Born a Crime (★★★★★)

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Trevor Noah   *   Spiegel & Grau   *   November 15, 2016   *   304 Pages

Advanced Reader Copy provided by publisher through Net Galley.

Trevor Noah is the new host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central. When Jon Stewart announced that he was leaving the show last year, like most fans I was basically crushed. How could he leave?! And who was this Trevor kid? No, seriously, he looks like a baby. How can this child replace JON flippin’ STEWART? But as I watched the new host settle into his role, I actually began to like him. No, he wasn’t Jon Stewart–but he also wasn’t trying to be. He brought a completely different flavor to the show. He was still funny–but his background and perspective were different, intriguing. So when I first saw he had a memoir coming out, I knew I wanted to read it.

I have a track record of being disappointed by books written by newly-famous celebrities. (Somehow they tend to come across like they were written just to keep the gravy train rolling…) But this book. THIS BOOK. Holy smokes, it is so good. Never mind that it’s written well and that Noah has a great sense of humor and self-awareness about all the Ish he’s had to endure in his life. What I love most is that the book absolutely surprised me. I wasn’t prepared for where it went–or, rather, I wasn’t expecting this to be what Noah’s childhood was like. I guess I thought if he was able to get his own already-popular show, he must have had more than a few connections and handouts. And who knows, maybe he did eventually meet the person who knew The Person. But he certainly went through his fair share of Terrible Horrible before he got where he is now.

For example, Noah grew up in apartheid South Africa and was raised mostly by his mother (since his white father couldn’t be seen with him in public). His stepdad was a colossal dick and did some truly, truly horrible things to the family (especially his mother, yeesh). He was incredibly resourceful. He was chunky. He had bad skin and was very unpopular in school. He was also a troublemaker. He could run really fast and managed to evade cops more than once.

The point is, this is one of those books that doesn’t go anywhere you expect it to. I can’t begin to say how much I love it when someone’s personality or life story surprises me–and I especially appreciate it when a person turns out to be a scrappy-as-hell survivor.

My only very minor complaint is that the book ended too abruptly for me. I needed a few more pages telling me where Noah went from that last horrific act he describes in the book. Is that what propels him to go to America? I just needed more closure. But other than that, I absolutely loved Born a Crime. It’s one of the best memoirs I’ve read all year. (Along with 32 Yolks, if you’re looking for another good one…)  😀

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