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Trevor Noah, one of the comedy world's fastest-rising stars and host of The Daily Show, tells his wild coming-of-age story during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. In this Audible Studios production, Noah provides something deeper than traditional memoirists: powerfully funny observations about how farcical political and social systems play out in our lives.
"Nelson Mandela once said, 'If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.' He was so right. When you make the effort to speak someone else's language, even if it's just basic phrases here and there, you are saying to them, 'I understand that you have a culture and identity that exists beyond me. I see you as a human being.'" (Trevor Noah)
Attuned to the power of language at a young age - as a means of acceptance and influence in a country divided, then subdivided, into groups at odds with one another - Noah's raw, personal journey becomes something extraordinary in audio: a true testament to the power of storytelling. With brutal honesty and piercing wit, he forgoes an ordinary reading and, instead, delivers something more intimate, sharing his story with the openness and candor of a close friend. His chameleon-like ability to mimic accents and dialects, to shift effortlessly between languages including English, Xhosa, and Zulu, and to embody characters throughout his childhood - his mother, his gran, his schoolmates, first crushes and infatuations - brings each memory to life in vivid detail. Hearing him directly, you're reminded of the gift inherent in telling one's story and having it heard; of connecting with another, and seeing them as a human being.
The stories Noah tells are by turns hilarious, bizarre, tender, dark, and poignant - subsisting on caterpillars during months of extreme poverty, making comically pitiful attempts at teenage romance in a color-obsessed world, thrown into jail as the hapless fall guy for a crime he didn't commit, thrown by his mother from a speeding car driven by murderous gangsters, and more.
"Comedian Trevor Noah's stories of growing up in South Africa are vivid, sometimes harrowing, and often laugh-out-loud funny. The bonus of audio is that listeners get to HEAR Noah tell these stories in his South African-accented English, as well as hear him speak snippets of various other South African languages. Noah (who succeeded Jon Stewart as the host of 'The Daily Show') is a natural storyteller - skilled, engaging, and relatable.... Noah's narration offers insights and intimacy."
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- Disjointed Review by ms z
I enjoyed Trevor’s performance but the story jumped around too much and was hard to follow. With random antidotes at the end of various chapters. Would have been more enjoyable if the story was chronological.
(Posted on 5/3/2019)
- An Amazing Story of Survival in South Africa Review by Paula
This is a very good bio -- Trevor Noah is a true survivor; all credit due to his strong, resilient mother. I love Trevor Noah's comedic takes on current events, politics and life in general. His life story provides essential background for understanding his unique point of view -- the context of his life in South Africa can't be over estimated in importance. This book also lays bare the racist tenants of Apartheid and for that reason, may be a difficult listen for some who would rather deny the facts as they are.
Today, Trevor Noah makes me laugh, but after listening to his story, he has caused me to be more empathetic, more aware and more vigilant in calling out my own racism and white privilege. Very good listen!!
(Posted on 9/23/2018)
- Fascinating, tragic, and charming Review by Joanna Loveluck
As a Trevor Noah fan I had high expectations of this book. I expected it to be intelligently funny and charming. I didn't expect it to captivate me in the way it did. His true understanding of human nature shines through as he tells his tragic story.
(Posted on 9/23/2018)
- So much more than an autobiography! Review by Lisa WF
I've been listening to this every minute I could since it came out. This is an incredible autobiography, and you will get your Trevor Noah laughs. But moreover, it's a brilliant lesson on the realities of apartheid, poverty, misogyny, domestic abuse, and more. I guarantee you will have numerous moments of pausing to digest some truly incredible insights, especially if you're privileged in your culture (::ahem:: if you're white). Apartheid, especially, I didn't know nearly enough about. I truly appreciate the stories told even just for that.
The author manages to take into account that much of his audience will not understand the cultures he grew up around, and it feels now that I not only know the author's roots, but that I have a mental landscape of South Africa that never existed for me before. If you know Trevor Noah's work from The Daily Show, you'll know he doesn't miss a moment to reflect on the nuances, the ironies, and himself.
Very well done!!
(Posted on 9/17/2018)
- Great book and perfect narration Review by Marilyn Armstrong
I don't review a lot of books anymore, but this one got to me. There are lots of books written by people -- including me -- who had a hard time growing up. Abusive parents, poverty, oppression. War. There is a lot of awful stuff children endure. Trevor Noah endured all of it. Name something bad that a kid can experience and it probably happened to him. Born under apartheid, his existence was illegal. His birth was, as the title of his book suggests, a crime. As the child of a white father and a black mother under South Africa during apartheid, if he had been noticed by the authorities, they would have taken him from his family and put him ... somewhere. So merely surviving until the end of apartheid was no mean feat. Add to that extreme poverty, violence and life under the most oppressive, racist regime you can imagine. Actually, you may not be able to imagine it. I knew it was bad, but South Africa refined oppression into an art form.
One of the other noteworthy things about this book was that I learned great deal about things I thought I already knew. I don't know if Noah intended it as a cautionary tale, but it is. Chilling.
I didn't read the book. I listened to the audiobook because Noah reads it himself. He has a beautiful, melodic voice and a lovely cadence. It was a treat for my ears and my brain.
You might think with all of this terrible stuff -- and some of it is really horrific -- that this would be an angry, possibly embittered man. But he isn't. He's funny when humor is possible. Even when he's serious, there is grace and wit -- plus a sweetness and generosity of spirit that's rather uplifting. I don't think I've ever said that about a book. It's not a word I use lightly. Trevor Noah is a rare person, able to appreciate the good stuff in his life and not obsess over the considerable amount of injustice he has experienced.
I'm not usually a big fan of celebrity memoirs or autobiographies, but this is exceptional. If you have the patience, listen to it as an audiobook. Otherwise, consider reading it. He's a smart guy, a good writer, and an astute observer of humanity, government, politics, and relationships. Insightful, witty, and entertaining, I highly recommend it.
(Posted on 8/24/2018)
- Wow Review by S Ford
The narration is exemplary. He is a chameleon and his command of language gives the narrative so much texture.
The breadth and variety of sound is staggering. The are so many characters each with there own voice and language. It is a tour de force of story telling.
The story, in and of itself, is history, humor, and horror and at the end you will be uplifted.
Wow. Just Wow.
(Posted on 8/24/2018)
- This book was life changing Review by Didi
I was expecting a light and breezy content but it was emotional, wise and fulfilling. I couldn't leave it until I finished it.
(Posted on 3/20/2018)
- NO JOKE Review by CHET YARBROUGH
Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” is no joke.
Remembering when Trevor Noah took over the “Daily Show”, thoughts of a South African replacing an American, places one in two minds. One mind thinks how could a person not born in America understand the politics and culture of a country satirized by a TV show? Another mind thinks the “Daily Show” will become more culturally relevant with a commentator that satirizes more than just American culture. The answer to the first mind’s question is the second mind’s conclusion. Personally, it is sad to have witnessed the loss of John Stewart’s insightful American commentary. However, Noah offers a perspective that is equally insightful; admittedly cringe worthy at times, but more universal. “Born a Crime” is testament to Noah’s cultural diversity and universal insight.
Noah is a challenging son. He shows himself to be a hyperactive, non-violent, trouble-maker in his youth. He is born into poverty but raised by a mother who believes in a moral code of unshakable faith. In his youth, Noah defies most of his mother’s inner direction and strict, sometimes physically punishing, discipline. Retrospectively, Noah acknowledges how much his mother loved him, and how her fortitude presumably made him mentally tough, independent, and irreverently objective. Noah knows what it is to be poor. Undoubtedly, Noah now knows what is like to be rich. More importantly, it seems Noah has adopted his mother’s independence and, by virtue of his life experience (some might say), has acquired a superior perception of reality. “Born a Crime” is no joke.
(Posted on 1/22/2018)
- Comedy out of Tragedy Review by NancyAdairB
My decision to request Born a Crime has nothing to do with star power or fandom. I have to admit I have never seen Trevor Noah on the Daily Show. I requested this book when I learned it was about Trevor Noah's childhood in Apartheid South Africa.
I started listening as soon as I could
I have to love a guy who finds comedy in tragedy and who gleefully spins yarns about experiences that would keep most of us in therapy for a lifetime. There is a genius in comedy that allows us to encounter devastating truths through the protective lens of laughter.
The heroine of the book is Noah's mother, a feisty lady with a solid rock faith, a gal who snubs her nose at things that don't make sense. She makes mistakes, but always out of love. She takes huge risks but somehow Jesus is always there to catch her mid-fall. Noah was "naughty as s***" and a challenge to raise, but never hateful or mean. He learned to navigate Apartheid society's complex system that divided people in to three groups: black, white, and colored. How one was categorized was senseless. Japanese were put into the 'white' slot but Chinese into the 'colored'.
"The genius of Apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate, is what is was."
Noah was 'colored' with a 'black' Xhosa African mother and a 'white' Swiss father, his very existence implicating his parent's crime. Had the police discovered them, his parents would be sent to jail and Noah sent to an orphanage. He spent much of his life hidden away, indoors. His parents could not be seen together with him, and his mother had to even pretend he was not her child.
Noah was "colored by complexion but not by culture." He spoke multiple languages, Xhosa and Zulu and Afrikaans, and English, could fit into most groups, but felt affiliated to black culture.The book is a series of episodic tales, thoughtfully constructed, saving the climax of his family history until the end of the book, after we have come to know and understand them.
"I saw the futility of violence, the cycle that just repeats itself, the damage that's inflicted on people that they in turn inflict on others. I saw, more than anything, that relationships are not sustained by violence, but by love." The book is funny but is more than a diversive read, it enlarges our understanding of the world. Noah offers an understanding of South African history, colonialism, and Apartheid that is engaging and relevant. He shares the important things he learned and offers them to us. We should listen. We should learn.
(Posted on 1/16/2018)
- "Best book this's year" Review by Pamela J
Yes, I said it. The best book this year. Funny, poignant, historical, happy, and perfect. Yes, it is the story of Trevor, but it is so much more. It is the story of a place and a time that while I thought I understood, I didn't. It's just amazing that this is the story of a YOUNG man. How can this all have happened such a short time ago? Told with such wit and interest this is really the story of a woman who made her own way and taught her child to do the same. So enjoyable. The perfect book.
(Posted on 8/28/2017)
- Wonderful & Captivating...you should read this, Review by T. Brown
Wow...I started this book yesterday and could not put it down. As a new mom myself, I read most of it on my Kindle while either nursing or holding my son, which was fitting as this is such a tribute to his mom. As a long time viewer of the Daily Show, I started watching as Trevor took over from Jon Stewart and while I've always thought he does a good job, I had no idea the depth of character and experiences that were below the surface of those cute dimples! As is fitting to the Daily Show atmosphere, Trevor discusses difficult topics like race often, but I don't think I will ever watch a segment the same way again after reading his descriptions of what it was like to grow up under and during the fall of apartheid. And I keep thinking back to some of his impassioned pieces prior to the election with a whole new appreciation.
But this review shouldn't be about his celebrity on the Daily Show. It stands alone as a remarkable memoir and a completely engaging story that will appeal to anyone who's felt like an outsider. He is a wonderful story teller, finding the right balance between relaying his experiences, weaving in the social atmosphere around it and doing it in such a way that even as an American reader, I was able to visualize the communities he was describing in rich detail. Additionally, he was able to explain aspects of a post apartheid world that not only clarify the plight of South Africans today but also shed light on some of the challenges we are facing here in the US. He has a unique perspective and a wonderful voice that I hope to hear more of in the future.
(Posted on 8/7/2017)
- Memoir of the Year!! Review by Faye
I was born in South Africa, though I did most of my growing up in the U.S., Trevor immediately submerged me into township life with his reading of these amazing childhood stories.
I know Trevor is a big deal is South Africa, and he's quickly becoming a big deal here. Listen to him describe the landscape of South Africa, her politics and her struggles. Take a look through his eyes and see what abject poverty and adversity can do to two strong and insightful souls like Trevor and his mother, and you will get a glimpse into the very best of humanity. Very inspirational and emotive. I cannot recommend it enough!
(Posted on 4/13/2017)
- A Reflection of Captivating Stories and Insightful Lessons Review by Landon Davidson
Trevor Noah's, “Born A Crime”, takes the reader on an emotional roller-coaster ride. If you are looking for an educational, exciting, serious, hilarious, intellectually stimulating, and well-written stories, I highly recommend this book.
Trevor Noah writes of his account growing up in post-apartheid South Africa. At the time it was illegal for interracial relations to exist, let alone have "colored" children. Because of Trevor's black mother and white father, he was “Born A Crime”. Trevor shares his childhood through anecdotes detailing his experiences in an elegant, well-written manner. Every book I read has a purpose. After watching Trevor Noah's interview on the Breakfast Club I was astounded at how effectively he communicated. In addition, given that I am 21 years old and have a lot of life to live--I seek to learn different perspectives and how other people lived their lives to better mine.
Here are my three key takeaways from Trevor Noah's Born A Crime:
1) In Chapter 16 Trevor writes about crime and why it is so prevalent in low-income areas AKA "the Hood". Specifically, in Alexandra which is a city in South Africa. He writes "The hood made me realize that crime succeeds because crime does the one thing the government doesn't do: crime cares. Crime looks for the young kids who need support and a lifted hand. Crime offers internship programs and summer jobs and opportunities for advancement. Crime gets involved in the community. Crime doesn't discriminate." He focuses on crime in the sense of theft, piracy, and dealing drugs.
2) Again in Chapter 16 Trevor shares insight into how systems can operate at the expense of a certain group. He says, "In society, we do horrible things to one another because we don't see the person it affects. We don't see their face. We don't see them as people. Which was the whole reason the hood was built in the first place, to keep the victims of apartheid out of sight and out of mind. Because if white people ever saw black people as human, they would see that slavery is unconscionable."
3) I admire any successful black man who has made an honest living. Being the host of "The Daily Show", Trevor shows the younger generation they can achieve their dreams. Trevor has made a positive impact on my life. I thank and appreciate him for his contribution to our society.
(Posted on 4/6/2017)
- What an incredible book! I could relate on ALL levels!!!! Review by Ndivhuho
Well done Trevor! Not only did I enjoy your life story but I could relate so much. Having been born at more or less the same time as you. Raised by a Xhosa mom and a Venda dad, born in Meadowlands, later moved to Langlaagte during Inkatha riots. I just could simply relate to even the phrases that your mom would use to reprimand you. I live in England now, I love watching the daily show and seeing how you've progressed over the years. Your colourful life certainly represents a typical South African child raised in the most difficult times...Well done! I read your book in just 3 days...such an easy read given that I love my political biographies, I thought I was going to be bored at some point! Hell NO I could not put it down, had to cancel on hangouts with friends, just to read a little more...late for work because I stayed up reading most of the night... I could literally hear your voice in most of your sentences and of course I laughed out loud. I have told my British friends about "Born a Crime" and think every black child needs to read that book so that they can understand their origin...so deep. Keep on slaying Trevor!!!
(Posted on 4/5/2017)
- A compelling read Review by Te
Trevor Noah's "Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood" comes on top of Janvier Chando's "Disciples of Fortune" and Barack Obama's "Dreams from My Father" as one of those exciting books of mixed-race males who emerged from their constraining environments as success stories for others to emulate. Written in a lyrical manner, Trevor Noah brings out the best in mothers that many men often fail to appreciate, especially in situations where they defied the odds and brought out the best in their children who feel out of place in their societies. This is a recommended read.
(Posted on 4/5/2017)
- I want to meet his mother! Review by breakaway
I’ve been an avid fan of Trevor Noah’s since he first came onto the comedy scene. South Africans of all colours needed someone to come along and show the funny side to the craziness that abounds in country. Trevor, with his quiet good humour and ability to mimic accents, has kept South African audiences laughing and I think The Daily Show is most probably followed by all his fans.
Born a Crime is Trevor’s story from being born to a black mother and a Swiss father. He’s coloured, so in apartheid terms he couldn’t be classified as black or white, which meant that if discovered, he could have been taken into a care home for coloured children, so his crafty mother and grandmother had to ensure that he kept a low profile. Could Trevor even as a child give in gracefully to these wishes? Of course not! His mother must have been one of the most extraordinary women living under the apartheid regime. Having been denied education, she set about getting educated, finding a job as a secretary in the white dominated job market and even managed to rent a flat in a designated white area. This was truly the exception and not the rule in “those days”.
I loved the way he set out the book and in fact, reading this book was especially interesting for me from the prospective of hearing the black and coloured side of those last years of apartheid. The government had over the years, deliberately moved the various groups of people, by language, into homelands or Bantustans supposedly giving each group the chance to rule themselves. This didn’t just apply to the Black population, but the Coloureds, Indians, Chinese (classified as Black) with the Japanese being classified as White! To any non-South African this book is going to be an eye opener, for us born and raised there, it brings back memories of the insanity that we lived in.
I think what I loved most about this book is Trevor’s complete acceptance of his life. There is no bitterness, life was what it was and thanks to his mother, Trevor seemed to live to the full from the time he could first walk. There’s been a lot of criticism in the USA because of Jon Stewart handing the reins over to Trevor Noah to be the face of the Late Show, but I personally feel (having watched every available episode on YouTube) that he couldn’t have given it to a more deserving person. It is time that the USA embraced people of colour and Trevor is the perfect man thanks to his ability to speak in so many different languages. And his coverage of Trump becoming the next president of the USA has been unique and barbed in the best way possible.
Thank you Trevor Noah for sharing your life with us. Next time you see your mother, tell her that in fact, she’s the star of the book!
(Posted on 4/5/2017)