Book Review: Born a Crime

Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime tells the autobiographical story of Noah’s childhood and upbringing through apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. This novel was highly recommended and after almost a year of putting it off, I finally decided to read it.

Trevor Noah uses humour to portray the hardships and dangers of being a mixed-race child in apartheid South Africa. The title Born a Crime was the literal description of his state of being in South Africa, as it was a crime for a white man and a black woman to produce a child. He starts the novel by using humour to distract the audience from the dark themes of potential rape and murder when retelling a story of the time he had to jump out of a moving car with his mother and baby brother.

Trevor Noah attempts to tell his story in chronological order but fails to do so as we are given titbits of information before we arrive to it and are introduced to characters before formally being introduced to them. The structure confused me as I sometimes had to go back in order to move forward with full understanding.

Even though I would not call Trevor Noah a writer, I do think that he is a compelling storyteller (which is what makes him such a good comedian). Although I was left with many unanswered questions by the end of the novel, I was impressed by the story that was told.

Although Trevor Noah attempts to be the protagonist of the story, any attentive reader will know that the true protagonist is in fact Patricia Noah, Trevor Noah’s mum. Not only are we met with a powerful, humorous, brave and faithful woman, but we are given glimpses of her past and all she had to overcome to be the mother of a half white son in a country that made his existence a crime. Throughout the whole novel, my interest in the story was piqued at the mention of Patricia and her exploits in the tale. I do hope that we one day get a prequel to Born a Crime about Patricia’s life, one with the potential title of Birthed a Crime perhaps?

Overall, I will rate this novel a 3.5 out of 5 stars as I did enjoy various aspects of it and was moved by the humour that Trevor used to tell his story.


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Thank you for reading.

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