Born a Crime: Book Review

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by comedian Trevor Noah is an autobiography that is one crazy ride. It doesn’t feel like an autobiography and that is the magic of Noah. He uses comedy to make the reader laugh and also details his life vividly and you have to find out what happens next.

Born a Crime Summary

Trevor Noah discusses his childhood and growing up during apartheid in South Africa. Noah was a mixed-race son of a white Swiss-German father and a black Xhosa mother which made him colored in the apartheid system of racial classification. Under the laws, his existence as a mixed child was a crime. His parents couldn’t be seen together in public or they would have been arrested. 

While growing up in this harsh environment, Noah talks about the role that his mother played in his life. She is described as being stubborn, fearless, and an extraordinary teacher by Noah as well as very religious. Even when riots were happening in the streets, Noah’s mother made sure that they went to church.

Born a Crime book cover
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

The novel follows anecdotes from Noah’s childhood and some of the stories are as wild as they get. But mostly, Noah uses the knowledge his mother made sure that he learned to his advantage. He spoke many languages growing up and undertakes odd jobs to escape poverty. All these stories are written in a way that makes the book feel light-hearted and will make you smile. And other times, you will want to cry and be amazed at what Trevor Noah went through to be where he is at now. 


Like many people, I have come across Noah’s comedy stand up videos and know how funny he is. He is a gifted story teller and the book showcases that even more. We hear about Noah’s insane childhood and he makes many of our childhood’s look mild in comparison. More than Noah just telling us, he shows us with detailed writing and that is amazing coming from someone who isn’t even a professional writer.

This novel is about Noah but it is also about how resilient his mother was. We are shown how much Noah’s mom means to him and how she played a huge role in helping Noah be where he is today. She made sure he spoke many languages and we see that pay off right away. This is a novel and it is also a love letter to his mom where he wants to thank her for everything and he executes this perfectly.

Noah takes us down memory lane and tells us how difficult it was for him and his family growing up. And church was a big part of his life because his mom was a firm believer. Noah was just like any other kid and would try everything to escape from going to church. What I didn’t expect before I started reading was how interesting the stories would be. It is comedy and great story telling in an autobiography and makes you wonder how he made it work.

Noah has recently announced that he will be leaving the The Daily Show. That news caught everyone off guard including his cast mates. He has changed the dynamic of the show and has been an important voice ever since he was hired. Not only is Noah funny, but he is also insightful and able to look at things with a different lens. He will be missed and it will be exciting to see what he decided to do next in his career!

Born a Crime


Normally, I don’t read much autobiographies. I prefer fiction but this book kept showing up all over the place and I decided to give it a read. Part of that was because I liked Noah and partly because it had great reviews. I was glad I read it and would recommend it to everyone who loves to read even if you aren’t the biggest fan of autobiographies. Happy Reading!

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