Book review: Born a Crime, Trevor Noah


Trevor is someone I only know from his hosting the Daily Show on Comedy Central. He is hilarious, insightful and holds up an incisive mirror to America by being from another culture, by being from South Africa. Now he brings us along through his hilarious and also terrible childhood and growth into adulthood.

One memory of his childhood stands out: a childhood friend named Hitler (long story) ends up in a DJ and dance contest. It is important to note that the education of blacks in South Africa about the Holocaust has been limited, at best. Also, blacks are required to have an English name in addition to a name in their native tongue (of which there are apparently dozens). As they’re taught history, “Hitler” and “Mussolini” are names of folks, who, apparently are “strong” and “fearsome” but whose names do not carry any further cultural significance. SO, why NOT name your kid “Hitler?” Trevor and his friend end up as a hip hop DJ and dance act with local color at a celebration in a Jewish community center. The chapter titled: “Go Hitler!” is even more hilarious and mortifying than you can imagine. Can that boy tell a story!

I am grateful for the journey and his inviting us along into his home, his fears, his joys, his schemes, his failures; his successes. It is a roller coaster. It is as if de Tocqueville, who commented on American life as a British outsider in the 1800’s was funnier and lived in the modern era. Finally, the voices that Trevor uses to evoke his grandmother, his mother, his best friends, and all the many languages he spoke in Soith Africa… they are indescribable. Don’t read this book. Listen to Trevor tell it like he’s telling a Daily show story, except it is Real Life and he survived it.

CMIO’s take? Audible names this among the top 100 audio books of all time. I agree.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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