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!
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.