Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

81%

17 Critic Reviews

Born a Crime, among other things, is a gritty love letter to his mother – a loving mother who survived a bullet to the back of the head from Noah’s stepfather. You’ll have to read the book to learn about that drama.
-Globe and Mail

Synopsis

#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 THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
Michiko Kakutani, New York TimesNewsdayEsquire • NPR • Booklist

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

Praise for Born a Crime

 “[A] compelling new memoir . . . By turns alarming, sad and funny, [Trevor Noah’s] book provides a harrowing look, through the prism of Mr. Noah’s family, at life in South Africa under apartheid. . . . Born a Crime is not just an unnerving account of growing up in South Africa under apartheid, but a love letter to the author’s remarkable mother.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“[An] unforgettable memoir.”—Parade

 “What makes Born a Crime such a soul-nourishing pleasure, even with all its darker edges and perilous turns, is reading Noah recount in brisk, warmly conversational prose how he learned to negotiate his way through the bullying and ostracism. . . . What also helped was having a mother like Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah. . . . Consider Born a Crime another such gift to her—and an enormous gift to the rest of us.”—USA Today

“[Noah] thrives with the help of his astonishingly fearless mother. . . . Their fierce bond makes this story soar.”—People

“[Noah’s] electrifying memoir sparkles with funny stories . . . and his candid and compassionate essays deepen our perception of the complexities of race, gender, and class.”—Booklist (starred review)

“A gritty memoir . . . studded with insight and provocative social criticism . . . with flashes of brilliant storytelling and acute observations.”—Kirkus Reviews
 

About Trevor Noah

See more books from this Author
TREVOR NOAH is the host of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Daily Show. He first joined the show as a contributor in 2014 and succeeded Jon Stewart as host in 2015. While The Daily Show has introduced Noah to an American audience, he’s long been a popular comedian around the globe. Born in South Africa to a black South African mother and a white European father, Noah rose improbably to stardom with The Racist, his one-man show at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which enjoyed a sold-out run and became one of the most talked-about shows at the festival that year. He made his US television debut that year on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and has also appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, becoming the first South African stand-up comedian to appear on either late-night program.

Author Residence: New York

Author Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa
 
Published November 15, 2016 by Spiegel & Grau. 304 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Dec 04 2016
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Critic reviews for Born a Crime
All: 17 | Positive: 16 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Below average
on Sep 22 2016

A somewhat disjointed narrative with flashes of brilliant storytelling and acute observations on South African culture.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Oct 28 2016

Having thoroughly mined his South African upbringing in his standup comedy and monologues on The Daily Show, Noah here tells the whole story in this witty and revealing autobiography.

Read Full Review of Born a Crime | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Nov 28 2016

In the end, “Born a Crime” is not just an unnerving account of growing up in South Africa under apartheid, but a love letter to the author’s remarkable mother...

Read Full Review of Born a Crime | See more reviews from NY Times

Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by Brad Wheeler on Dec 19 2016

Born a Crime, among other things, is a gritty love letter to his mother – a loving mother who survived a bullet to the back of the head from Noah’s stepfather. You’ll have to read the book to learn about that drama.

Read Full Review of Born a Crime | See more reviews from Globe and Mail

Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Ray Rahman on Nov 04 2016

In other words, this isn’t one of those comedian-penned essay collections where the yuks jump out at sitcom speeds. Yet there’s still plenty of humor; Noah proves to be a gifted storyteller, able to deftly lace his poignant tales with amusing irony.

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Christian Science Monitor

Good
Reviewed by Barbara Spindel on Dec 16 2016

...rollicking yet tender Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, provides further indication that Noah’s is a necessary voice for these times. In addition to that, it’s a great read.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Excellent
Reviewed by Will Ashton on Feb 05 2017

Trevor Noah was “born a crime” because he was a mixed-race boy in an apartheid state. Perhaps it’s only fitting that this book should be so arresting. “Born a Crime” is learned and loved, elegant and empowering. It’s an astonishing nonfiction debut not to be matched soon.

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USA Today

Above average
Reviewed by Gene Seymour on Nov 14 2016

In a shocking turn of events, Noah, who moved to the USA last year, has a chance to repay his enormous debt to her tough love. Consider Born a Crime another such gift to her — and an enormous gift to the rest of us.

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20Something Reads

Above average
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on Dec 19 2016

...Noah makes the craziness, danger, deprivation and racial stratification of his younger days seem funny. Except when it wasn’t...more personal than polemic...

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Newsday

Good
Reviewed by Tom Beer on Nov 11 2016

...these are quibbles. “Born a Crime” offers Americans a second introduction to Trevor Noah, and he makes a real impression.

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The Australian

Good
Reviewed by JAMES McNAMARA on Dec 31 2016

While funny in places, Noah’s book isn’t a long stand-up set or a comedian’s memoir (it barely touches on his career). Rather, Born a Crime is a skilful coming-of-age story that establishes Noah as a fine literary essayist. As Clive James did so well, Noah has begun to straddle late night and literary careers. That’s no easy feat.

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Hypable

Good
Reviewed by KAREN ROUGHT on Dec 09 2016

This memoir is a lesson in humility, love, faith, and perseverance. Hopefully it will affect you as strongly as it has affected me...

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theSundaily

Good
Reviewed by K.K. Wong on Apr 05 2017

She was determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that threatened her own life. The woman is unorthodox, yes, but absolutely brilliant. The end result is an absorbing, and totally inspiring read.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Dec 01 2016

By turns alarming, sad and funny, his book provides a harrowing look, through the prism of Noah’s family, at life in South Africa under apartheid and the country’s lurching entry into a post-apartheid era in the 1990s.

Read Full Review of Born a Crime | See more reviews from National Post arts

https://bookpage.com

Good
Reviewed by Priscilla Kipp on Nov 15 2016

Engaging and insightful, Born a Crime is not a rags-to-riches story; the memoir ends before Noah finds success. Instead, the book reveals the hard details of a grim life...

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https://lareviewofbooks.org

Good
Reviewed by Jeneé Darden on Feb 18 2017

But for all the pain, Born a Crime made me laugh — a lot. The love between Noah and his mother, and their resilience, left me inspired in these post-election days, when stories of hope and resistance are sorely needed.

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https://www.christiancentury.org

Good
Reviewed by LaVonne Neff on May 05 2017

Published a week after the election, this collection of 18 stories provides a welcome break from the angst that has settled over much of America since then.

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