Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (2016)

 

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The cover art and the subtitle: ‘Stories from a South African Childhood’ both create a facade of lightness to this memoir that’s actually the horrifying story of being born and raised under Apartheid when the white ruling class made all the rules and people of┬ácolor had zero power or rights–and lowest of all were those of mixed race (which was literally a crime), the group Noah fit into. And yet, among the many dark and dreadful tales, he also tells gut-wrenching funny stories of disobeying his mother, trying to get out of church, or pooping on the floor because he doesn’t want to go to the damp and stinky outhouse. I read Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane many years ago as well as Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. I feel like the three books together give readers some understanding of Apartheid’s composite whole while offering differing aspects of its oppressiveness from some of those who lived it. And yet, I realize that so many who lived it did not survive and never had a chance to tell their story. This is such an important book–and so well written.