Checkout out our review of Trevor Noah’s new book, “Trevor Noah: Born A Crime”!
Trevor Noah, the South African comedian that made the world self-reflect while laughing, has written a vivid memoir that tells the coming-of-age experiences he has undergone growing up during apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid, a system that divided social groups in South Africa in order to create a racial hierarchy and perpetuate white supremacy, is a system that has had profound effects on Noah’s ability to identify himself. As the son of a white man and a black woman during South African Apartheid, Noah truly was born a crime. He begins his memoir with a piece of legislation from the apartheid era of South Africa, which reads: “Immorality Act – To prohibit illicit carnal intercourse between Europeans and Natives and other acts in relation thereto.” Through comedic anecdotes, deep and violent experiences, as well as a systematic analysis of the institutions that perpetuated apartheid, Noah paints a colorful story of a childhood in South Africa, as he searches for identity, belonging, and freedom.
Noah has a great ear for dialogue, and his ability to pick out witty parts of conversation help him to engage the reader. His writing style doesn’t seem to be a constant; at times his writing is smooth and balanced, while there are other instances in which Noah seems to be forcing colloquialisms into his language. While the author has a deep and reflective way of looking at the systematic racism present during and post-apartheid, he does not recognize his own privilege as a light-skinned person strongly enough to deserve to be crowned as a true contemplator. The only times where he does recognize his own privilege are anecdotal, and not at all an attempt to dismantle any sort of systematic entitlement.
Noah’s ability to recall comedic anecdotes, as well as find a balance between humor and severity, are useful skills that Noah uses in order to create a narrative which portrays growth and development, despite a sense of light-hearted isolation. The author’s single most powerful stylistic device is his ability to write characters that emote visceral reactions to the line of narrative. This talent of Noah’s is most evident in the mother character of the story, who is absolutely fearless, and provides for the reader, as well as for Noah, a foundational ideology on which to build the plot of the story, since it is the ideology of this character which Noah writes that the plot’s ideas of morality and ethics derive from.
Noah’s Born A Crime is a good novel/memoir in that it gives the reader an important story, one which questions systematic racism, belonging, coming-of-age, and Blackness. Though I think Noah’s lack of control of language, as well as the occasionally scattered narrative, are what stops this novel from being a great story. Nevertheless, his background as a comedian as well as his deep inspections of the institutions which rule South Africa, and much of the white-dominated globe, create an important memoir that teaches and entertains the reader simultaneously.