Born a Crime

Born a Crime : Stories from a South African Childhood

4.45 (502,740 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • More than one million copies sold! A “brilliant” (Lupita Nyong’o, Time), “poignant” (Entertainment Weekly), “soul-nourishing” (USA Today) memoir about coming of age during the twilight of apartheid
 
“Noah’s childhood stories are told with all the hilarity and intellect that characterizes his comedy, while illuminating a dark and brutal period in South Africa’s history that must never be forgotten.”—Esquire
 
Winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor and an NAACP Image Award • Named one of the best books of the year by The New York Time, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Esquire, Newsday, and Booklist

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to 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 earliest 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, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. 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, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 130 x 201 x 17mm | 215g
  • One World Books
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • International edition
  • 9780525509028
  • 86,304

Review Text

[An] unforgettable memoir. Parade

You d be hard-pressed to find a comic s origin story better than the one Trevor Noah serves up in Born a Crime. . . . [He] developed his aptitude for witty truth telling [and] every hardscrabble memory of helping his mother scrape together money for food, gas, school fees, and rent, or barely surviving the temper of his stepfather, Abel, reveals the anxious wellsprings of the comedian s ambition and success. If there is harvest in spite of blight, the saying goes, one does not credit the blight-but Noah does manage to wring brilliant comedy from it. O: The Oprah Magazine
 
What makes Born a Crime such a soul-nourishing pleasure, even with all its darker edges and perilous turns, is reading Noah recount in brisk, warmly conversational prose how he learned to negotiate his way through the bullying and ostracism. . . . What also helped was having a mother like Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah. . . . Consider Born a Crime another such gift to her and an enormous gift to the rest of us. USA Today

[Noah] thrives with the help of his astonishingly fearless mother. . . . Their fierce bond makes this story soar. People

This isn't your average comic-writes-a-memoir: It s a unique look at a man who is a product of his culture and a nuanced look at a part of the world whose people have known dark times easily pushed aside. Refinery29

Noah s memoir is extraordinary . . . essential reading on every level. It s hard to imagine anyone else doing a finer job of it. The Seattle Times

Powerful prose . . . told through stories and vignettes that are sharply observed, deftly conveyed and consistently candid. Growing organically from them is an affecting investigation of identity, ethnicity, language, masculinity, nationality and, most of all, humanity all issues that the election of Donald Trump in the United States shows are foremost in minds and hearts everywhere. . . . What the reader gleans are the insights that made Noah the thoughtful, observant, empathic man who wrote Born a Crime. . . . Here is a level-headed man, forged by remarkable and shocking life incidents, who is quietly determined and who knows where home and the heart lie. Would this unique story have been published had it been about someone not a celebrity of the planet? Possibly not, and to the detriment of potential readers, because this is a warm and very human story of the type that we will need to survive the Trump presidency s imminent freezing of humane values. Mail & Guardian (South Africa)

[Noah s] story of surviving and thriving is mind-blowing. Cosmopolitan

A gifted storyteller, able to deftly lace his poignant tales with amusing irony. Entertainment Weekly

Noah has a real tale to tell, and he tells it well. . . . Among the many virtues of Born a Crime is a frank and telling portrait of life in South Africa during the 1980s and 90s. . . . Born a Crime offers Americans a second introduction to Trevor Noah, and he makes a real impression. Newsday

An affecting memoir, Born a Crime [is] a love letter to his mother. The Washington Post

Witty and revealing . . . Noah s story is the story of modern South Africa; though he enjoyed some privileges of the region s slow Westernization, his formative years were shaped by poverty, injustice, and violence. Noah is quick with a disarming joke, and he skillfully integrates the parallel narratives via interstitial asides between chapters. . . . Perhaps the most harrowing tales are those of his abusive stepfather, which form the book s final act (and which Noah cleverly foreshadows throughout earlier chapters), but equally prominent are the laugh-out-loud yarns about going to the prom, and the differences between White Church and Black Church. Publishers Weekly (starred review)

[A] substantial collection of staggering personal essays . . . Incisive, funny, and vivid, these true tales are anchored to his portrait of his courageous, rebellious, and religious mother who defied racially restrictive laws to secure an education and a career for herself and to have a child with a white Swiss/German even though sex between whites and blacks was illegal. . . . [Trevor Noah s] electrifying memoir sparkles with funny stories . . . and his candid and compassionate essays deepen our perception of the complexities of race, gender, and class. Booklist (starred review)

A gritty memoir . . . studded with insight and provocative social criticism . . . with flashes of brilliant storytelling and acute observations. Kirkus Reviews
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Review quote

“A soul-nourishing pleasure . . . an enormous gift.”—USA Today
 
“By turns alarming, sad and funny . . . not just an unnerving account of growing up in South Africa under apartheid, but a love letter to the author’s remarkable mother.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a comic’s origin story better than the one Trevor Noah serves up in Born a Crime. . . . Witty truth-telling . . . brilliant comedy.”—O: The Oprah Magazine

“Remarkable . . . smart . . . extraordinary . . . essential reading on every level.”—The Seattle Times

“[Noah] thrives with the help of his astonishingly fearless mother. . . . Their fierce bond makes this story soar.”—People
 
“When I think of Trevor Noah, the first image I see is from his brilliant memoir, Born a Crime, of Trevor’s mother throwing him out of a moving vehicle while he’s asleep in order to save his life. Through other eyes this could be remembered as traumatic and harrowing. Through Trevor’s it is bonding and hilarious, a testament to the love of someone who truly had to think on their feet. That is how Trevor sees the world. A fantastic storyteller, he has always been a defier of rules, which he broke simply by being born in his native country.”—Lupita Nyong’o, Time

“Noah’s not the main character in his own story—his mother is the constant . . . and by the end, Noah lovingly makes clear that the book belongs to her. . . . Noah proves to be a gifted storyteller, able to deftly lace his poignant tales with amusing irony.”—Entertainment Weekly

“[An] unforgettable memoir.”—Parade

“This isn’t your average comic-writes-a-memoir: It’s a unique look at a man who is a product of his culture—and a nuanced look at a part of the world whose people have known dark times easily pushed aside.”—Refinery29

“[Noah’s] electrifying memoir sparkles with funny stories . . . and his candid and compassionate essays deepen our perception of the complexities of race, gender, and class.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Powerful prose . . . told through stories and vignettes that are sharply observed, deftly conveyed and consistently candid. Growing organically from them is an affecting investigation of identity, ethnicity, language, masculinity, nationality and, most of all, humanity.”—Mail & Guardian (South Africa)

“[Noah’s] story of surviving—and thriving—is mind-blowing.”—Cosmopolitan

“Noah has a real tale to tell, and he tells it well. . . . Among the many virtues of Born a Crime is a frank and telling portrait of life in South Africa during the 1980s and ’90s.”—Newsday

“An affecting memoir, Born a Crime [is] a love letter to his mother.”—The Washington Post

“Witty and revealing . . . Noah’s story is the story of modern South Africa.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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About Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah is a comedian from South Africa.
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Rating details

502,740 ratings
4.45 out of 5 stars
5 61% (307,751)
4 28% (142,729)
3 7% (34,121)
2 2% (9,050)
1 2% (9,089)
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