Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Before an illustrious international comedy career and a job hosting the Daily Show, Trevor Noah was an awkward kid living through apartheid. His memoir, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, is both the story of his upbringing and a commentary on the political machinery that enforced institutionalized racism.

Similar to the way Noah's late-night program operates, Born a Crime attacks controversial and divisive issues with comedy. As if his punchlines were the tip of a sharp scalpel, he dissects the inner workings of a racist bureaucracy by exposing the inherent absurdity in its policies. But unlike the show, the humor here is personal. With a collection of anecdotes about life in South Africa, Noah juxtaposes his own youthful ignorance and innocence with the adult and oppressive circumstances in which he was raised. For instance, he shows how silly racism can be when he writes about realizing too late that his prom date didn't speak his language due to governmental policies dividing the country along tribal lines.

But beyond the wit of Noah's storytelling style lies a darker truth about the nature of the modern world. Born to a white man and a black woman, Noah's very existence was illegal in the eyes of his government. Throughout his memoir, Noah subtly asks his readers whether or not they can find any parallels in modern American life. None of this happened in ancient history, he seems to remind us; he is just in his early 30s and is a survivor of state-sponsored bigotry. --Josh Potter

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