Friday, November 16, 2018

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

Book Club Book #2

There's a scene in the book where a teenage Noah and his buddies end up in front of kids and teachers in a Jewish school for a performance. One of the kids performing is named Hitler. You'll have to read the book to see how awkward things get, but it all happened because Noah had never learned that the "original" Hitler was a bad man. He had no idea, at that time, what had occurred during the war. Additionally, the magnitude of WWII was felt on a totally different level being raised in a country where being the lesser ethnic group was standard for so long.

It's just a snippet from the book, but one that clearly illustrates the difference in Noah's childhood. It also was a point that hit me personally, I know as much about life in apartheid South Africa as he knew about WWII.

Having always known people from South Africa, it struck me as odd that I had no concept of life in the country. Then, I couldn't help wondering about the specific stories of the South Africans I knew. They're all Jewish, they're all white. Did they identify with the white community because life was based on skin color, or did our history as a people create a kinship with those suffering? It's a completely separate issue, one that I might need to find a book on to learn more.

As far as Born A Crime goes, it was an intense and enlightening read. Noah takes his extremely personal reflections and pulls back the curtain on this unique society. My own experiences make his life look very hard, very sad, yet within the community he builds through own stories, he always seems to have an edge to support him doing more with this life than adhering to the status quo. Even if it took a while for him to get there, his perspective felt unique compared to the other people he associates with as he grows up.

This is in part thanks to his mother. She's definitely a gift in his life. He never paints her as such, but takes an almost casual observer approach to her resourcefulness and unwillingness to conform. Although not the focus of his stories, Noah gives his mom a lot of "page" time and she's quite an impressive lady. I hope he thanks her for all she taught him, even if the lessons were rough.

The book focuses solely on his childhood in South Africa. Stories aren't totally chronological, but they do come together to tell the story of how Noah's life began. He basically lived in two different worlds because of his parentage, but Noah never takes a "poor me" tone to his stories; he never asks you to appreciate all that he's overcome. He seems to look at his life as just what happened and prides himself on how he figured things out to keep going forward. And, I guess that is what you'd have to do living in a world entrenched in seeing how everyone else is different rather than trying to come together because we're all simply people. 

As an outside, Noah's life is so very interesting. The sheer will to dig out of a situation forced on you by people who simply decided they were better than you is fascinating, and sad. The book took me through so many different emotions, but I feel like I know more now about my world's history than I did before, and understanding the past is the only way to prevent if from happening in the future. Read this book!