Review Blog

May 06 2019

It's Trevor Noah: born a crime by Trevor Noah

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Hachette, 2019. ISBN: 9781529318760.
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Trevor Noah is a stand-up comedian and so you would expect his book to be funny. And funny it is, with many stories that made me laugh out loud. But what readers might not be so aware of, is that he grew up in apartheid South Africa, the son of a black woman and a white man, at a time when it was a crime to have any kind of inter-racial relationship, so his very existence was a crime.
Apartheid was a rigid policy of segregation and discrimination where people were assigned to one of four different racial groups: black, white, coloured, or Asian (Indian and Pakistani). Bizarrely, Japanese were considered white, because it suited the government's trade relations. South Africa was a police state designed to keep black people, the majority, oppressed by the white minority; with movement, education and job opportunities for black people severely restricted.
So how was Trevor Noah able to grow up largely unscathed and able to follow his dreams? It is all thanks to his fiercely independent and proud mother, who refused to bow to any racist laws and who always found a way to get around the restrictions. She was a fervent Christian who believed that Jesus would look after her and her family if they did the right thing in God's eyes. She was also a strong disciplinarian, motivated by love and determination that her son would follow the right path. As a result Noah had an amazing life, with many adventures, that is so fascinating to read about. He credits a lot his ability to mix between the racial groups to his grasp of the different languages of each group, and promotes multilingualism as a great way to overcome stereotypes and break down barriers.
This version of his book has been adapted for young readers. It interleaves short descriptions of the apartheid regime with rollicking stories of the misadventures that made up his life. It makes for informative and also thoroughly enjoyable reading that will be sure to make you laugh.
Helen Eddy

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