“Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah BOOK REVIEW

Year of publication: 2016

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau International Edition


Strong Point: The sincerity with which Trevor is telling us about his life. He tells us the good events as well as the bad and terrible ones. The book is a very good source for learning about apartheid and its catastrophic consequences.

Weak Point: I haven’t found any. Some people say that “Born a Crime” is too informal. But, if you have seen any of Trevor’s shows, you know the way he usually communicates with his audience. Anyway, the message is so important and powerful, that its informality is not a big issue for me.

Books on Tour Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5)

Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4.46/5)


Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty.


I am sure you all know Trevor Noah. He is a TV anchor in an American late night show. There, he comments the main news of the day, does interviews to guests, and offers very good entertainment. 

But what maybe not all of you know is that Trevor is not born in America, but in South Africa. And what I am sure few of you know is that Trevor was born a crime.

Why is that? You may ask…well because Trevor’s father is white and his mother is black. So, as this interracial couples were forbidden at that time in Africa, it makes sense that the offspring of that forbidden union should be a crime, right? What a nonsense and a stupidity…

This book is full of this type of stories about Trevor and his family, about the beautiful country of South Africa, about what it was to live in the awful system of the apartheid and its aftermath, about racism, about violence, about corrupted political systems; about poverty…

But “Born a Crime” also tells the reader about family, friendship, religion, sense of humour, and hope. 

After reading this book, I appreciate even more Trevor’s jokes and his wonderful sense of humour. Because if someone who grew up without having enough food, or almost losing his mother at the hands of her ex-husband, is still able to see life with those eyes, who am I to be pissed and angry for stupid things?


This year 2020 more than ever, people should read “Born a Crime” to understand what racism is, which are its origins, and to have another (and complementary) point of view about this delicate topic. 

Trevor’s memoirs are unique. They are told by an African man, not an American. A man who was born in the country where the first men were enslaved and sent by boat to America. This is, in my opinion, the most interesting aspect of “Born a Crime”. 

I cannot denny that I was very angry sometimes while reading the book, because of the injustices and stupidities of apartheid. There are so many absurdities that people had to experience on a daily basis that I truly thank Trevor to open my eyes about all this.

Everyone knows that apartheid was very, very wrong. For those like me who were just a child when all this was happening, and that later as a teenager, no one had the time to teach us what had really happened in Africa at that time, “Born a crime” feels like a sort of “history text book”.


I really enjoyed Trevor’s way of thinking about languages. As a person who lives in a country which is not her own, and who struggles everyday for many years with a language which is not her mother tongue, Trevor’s perspective was very interesting to read. He explains that he was using languages like her mother did, to try to blend, to be a “chameleon”.

Trevor tried to speak every language with which he was in contact: English, Xhosa (her mother’s tribe language), Afrikaans (“the language of your oppressor”), Zulu, etc. Because, as he himself says in the book, “Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people. (…) Maybe I didn’t look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you”.   

Another aspect of the book that interested me, was Trevor “special” situation in Africa. People did not treat him as a “true African”, because for them he was “coloured”, because he is a mixed-race child. He was also not fitting with “whites” as his skin was too dark…

This feeling of always being an “outsider”, of not being accepted by any group, was quite hard for Trevor. He was always the “different” one, no matter where he went. This aspect of his story is quite interesting. We can read that racism exits everywhere, in white circles as well as in black ones, and that there can be racism within racism.


Patricia Nombuyiselo is Trevor’s mother, his muse, his inspiration, and to whom the book is dedicated. The story of this brave and amazing woman leaves you speechless. Her courage, her perseverance, her love for her son, is truly inspiring. It is one of the most special aspects of “Born a Crime”. I can only feel an immense respect for such a woman.  

She decided to have her son, even when she knew it would be complicated for the child and for herself.

Patricia never let anything crush her. Whether it was poverty, violence or injustice, she always managed to survive. Her deep religious beliefs made her even stronger, and her wonderful sense of humour helped her even more.

Furthermore, it is magical for me to see the amazing relationship that mother and son have. The way they always support each other (but also how they exasperate each other) is an absolute delight to read…