Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

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Trevor Noah Born A Crime“Where most children are proof of their parents love, I was the proof of their criminality.” So says Trevor Noah in his wonderful book, Born A Crime. Trevor, who was born in South Africa during apartheid, details brilliant and terrible stories from his childhood.

Trevor’s childhood was rough, to say the least. His white father had to walk on the other side of the street to take him to the park. His black mother had to make believe she was the maid when she went out of the house with him. His grandmother wouldn’t discipline him because she wouldn’t hit a white person and his grandfather called him Master.

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But none of this made Trevor Noah a bitter person. Instead, it made him surprisingly insightful and introspective.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:

“We live in a world where we don’t see the ramifications of what we do to others because we don’t live with them. It would be a whole lot harder for an investment banker to rip off people with subprime mortgages if he actually had to live with the people he was ripping off.
If we could see one another’s pain and empathize with one another, it would never be worth it to us to commit the crimes in the first place.”

“You want to live in a world where someone is good or bad. Where you either hate them or love them. But that’s not how people are.”

“People always lecture the poor: “Take responsibility for yourself! Make something of yourself!” But with what raw materials are the poor to make something of themselves?”

“People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”

“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”

“We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to.”

“Comfort can be dangerous. Comfort provides a floor but also a ceiling.”


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Almost all of what Trevor speaks of is universal in one way or another. Trevor speaks of the betrayal by authority figures, the horrors of domestic abuse, the loneliness of a life without friends. Though most of us don’t live in South Africa, we have had similar experiences in our own lives or seen those experiences in the lives of people around us.

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I’ve read a lot of memoirs, but this is by far the most important. Not only is it an informative exploration of apartheid, but it is also a mirror of the human condition.

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Even if your not a fan of Trevor Noah’s comedy, this is an absolutely must-read book. Please don’t delay in buying, borrowing or begging for Born A Crime.

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