Trevor Noah – Born A Crime Audiobooktext
Another reading in the framework of my Book Club, proposed by a South African participant. Trevor Noah is a famous comedian and late show host who hails from South Africa but works in the United States. In this autobiography, he tells us with a lot of hindsight and humor – but isn’t one essential to the other? – his childhood and youth in South Africa.
The title first puzzled me and deserves an explanation, fortunately provided from the first lines of the book. In South African society governed by apartheid laws, having sex with a person of a different race was punishable by law. Trevor Noah, born of an Xhosa mother and a Swiss father, embodies a misdemeanor – “crime” in English, false friend! Contrary to North American ethnic norms, he is not Black. Of course, he’s not White either. He is “Colorful”, or mixed, as they say in France. However, it is not a question of a person aesthetically because genetically privileged, as we often associate such a mixture in our country, but of a delicate situation. As a child under apartheid, he lives in a white and trendy neighborhood in Johannesburg where his parents met, but cannot appear in public alongside his mother, nor live under the same roof as his father. When he moves in with his maternal grandmother in the township of Soweto, he is prevented from going out to play with the other black children.
An extraordinary personality thanks to an exceptional mother
However, this at least complicated in-between in a political regime of oppression cannot explain the incredible resilience of Trevor Noah, which is deployed as well in Born A Crime Audiobook as in its shows or shows. His personal history demonstrates the primacy of education and the family environment over external social and political conditions, whatever they may be. And that’s good, because Patricia, the mother of the comedian, is an incredible woman. As opposed to the Zulu, the other majority and enemy people in South Africa, the Xhosa women are said to be light. Understand independent. But the mother of Trevor Noah, to whom the book is dedicated, shows a perseverance that never ceases to impress the reader.
Drawing this character from her unshakeable faith, this absolute Christian sees in every obstacle a test sent by Jesus. At the very beginning of this autobiography, Trevor Noah recounts his mother’s absolute piety and his life as a boy punctuated by Masses for whites, blacks and colored people respectively. And when a Sunday, Noah’s mom’s junk pile breaks down on the way to mass, quitting isn’t an option. Even if it means traveling for hours on the bus, she, her 12-year-old son and her baby will not return home. But in the townships of Johannesburg, the bus companies are unreliable because they are run by one or the other of the main black ethnic groups who hate each other. And when the small family is caught hitchhiking by a motorist, a Zulu bus driver accuses the latter of stealing his customers and threatens to kill him – words to be taken seriously amid a bloody struggle between black peoples after the end of apartheid. The mother then decides to get on the bus to put an end to the conflict and when an argument breaks out with this ultra dangerous driver, she does not hesitate to jump off the bus with her two children. His conclusion is clear: they did not nearly die because of Jesus, but made it out safe and sound thanks to him.
A free woman (?)
We find this stubbornness / risk-taking – and quite simply this freedom – in the course of this woman. She left her parents’ home at a very young age and learned not only English, but also many African dialects, allowing her son to turn into a real chameleon whenever she met. In the middle of apartheid, she moved to a white district but open to diversity, and lived a love affair with a European. “Worse” than that, she becomes an office worker and thus accesses a job category hitherto reserved for whites. Patricia even climbs the ranks and her salary increases over the years. Even though Noah doesn’t go into the details of her professional development, it feels like Blanche’s classic and comfortable career. After meeting Abel, a violent and alcoholic Zulu with whom she will have a child, it is precisely her salary that keeps her husband’s auto repair garage out of the water. The end of the story is unfortunately common knowledge and shows us that the most independent, free and intelligent women are not immune to domestic violence and femicide. This is how after several blows and summons from the police – without success, since these gentlemen in uniform never worried Abel, preferring to ask Patricia what she could have done to take a right – this great believer miraculously emerges unscathed from a bullet in the leg and then in the head of her ex-husband. As soon as she leaves the hospital, the two main character traits of this beautiful now disfigured woman, namely wit / humor and faith, express themselves in a moving way. So she declares to her son that he has become the most beautiful of the family and that Jesus is the only explanation for the jamming of the weapon and the fact that the bullet fired in the head came out of it through the nostril without reaching vital organs.
A book of universal scope, a source of personal reflection
Since the reader is as responsible for his reading as the author of his writings, I closed Born A Crime Audiobook by telling myself that paradoxically, this book had inspired me. Yes, paradoxically, because I am a white woman who grew up in an old country with a white majority and whose political situation has been stable since the end of World War II. For me, this humorous autobiography is much more than a book on apartheid. It would have been pretty good you would tell me, but in telling his personal story, Trevor Noah inevitably touches the universal. That’s why I sometimes found myself – yes, me, the white European woman, etc. – in several situations, and I was able to learn lessons from certain slices of life.
The strength of this book lies in one word: resilience. But the link with the previous paragraph is obvious. Noah’s mother is a brilliant woman, but also very firm and traditional, a trait that is expressed especially in her bigotry. She does not hesitate to severely correct her son to punish him. But humor – black, without a bad pun – is never far away. These corporal punishments are so applied that the child cannot help laughing when he receives it from the principal of his school. Then Patricia quickly makes the punishment forget by reminding Trevor, while he is still in physical pain, that she loves him and does it for his good. Far be it from me to promote this kind of education, but in this particular case, this mixture of steadfastness and love – one without the other would take its toll – shaped a terribly strong and positive young man. The character is “inspiring”.
So he tells how he naturally turned his status as an outsider in high school to his advantage. An only child and different by his skin color, he never really succeeded in integrating among blacks, whites and even colored people, who already found him too black, especially because of his mastery of dialects. Even if he did everything to escape his confinement when he lived in Soweto, loneliness has always been, from an early age, an opportunity to build a world of his own and not a real one. problem. As he is defined by his not belonging to a specific group, he has no barriers: to feel integrated nowhere is to be at ease everywhere. And this resourcefulness, carried by good legs, allows him to set up a lucrative business of withdrawing from the lunch in the yard for his comrades, or to have success in his activities of sale of engraved CDs or DJs.
Another anecdote – because the story is in a few lines – which made me think and remains in my memory: the “betrayal” of one of the deaf dogs of teenage Trevor. During the day, when the two dogs are alone at the house, one of them climbs the walls and goes to live with locals. Their child naturally appropriates the animal and during an attempt to resolve the dispute, Trevor discovers not only his dog’s deafness, but also that the latter does not belong to him. This seemingly harmless doggie story illustrates an aspect that is not obvious but – once properly internalized – liberating human relationships: nobody belongs to nobody. And as Noah so beautifully puts it in conclusion, this dog was not his dog, but a dog, just as people don’t have to be locked into relationships of ownership.
Finally, a much more serious subject and a problem that only those close to victims of domestic violence can understand: impotence. When Patricia nearly dies murdered by her abusive husband, Trevor is twenty-five and hasn’t spoken to his mother for several years. The ignorant will speak of ingratitude, cowardice and selfishness. How can you abandon your own mother when she needs help the most? Simply because she doesn’t want it. Noah’s justification for his distancing can be found in one sentence in the book. In essence, “everyone has their problems”. When women are beaten by their husbands, outsiders are quick to judge relatives and accuse them of turning a blind eye. But what to do when the victim – even if he is under the influence, even if his ego is crushed – refuses freedom and accepts voluntary submission? Nothing. And Noah has the courage to admit it. This is the strength of this uncompromising autobiography: a lesson in sincerity.Born A Crime Audiobook, better than a political book, better than a personal development book!