"Born a Crime" by Trevor Noah

It takes a brave person to fill the shoes of Jon Stewart, one of the (if not THE) most successful satirical news hosts on American television. At the helm of The Daily Show for 16 years, Stewart built the show into a 23 time Emmy-winning show that averaged 2 million viewers each night, becoming the authority on news and politics for the younger generation. It is only natural that his successor would be held to a scrutiny that few could withstand. But Trevor Noah was more than ready for the challenge.

Everything in Trevor's life was leading him to The Daily Show. Starting as a young comedian in South Africa, he took all sorts of jobs that would eventually lead to him headlining one of the biggest stand-up shows the country had ever seen. Pretty soon, the rest of the world came calling and Noah was set on the path to taking over one of the most coveted seats on television.

But it is the start of Trevor’s story that is most compelling. Born in apartheid South Africa to a white Swiss father and black Xhosa mother meant that Trevor literally was a criminal act. This shaped his early life as most of it was spent avoiding the government who at any moment could take him away and put his mother in jail. 

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah, is a sensitive, heartfelt, and hilarious look at Trevor’s early life. Written in eighteen essays, readers are taken on a adventure that is so incredibly unique to Trevor’s own circumstances and yet at many times evocative of childhood experiences around the world. No matter who you are, this book is relatable and understandable.

I’m a big fan of Trevor Noah. Ever since his first appearance on 8 Out of 10 Cats in 2013, I’ve been trying to watch everything he has ever done. This includes seeing his live show last year. He touches on his childhood in South Africa throughout his comedy routines and I felt like I already knew so much about him. But this book brought so much more to his story and I was blown away by his honesty and his heartfelt approach to this book. I also appreciated how he weaved the history of South Africa and apartheid through the book, giving readers a more intimate understanding of the history of the country than a textbook could.

The standout star of this book is his mother Patricia. The book can be read as a love letter from a son to his mother and it should be. His mother was fearless and determined and she raised her son to be the same way. She challenged the system and lived her life the way she wanted to regardless of the punishment she could face. This is like getting two books in one - you get the story of Trevor’s childhood and how it shaped who he is but you also get the story of a woman who stood up for her beliefs and who survived no matter what life threw at her. 

If you waited until December to get a copy of this book for Christmas you probably found yourself out of luck. The bookstore I work at sold out very quick as did most of the stores around us. At one point I was in a store and overheard the manager say to an employee, “is that a copy of Trevor Noah’s book? Where did you find that? Hold on to it!”  The demand for this book is very high and deservedly so. If you see a copy, grab it! 

 I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. The opinions expressed above are my own.


  1. Thank you for a review of a book and author both new to me. Glad of the update.


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