From My Bookshelf: Born a Crime

By Lynn Willoughby

Born a Crime ~ Trevor Noah

This autobiography was recommended by two different people.  And while I am glad that I read it, I often found it tedious.  For me, the best parts were the basis and history of apartheid in South Africa.

As the title says, Trevor was born to a white, Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother when such a union was punishable by five years in prison.  He says of his early life “most of it was spent indoors”, as his mother and his black grandmother tried to protect him from the neighbours in Soweto.  His mother, always her own person,  had wanted a child and chose his father, even though she was fully aware of the consequences.  

Trevor’s father was around in his early years, but the family never lived together.  He would see his son on Sundays and holidays, and Noah’s memories are of a fun father who gave his son lots of new experiences.  He got birthday cards and Christmas gifts, but it was not the life of his friends and cousins.

I found the format of this book somewhat disconcerting, as Trevor would be nine, then thirteen and in a different school, then four and living with his grandmother.  He attended private school for a time, thanks to a bursary from the company his mother worked for.  Then he attended predominantly black schools – where he never fit in.  He tried a white school, and he didn’t fit in.  He went to a Catholic school and definitely didn’t fit in.  But each had something to teach him.

Noah’s relationship with his mother is the constant in his life – whether being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or for the laughter they shared when anyone else would have been broken.  

Who Knew?

According to Noah “Apartheid was perfect racism…in 1652 when the Dutch East India Company …went to war with the natives, ultimately developing a set of laws to subjugate and enslave them….The British abolished slavery in name but kept it in practice….(when they found) the richest gold and diamond reserves in the world (and needed) an endless supply of expendable bodies…to get it all out.  …Then the Afrikaners rose up…and built the most advanced system of radical oppression known to man”. 

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