Imagine growing up knowing your very existence was against the laws of your country. That you couldn’t say “Dad” in public to your own father, because you could be taken away from your mother and put in an orphanage, and your parents could be arrested. All because of race. Welcome to Trevor Noah’s life.
Growing up, at least when he was under ten, Trevor lived under the system known as Apartheid. This meant that the government had instituted a system of racism and figured out a way to classify everyone. Based on your skin color (and language which in many cases was set by your skin color), your life was set. If you were black, you lived in the worst parts of the country, had little education, and were destined to work menial jobs your whole life. Coloreds (people of mixed ancestry from colonial days) were in the second rung and the whites occupied the top tiers of society and controlled not only the government, but also the economy.
Now, being just a kid, Trevor didn’t really get all of this. So when he went to visit his grandmother, he didn’t understand why he couldn’t go outside and play with his cousins in Soweto – a black only township – that had been created by the government as a place to house black workers. He couldn’t go outside because Trevor was mixed, or colored, although he wasn’t colored because of colonial times. His mother, who was black, had decided she wanted a child. And she picked a white man from Switzerland to be her child’s father. Trevor’s years growing up were filled with pranks, close calls and a real story of finding oneself in the midst of poverty and hope.
It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is a funny, tragic, uplifting story giving insight into another whole world. The part in the book where he talks about his good friend, Hitler, is really eye opening. Many children in South Africa are named Hitler. He gives a really interesting and thought provoking answer for why.
Highly recommended book for grades 8 and up.