This weekend after a long spell of mediocre books, I finished “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah and I was moved to recommend this book to the readers of my blog. The book is a series of short stories about a “colored” boy growing up in South Africa.
You probably know Trevor as the 33 year old host of “The Daily Show”- a funny comedian from South Africa who loves to challenge the political status quo. But did you know that his birth in 1984 was actually considered a crime? Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black South African mother at a time when such a union was punishable under the “Immorality Act of 1927” with up to five years in prison.
Trevor’s stories are sharp edged snapshots of his life. They explain the culture and thinking of a bi-racial young man growing up in post apartheid South Africa. And they are hilarious. My favorite short story was called “Trevor, Pray.”
In this story, Trevor explains that he grew up in a world run by women; his mother, his grandmother and his great grandmother, Koko who was well into her nineties, stooped, frail and completely blind. His home did not have running water and so he had to use an outhouse which he hated because he was afraid of the flies that resided at the bottom of the pile. One afternoon he decided to forgo the outhouse and use newspaper – “like a puppy”. He hysterically describes the act as a “powerful experience” which came to a close when he realized his blind great grandmother was in the room with him. She was unable to see him, but she began to smell something and she proceeds to call out to anyone in the house to explain this smell. Trevor decides to hide both himself and his “output” from his grandmother but later has to pay the price when they determine the house is bewitched with a demon. “Help us! Pray, Trevor. Pray to God to kill the demon!” Trust me when I say he uses much more colorful language and this short story will make you laugh out loud.
In the end, this book is a tribute to his mother, a single woman who raised him to believe in thinking big and following your dreams. His mother was a fiercely independent and religious woman and the final chapter recounts the terror she faced and overcame at the hands of her abusive second husband.
This book has it all. It’s funny, well written, appreciative and will give you a good look at what it was like to grow up as a young bi-racial boy in South Africa.