Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir
Publisher: Doubleday Canada

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.

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 eighteen personal essays 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.

Born a Crime opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t know and expanded my knowledge of things I thought I knew. I decided to pick up Trevor Noah’s memoir because I LOVE watching The Daily Show. He’s charismatic, approachable, insightful, and hilarious, so I wanted to get to know him as an individual rather than a television personality. Noah gives the reader an in depth look on the woman who taught him to be the man he is today and how growing up in South Africa shaped his world views. 

What Born a Crime does best is educating its reader in a brief history about apartheid in South Africa and what that meant for the people living there. The novel accomplishes this by giving the reader straight up facts about it then framing it within Noah’s owe childhood and experiences in a comedic tone. Noah touches upon religion and how it shaped those around him, education, language, race, ethnicity, domestic violence, gender roles, and more. Each of these topics influenced Noah in specific ways that are highlighted throughout the text. A lot of them are introduced through funny stories, but some of them are given the serious weight they deserve.

As much as I laughed while reading Born a Crime, it broke my heart just as often. Noah’s story is not unique because it happens all too often. Stories like these shed light on topics that would otherwise remain hidden in the shadows. 


Overall, Born a Crime is a fantastic memoir that does more than tell funny stories. It educates the reader about South Africa’s recent past, the injustices faced by many everyday, and the consequences of those injustices. If you’re looking for a truly insightful memoir, look no further. Trevor Noah will take you on a journey through his childhood and young adult life that will leave you forever changed.