You know that feeling where you laugh loud but you are actually crying? That is the feeling that plagued me when I read Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime.
It was not an unusual feeling because that hollow deep lump in the throat feeling that characterised a lot of my childhood.
That is what Trevor’s debut book evokes, or forces; to go back to your own up bringing, to find similarities in the pain and to recover in the laughter.
My childhood was nothing like Trevor’s but it feels similar.
I didn’t grow up in Soweto to mixed race parents but I could identify in the pain of the poverty, the abuse and then the hustle.
Trevor’s book does not give a chronological account of his life, rather its an intricate piece of experiences which are woven into the lessons he learnt from life.
Apartheid is a significant feature in the first part of the book with domestic violence appearing towards the end.
Noah does not write about his present day successes of selling out comedy shows worldwide to being the host of The Daily Show.
But by reading about his heartbreaking past you can understand the success he enjoys today and why success comes ‘easy’ to those who have started at the pit bottom.
If there is one lesson I learnt by reading Born a Crime is that you have to reconcile your past to free yourself from its shackles.
We all carry burdens from our upbringing, some heavier than others.
When Noah wrote about his fiercely passionate mother, I choked up the most.
I found my mother in the description of his mother; a disciplinarian, strong willed and a victim of circumstances.
Born a Crime is a powerful story of helplessness and hope- an oxymoron to everyone living in a perfect world but balancing act for those on the other side.
While his story is heartbreaking, you are sure to laugh out loud.
In Trevor I saw a mirror of myself, joking in the time of pain and turning your misfortune into the best story among your privileged friends.
Born a Crime is as much about Trevor Noah as it is about the hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged South Africans, given the raw end of life’s deal as a result of apartheid and in the end using that to turn that misfortune on its head.
Born a Crime is a must read. Each person will get something unique out of it.