be painfully obvious, but he does so with humility and deprecating humor.

He writes about being coloured [mixed race] in apartheid South Africa but more about his mother’s strength and resilience in raising him there.

The star of the book has to be his mother. Trevor Noah’s mom ninja, a starring, she is one amazing woman. After reading this book, I think I’m more a fan of Trevor’s mom more than Trevor. That mother rocks.

In this book, Trevor does an amazing job of narrating how growing up in Apartheid South Africa. As someone who grew up in a township during apartheid, I can relate to Trevor’s experiences.

There are so many short stories that Trevor takes us through, when he had to jump off a moving car with her mom, how her mom took him to various churches, white churches that took an hour and it’s over and black churches that took 5 hours on a Sunday, he narrates life in township, prison, domestic violence, life at school, there are many stories he takes you through.

He pokes jabs and makes fun of the stupidity of the apartheid system.

The thing about comedians is that even if they are funny, they are smart and have to research a lot of their content. This book is well researched and Trevor makes the serious matter of crime funny.

The final chapter is very emotional, it hits you like a smack on your face. Very heavy chapter, had to sit in the car for a while after reading it.



I truly enjoyed the book. There are times where I felt it was long winded in certain sections but I highly recommend it.

The book struggles to pick momentum in certain areas, his matric dance part was just too winded.

I’m not a fan of books being turned into movies, but I think this book will make an amazing movie, on condition that Trevor is the main actor and the Bomb Production crew produces it.

Emotional, entertaining, informative, motivational, humane and very funny.

What a story. What a life. What a mother. Wonderfully written.

Quotes that stood out for me:

  • “I wasn’t a lonely kid—I was good at being alone. I’d read books, play with the toy that I had, make up imaginary worlds. I lived inside my head. I still live inside my head. To this day you can leave me alone for hours and I’m perfectly happy entertaining myself. I have to remember to be with people.”
  • “People love to say, “Give 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. Working with Andrew is the first time in my life I realized you need someone from the privileged world to come to you and say, “Okay, here’s what you need, and here’s how it works.” Talent alone would have gotten me nowhere without Andrew giving me the CD writer. People say , “Oh, that’s a handout.” No. I still have to work to profit by it. But I don’t stand a chance without it.”
  • “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”
  • “We live in a world where we don’t see the ramifications of what we do to others because we don’t live with them. It would be a whole lot harder for an investment banker to rip off people with subprime mortgages if he actually had to live with the people he was ripping off. If we could see one another’s pain and empathize with one another, it would never be worth it to us to commit the crimes in the first place.”

  • “So many black families spend all of their time trying to fix the problems of the past. That is the curse of being black and poor, and it is a curse that follows you from generation to generation. My mother calls it “the black tax.” Because the generations who came before you have been pillaged, rather than being free to use your skills and education to move forward, you lose everything just trying to bring everyone behind you back up to zero.”
  • “Language brings with it an identity and a culture, or at least the perception of it. A shared language says ‘We’re the same.’ A language barrier says ‘We’re different.’ The architects of apartheid understood this. Part of the effort to divide black people was to make sure we were separated not just physically but by language as well…The great thing about language is that you can just as easily use it to do the opposite: convince people that they are the same. Racism teaches us that we are different because of the color of our skin. But because racism is stupid, it’s easily tricked.”

  • “Relationships are built in the silences. You spend time with people, you observe them and interact with them, and you come to know them—and that is what apartheid stole from us: time.”
  • “People always lecture the poor: “Take responsibility for yourself! Make something of yourself!” But with what raw materials are the poor to make something of themselves?”
  • “Racism teaches us that we are different because of the color of our skin. But because racism is stupid, it’s easily tricked.”

  • “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 have to 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.”
  • “In America the dream is to make it out of the ghetto. In Soweto, because there was no leaving the ghetto, the dream was to transform the ghetto.”

  • “My mom did what school didn’t. She taught me how to think.”
  • “The first thing I learned about having money was that it gives you choices. People don’t want to be rich. They want to be able to choose. The richer you are, the more choices you have. That is the freedom of money.”
  • “Comfort can be dangerous. Comfort provides a floor but also a ceiling.”

  • “The world doesn’t love you. If the police get you, the police don’t love you. When I beat you, I’m trying to save you. When they beat you, they’re trying to kill you.”
  • “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.”


3 thoughts on “Book Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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