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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed NAMED ONE OF PASTE’S BEST MEMOIRS OF THE DECADE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Michiko Kakutani, New York Times • USA Today • San Francisco Chronicle • NPR • Esquire • Newsday • Bookl…

Overall Book Review:

Born a Crime may be the quintessential memoir: the format, the timeline structure, the mix of personal with cultural observations were all perfectly interlaced.  This is not a biography; it does not read in a linear fashion and does not tell Trevor Noah’s complete story from baby to adulthood.  It is structured with a section before each chapter in a different font type; this section is an explanation and/or observation of some element of South Africa, the culture, people, or events by Mr. Noah.  The chapter then switches to a different font and is a sliver of Mr. Noah’s personal life experience.

The author is a stand-up comedian so he uses his humor in his stories.  He uses his unique social situation as a child of a black mother and a white father born under apartheid to explain the racial relations and some cultural realities of South Africa.  He is uniquely suited to shine a reflective spotlight on these topics.

I listened to the audiobook for the first half of the book.  It was outstanding because Mr. Noah is a talented comedian and verbal telling is his arena.  I read the last half of the book to experience it as a written work.  It also reads well.  If you have the choice, I recommend the audiobook because he is just a delight to listen to.

Born a Crime is a thought-provoking memoir on multiple difficult topics made accessible by the author’s humor and insights.  Highly recommended!

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  5 religious exclamations; 12 mild obscenities; 4 derogatory names; 64 scatological words; 13 anatomical terms; 33 F-word derivatives.

Violence/Gore:  Report of a fight; cop strikes teenagers across face; threat to kill; man beats a kid in retaliation for something; a man seems dangerous, gets out of car and grabs a guy by shirt; mom throws kid out of a bus and jumps out to remove from dangerous situation; mom chases kid and throws things at him; numerous references to corporal punishment (whippings) received from mother as discipline; description of “tiring” – process of putting a tire around someone, dousing it in gasoline and lighting it on fire; discussion of riots and how blacks turned on blacks; threatening a guy with clubs; verbal confrontations/threats; reference to police in riot gear in the villages; individual overhears talk about mugging him; discipline at school was the ruler, washing out mouth with soap, and beatings; man beat and killed a cat; 2 pet cats mutilated and hung on owner’s porch; ex-husband shot woman multiple times, one in the back of the head (short scene recounted); bullies pelted kid with berries; man hits/beats wife; man hits/beats step-child; reference to car-jackings, gangs, etc.; individual kicks dogs.

Sex/Nudity:  Explanation/text of the law outlining no interracial intercourse; individual sometimes called a prostitute; mention of prostitutes; reference to mixing of white and native populations when settlers “had their way with the local women”; mom talks to son about sex, foreplay–brief statements/advice; kiss; reference to porn loading slowly; reference to breasts and vagina (porn-related); reference to rape; innuendo that a person will be raped in prison; individual says he was raped.

Mature Subject Matter:

Apartheid, race issues, racial discrimination, economic disparity, poverty, domestic violence, crime/theft/pirating, violence, death.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Teenager says that he loved alcohol; individuals are drunk; individuals smoke weed; simile used to compare someone to the “weed guy”; teenager drinks the alcohol out of chocolates; teenagers run to grocery to pick up beer for an adult; an individual is often drunk; references to drugs; drunk individual urinates on the floor.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!