Who would have thought a high school kid who hung out in the black neighbourhoods of South Africa, selling pirated CD’s and other stolen goods , would one day become the star host at The Daily Show ?
Moving from petty crime to comedy show host is a pretty remarkable career transformation. And after you read ‘Born a Crime‘ , you begin to understand why. The story of Trevor Noah, host of popular The Daily Show on Comedy Central, is a remarkable tale , and one worth reading.
Noah was born in South Africa. Growing up, he discovered he was different from other black kids – he had a black mother who refused to be ghettoised in the black township of Soweto , who exposed him to the white world (through attending white church and going to mixed schools). His mother was a rebel, was one of the few black women with a white collar job (a typist) who decided deliberately to break the law and have him with a German Swiss father when apartheid laws forbade mixed relationships ( Therefore the title – Born a Crime – Noah’s very existence broke an apartheid law )
Not surprisingly Noah spent his life being an outsider, in every world – black , white and coloured. He writes of this through growing up stories – simple incidents like losing a new bicycle, being stood up by a girlfriend , starting a rock band , selling pirated CD’s , all of which stay with you.
There is a flippancy to Noah’s writing, that works both for and against the book. It works well because the book becomes an easier read, and though a lot of the things that happen in it are shocking, it never feels depressing. But the flippancy also ends up insulating readers from what characters are really feeling . So Noah’s and his mother’s intense relationship, the entry of step father Abel and how he turns evil, Noah’s life in petty crime never really come to life. He is glossing over, maybe he needs to, but as a reader in his world , you want to know more.
Born a Crime doesn’t have the emotional candidness of an ‘Open‘( Andre Agassi’s fabulous autobiography) the introspection of ‘My Experiments with Truth‘ ( M K Gandhi ) two other autobiographies that came up in discussions on the book. But it’s a great read, and recommended.