Book Review: Born A Crime

Ahhhhhhh… Summertime.

Summertime is synonymous with reading time in my house. Every year the kids get sent home with a list, or more recently an email that tells us to check an online listing for their summer reading books for the coming year. Fortunately, they usually have some choice in the matter. It has been my practice to read their summer reading books either before they do, after them, or along with them so that I can discuss the content with them, check for comprehension, or just get an idea of what they are putting in their heads.

This year, I started with one of my eldest child’s books and I wasn’t disappointed. Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime is a quick, easy read and interesting topic. The book is not strictly written in chronological order. Instead, it jumps back and forth through a series of vignettes as introductions to or illustrations of the broader idea he wants to convey. This chronological back and forth is an exciting way to organize the book, but I did find myself wishing I had a clear timeline of what happened. In a second edition, I’d love to see a chronology at the end.

Without giving too much away, Noah provides an in-depth examination of his life in South Africa during and immediately after apartheid. The title is based on the legal status of Noah at his birth. Since it was illegal for whites to copulate with those of a different race, his existence itself was not only evidence of, but in and of itself a crime.

Not preachy or political in nature, Born A Crime illuminates some of the difficulties of living in South Africa at the time while focusing on his specific experiences as a child of mixed race. While South Africa has a multitude of ways in which to categorize race, there was no real place for Noah to fit in as a child with mixed parentage. His experiences as an outsider can relate to anyone who has ever felt like one themselves. The book isn’t so much a coming of age story as a series of short memoirs with reflections. Heart-warming, heart-wrenching, and humorous, the book is definitely a good summer read.

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