Archive | 10:16 AM

Book Club Reflection: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

18 Jun

My book club met up last week and we talked about a book I loved, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. No one in the club disliked the book. It would be hard to, I think. Trevor is such a likable guy!

I was surprised to hear that there will be a movie adaptation of this book in the works! The role of Patricia has gone to Lupita Nyong’o and Noah is on as a producer. Noah is also working on a second book, Place of Gold. It’s set to release in June 2020. This one covers his early adulthood, from late teenage years to his stardom.

We all learned a lot about South Africa, its’ history, and apartheid from this book. Many of us knew next to nothing about this difficult history. Many of us had the misconception that after Mandela was released from jail, things got better but that was clearly not the case. It seems like things got worse before they got better. It was crazy for us to see how divided people were. The white minority had divided the oppressed blacks into ethnic groups and encouraged separatism between the groups, so they wouldn’t unite and rise. It just seems so crazy to us that it worked for so long!

One member read along to the audiobook and noticed that a few names were different. We wondered which ones were ‘real’ or if Trevor was protecting his friends! The audiobook won the Earphones Award for the awesome narration. Trevor talks about how language is used to unite people and the audiobook was even more powerful hearing him speak all the languages that he learned to be a chameleon. His way of speaking is wonderful. A few of our readers had seen him live and said he was wonderful. Another had heard that he was popular back in South Africa as well and I was glad to hear that.

Many of us were a little thrown off by the non-linear storytelling at first. I had trouble figuring out when Andrew was born and when apartheid ended because of it. Trevor’s decision to group his stories by theme did help explain what appeared to be a very complex culture. He was able to address the culture he lived in better this way.

We were surprised at how differently Trevor was treated in his mothers’ village. Not being punished the same way, being an honored guest at events, all these things because of his skin color was so strange. We wondered if there was a risk of him being spoiled because of this treatment, but it sounds like his mother wasn’t about to let that happen.

Patricia was an amazing character in this book. She was very strong and well equipped to raise a son as outspoken and naughty as Trevor. She’s portrayed so favorably that it’s hard to imagine her making a mistake and marrying Able. She fought so hard to keep that marriage and family afloat that she almost ‘settled’ into the misfortune that came to her. She believed in making mistakes and she made some of her own. But she did stop Trevor from making the biggest mistake he could have and ending up in jail!

Trevor’s criminal enterprises didn’t sound quite so criminal from the way he described them. They sounded like smart hustles, almost cheating the system. We did like his insight into the ‘teach a man to fish’ metaphor. Yes, you can teach someone to do something. But if they don’t have to tools to do that new skill, they’re no better of than they were before. Getting the CD writer changed his life. He had the tools to use his skills and become successful when he hadn’t been able to before because of supplies, not ability.

The other insight we all loved was how Hitler was more or less unknown to black South Africans. When they had to name the worst person in history, he wasn’t on their radar. They would choose someone who directly affected their own misfortune, not a group of people in a place they’d never heard of or been to. It led to some rather amusing situations, to be sure!

That’s the last meeting of this group until the fall. It’s nice having one that takes the summer off so I can pick some summer reads for myself. Until next time, write on.

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