And the audiobook of the year goes to….. Trevor Noah!!
One of the comedy world’s brightest new voices, Trevor Noah is a light-footed but sharp-minded observer of the absurdities of politics, race and identity, sharing jokes and insights drawn from the wealth of experience acquired in his relatively young life. As host of the US hit show The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, he provides viewers around the globe with their nightly dose of biting satire, but here Noah turns his focus inward, giving listeners a deeply personal, heartfelt and humorous look at the world that shaped him.
Noah was born a crime, son of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the first years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, take him away.
A collection of 18 personal stories, Born a Crime tells the story of a mischievous young boy growing into a restless young man as he struggles to find his place in a world where he was never supposed to exist. Born a Crime is equally the story of that young man’s fearless, rebellious and fervently religious mother – a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence and abuse that ultimately threatens her own life.
Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Noah illuminates his curious world with incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a personal portrait of an unlikely childhood in a dangerous time, as moving and unforgettable as the very best memoirs and as funny as Noah’s own hilarious stand-up.
Eighteen stories, eight hours and forty-four minutes of listening perfection! I’ve long been a fan of Trevor Noah, but listening to this book has solidified my fangirling; I’m pretty sure I will be recommending this book for the rest of my life! It is, as the blurb states, a deeply personal story, through tears and laughter, Noah grants you an up close and detailed look at his life. Some of the stories are deeply emotive and thought-provoking, for example, when Noah talks about being born a crime, whilst other stories carry a lighter tone, such as Noah describing his first dating experience.
The first story opens with Noah talking about the climate of South Africa at the time of his birth, and I’m not talking about the weather!
“The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate, is what is was. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another so you can run them all.”
If you’re not familiar with the apartheid, at least the basics of it, educate yourself, I’m not going to rehash it, but Noah does, and he does it in such an engaging way. So much so that my twelve-year old son, who would choose the Xbox over a book any day, chose to sit with me and listen to Noah talk. I listened to this audiobook in one day, and it allowed some great discussion between me and my son, but it also showed him that with engaging content and a great narrator, he could enjoy books, and for that, I’ll be forever grateful to Noah. And when Noah spoke about people never being more reminded of their humanity than when they are taking a shit – comedy gold!
There’s so much fantastic content in this book, eight hours and forty-four minutes of it to be exact, one particular emotional strand to this book was when Noah spoke about his relationship with his dad.
“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.”
Noah revisits different topics over the course of these stories, even though each story has a purpose, it’s very much like Noah is talking to you, telling you bits and pieces of his life that make up who he is. As this is Noah narrating his own book, I was wrong to say “very much like” – it is Noah talking to you. And he speaks so much sense! There was so much entertainment found in this book, the stories of a young Noah dating, relaxing his hair. But there were also horrors, and this was found in the stories about his step-father, Able. Over the course of this book Noah covers a range of topics, and you take something away from each story. There’s so many moments in this book where you reflect on what Noah says, find yourself in strong agreement.
“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.”
What’s great about this book was how thought-provoking it was, Noah shares his viewpoint but let’s you know his viewpoint isn’t the only one. This was demonstrated beautifully in the story where he talks about his friend, Hitler, being a great dancer and their “go Hitler” chant. Hands up, how many of you were horrified that a parent named their child Hitler?
“The name Hitler does not offend a black South African because Hitler is not the worst thing a black South African can imagine. Every country thinks their history is the most important, and that’s especially true in the West. But if black South Africans could go back in time and kill one person, Cecil Rhodes would come up before Hitler. If people in the Congo could go back in time and kill one person, Belgium’s King Leopold would come way before Hitler. If Native Americans could go back in time and kill one person, it would probably be Christopher Columbus or Andrew Jackson.”
Nearly every country has its tragedy, and Noah reminds us just how limited our world view can be. This is done in a way that really gets you thinking about how much you don’t know and that there’s so many tragedies the world should have never forgotten, but they did! Linking quite nicely to this idea about names meaning different things to different people, Noah shares with us the reason his mother named him Trevor, and it’s relatable – let our sons be beholden to no fate.
The highlight, and the strongest theme throughout it all, was Noah’s relationship with his mother, it truly was a pleasure to hear about, it isn’t quoted in this review because you need to listen to Noah speak those parts, hear the love in his voice, and hear the important role she playing in raising a son any mother would be proud of. I highly recommend the audio for the fact that it is narrated by Noah, and no one can narrate his story better than he can; with every ounce of my being, I recommend you listen to these stories of a young South African, who was born a crime.