Title: Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
Author: Trevor Noah
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Keywords: comedy, life, bad ass mothers
I don’t usually read memoirs or non-fiction (though that has radically changed these past two years). After seeing Trevor Noah take the spotlight of one of my favorite shows, The Daily Show and hearing his stories of his childhood and South Africa I couldn’t help but press the ‘buy ticket’ button when I found out he was going to be in LA to promote his book, Born A Crime. I’ll talk about the event later in this post, but suffice to say before and after the show I was devouring the pages.
The title pretty much sums it up, really. Trevor talks about various stages of his life during and after apartheid. The voice of the book is perfect. I don’t have the audiobook, but when reading this I could hear Noah’s voice perfectly. His life experience filled me with amazement, horror and at times, disbelief. Like the majority of Americans, atrocities outside our borders are something we read in textbooks, the reality of it vanished by time and distance. To hear Trevor’s personal account of apartheid is sobering and the only way I managed to swallow the horror I felt was through laughter at Trevor’s humorous take on his life.
And yet, despite the book having his name splashed on the cover along with an image of his own face on a street wall, the real star of this book is Trevor’s mother, Patricia Noah.
Sure, reading about Trevor’s life is the main reason to sit with this book. But in between the youthful shenanigans of the future comedian are mic drop moments of Patricia Noah spittin’ words of ‘lit’ wisdom to her son (or just beating it into him) and she just steals the scene. I remember getting excited every time Patricia showed up again in the book. As Trevor says, they were more than just mother and son: they were partners. He is the Robin to her Batman. Patricia Noah is larger than life. She jumps out of a moving car with Trevor and his baby brother to escape a violent taxi driver. She gets shot in the face by her husband and returns to work a week later. Hell, she even conceived Trevor on her own terms. She asked the only man she trusted and spent time with at that point (a white expatriate man who lived on the same floor as her) to help her have a baby and she got it. She didn’t give a fig if Trevor’s father stuck around. She just wanted a child. A true lioness, that one. There are too many awesome moments with her that I would end up quoting the majority of the book if I kept going. So I won’t.
Come for The Daily Show. Stay for a badass woman named Patricia Noah. And when is she going to come as a guest on The Daily Show? I think we all could learn a thing or, you know, a thousand from her.
“Learn from your past and be better because of your past, but don’t cry about your past. Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you, but don’t hold on to it. Don’t be bitter.”
“The world doesn’t love you. If the police get you, the police don’t love you. When I beat you, I’m trying to save you. When they beat you, they’re trying to kill you.”
“I chose to have you because I wanted something to love and something that would love me unconditionally in return—and then I gave birth to the most selfish piece of shit on earth and all it ever did was cry and eat and shit and say, ‘Me, me, me, me, me.”
“My child, you must look on the bright side.”
“What? What are you talking about, ‘the bright side’? Mom, you were shot in the face. There is no bright side.”
“Of course there is. Now you’re officially the best-looking person in the family.”
Seriously though!! How amazing is this woman?!
Bonus! Trevor Noah at the Theater at Ace Hotel
I caught the LA Times Ideas Exchange with Trevor Noah show just in time last month and it was definitely worth it. It was kind of refreshing to see Trevor live without the obligation of his job to make us laugh (though we did). Some thoughts running through my head during the Q&A:
1.Damn the Theatre at the Ace Hotel is amaaaaazing.
2. Trevor looks just as good in real life. That suit he wore tho.
3. I love a man who reads. And Trevor is a man who reads. And loves to read. And he loves speculative fiction? Too good to be true…
4. I don’t remember who MC’d the event, but she’s a POC LA Times Staff Writer and she was great too. The two seemed comfortable up there and seemed like they had a good connection. I would think these Q&A type of events would be awkward as f*ck considering it’s just two people having a conversation in front of mob of people, but the vibes of these two were chill.
5. I loved the mix of the audience. I saw people of all ages and races in the crowd. It was so nice to see a melting pot, a microcosmic representation of not only LA, but the US itself.
6. Despite the hardships he had as a child, he still tells us that he still grew up privileged than most children and he acknowledges that privilege. I thought that was pretty admirable of him.