I will start off by saying that I recently lost interest in Trevor Noah after watching him on ‘The Daily Show.’ I had noticed some arrogance, which I never saw in him while he was in South Africa. I could not understand why South Africans were still proud of him. Well… since reading his memoir, ‘Born a Crime,’ I feel that I have reconnected with him.
Being a few months older than Noah, and being a person of colour, we grew up in the same era experiencing similar injustices in South Africa. Yes, it is true that South African Indians had it easier than Black and Coloured South Africans but, by and large, non-whites faced similar challenges. Noah gives an honest and humble account of himself, and his life. His portrayal of South Africa is accurate and insightful.
I picked up his book because I was looking for some light-hearted comedy. Well… I got more than I bargained for. Through his account, he touches on the socio-economic and political climate of South Africa during apartheid. He skillfully raises the international reader’s attention towards the ramifications of racism and poverty. His book leaves the reader with an understanding of the unfairness and depravity of apartheid. Through various characters, the psychological impact of apartheid on individuals is highlighted, along with the way it, in turn, affects communities.
Noah’s book feels like a dedication to honour his mother. By sharing her story, he addresses another big aspect of life in South Africa… domestic violence. The reader is challenged to question the attitudes, beliefs and traumas attached to abusers and victims, within cultural contexts and within the grand scheme of understanding how apartheid stripped black men of power, turning some of them violent. Crime and violence are synonymous with South Africa. Noah gives insight into the causes which have brought on these effects in a post-colonial country.
Additionally, by sharing about his relationship with his mother, he stirs up the debate between free-thinkers and Christians. He wittingly does this from a comedic point of view, so as to not ruffle feathers, but still makes his point heard at the same time. Church is a big part of South African culture and Noah gently nudges the reader to question this aspect of South African life as well.
Noah’s memoir is a great introduction into South African history, especially for international readers. I hope that after reading ‘Born a Crime,’ many readers will be interested in reading more award-winning South African literature.