Born a Crime is a book centered on South Africa’s history of apartheid, it is made up of eighteen chapters, and each chapter is prefaced by a short piece explaining the element of apartheid in south Africa. Most chapters focus on the relationship between Noah and his mother, who was fearless, God-fearing, Xhosa woman, she never missed Sunday service and even attended three different churches every Sunday, along with her two sons (“black church”, “white church” and “mixed church”). She risked a prison term of up to four years by having a child with a white man, a Swiss/German expat named Robert. The birth of Noah, violated the Immorality Act of 1927 which outlawed interracial sexual relationships, Noah was indeed born a crime.
Noah, due to his circumstance; his skin color, he was mostly kept indoors for the first four to five years of his life, “the flashes of memory I have from when I was young are almost all indoors, me with my mom in her tiny flat, me by myself at my gran’s” writes Noah. He could not be seen in public with his mother as that would cause suspicion and could lead to his mother’s arrest. So, Noah’s mother got a colored woman named Queen, who lived in their block of flats to act as Noah’s mother when they wanted to go to the park “Queen would walk next to me and act like she was my mother, and my mother would walk a few steps behind, like she was the maid working for the colored woman.”
Whenever Noah was at his Gran’s in Soweto (a strictly black township), he was never allowed to play outside with the other kids, because, he could be taken “Children could be taken. Children were taken. The wrong color kid in the wrong color area, and the government could come in, strip your parents of custody, and haul you off to an orphanage.”Noah recalls.
Growing up, Noah hardly ever fit in anywhere. Noah’s mother was eventually able to move out of Soweto and was able to buy a house in the suburbs, Noah went from being the only white kid in the black township to being the only black kid in the white suburb. He didn’t quit fit in anywhere, and growing up, he had few friends. Even when he moved to a colored neighborhood, he still did not fit in “some colored people hated me because of my blackness. My hair was curly and I was proud of my Afro. I spoke African languages and loved speaking them. People would hear me speaking Xhosa or Zulu and they’d say…what are you, a bushman? Why are you trying to be black?” “Other colored people hate me because of my whiteness. Even though I identified as being black, I had a white father. I went to an English private school. I’d learned to get along with white people at church. I could speak perfect English, and I barely spoke Afrikaans, the language colored people were supposed to speak. So colored people thought that I was better than them…”
The stories are exceptionally funny, dramatic, yet touching; from feeding on caterpillars and “dog bones” for dinner during hard times, to being thrown from a moving vehicle to escape a kidnap or possible murder or trying to live with his crazy, abusive, step-father.
I totally loved this book mainly because it was hilarious. I went over each chapter to laugh again, and again. His straight from the shoulder stories deepened my perception of the complexness of race, class and the South African apartheid. Although, Noah failed to tell us how he rose to fame, you know, going into comedy and becoming the host of The Daily Show. Noah was really point blank with his stories. This book is absolutely an unputdownable, and it’s easy to read, if you love comedy, you should definitely read this book! If you need a copy, let me know, & I’ll hook you up
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