Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Written by Trevor Noah, Born a Crime is a memoir of what it was like for Noah to grow up as the son of a white man and a black woman in Apartheid South Africa. From the absence of his biological father to the oppression of his step-father, from the faith of his mother to the skepticism of his own mind, and from the streets of Soweto to the streets of Hillbrow, Born a Crime gives the listener a glance into the societal inequality of Apartheid South Africa and personal struggles of the people who lived through it. Trevor Noah takes the reader on a humorous and educational journey through the times and places of his upbringing.

There are some audio-book performances that immediately distract from the content of the book due to overzealous or unconvincing voice acting, but Born a Crime is not such a book. Noah performs the book well, impersonating influential figures from his childhood and painting pictures well enough to naturally give the listener a good imaginative visual of the scene. While narrative books may naturally be much easier to read/perform than books heavy in dialogue, Trevor Noah’s narrative and dialogue performance is fluid, perhaps due to his talents as a comedian and long-established relationships with the people he impersonates.

One of the people he impersonates is his mother, the overwhelming co-star of the book. Her strength and convictions bleed through the audio, and as the story develops the listener is subjected to more and more astounding moments from this woman’s life. The bond that develops between Noah and his mother speaks to the listener as the listener allows, and culminates in a shockingly amazing story from Patricia Noah’s life. Whether or not the reader identifies more with the faithful and joyful Patricia or the skeptical and comedic Trevor, both equally stubborn, the bond between these two is deep enough to impress on the reader a sense of gratitude and affection for those who he or she holds closest in life. That may be what most makes Born a Crime worth a listen.

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