‘Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood’ offers a unique look into the life of ‘The Daily Show’ host

Megan Hanner

“Apartheid was perfect racism.” This is the opening sentence of the second chapter in “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood,” a biography written by Trevor Noah. Many know Noah as the host of Comedy Central’s hugely popular news satire program “The Daily Show,” and others may know him for his stand-up comedy.

Cover of “Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah. Photo credit: Megan Hanner

“Born a Crime” focuses on the life of Noah at a young age when he was forced to carefully navigate the world around him as a child of a white man and a black woman. This was the inspiration for the title of the book. The book explains that in apartheid South Africa, relationships between people of the opposite race could result in multiple years in prison.


Right from the start, the reader is pulled into Noah’s world. The book starts off with his experiences as a young child living in apartheid South Africa. Apartheid was a time in South Africa in which systematic and brutal separation of black and white people was enforced by the government.

Many fans may not know that Noah spent the first years of his life indoors because his mother could have been sent to prison if he was seen, and he could have ended up in an orphanage. “Born a Crime” allows fans to learn about these various aspects of Noah’s life including poverty, racism, family, crime, love and how those experiences shaped him into the man he is today.

Not only do fans of Noah get a first-hand look into his life, but there are also opportunites to learn the history of the beginning and end of the apartheid. The book teaches the reader about the multiple cultures within South Africa and how those cultures interact with one another. Reading Noah’s thoughts on the various ways race had huge effects on people and how they interacted with each other is eye-opening.

If a reader is looking for a book they can sit back with and enjoy over spring break, “Born a Crime” is a great one to consider. Noah’s voice and tone throughout the book is calm and informal. He does not simply talk at the reader about his experiences and memories, he invites the reader to walk with him for the whole journey.

What is also striking about the book is how the subject matter and themes change. One minute, a reader may laugh out loud. The next moment, Noah’s words and heartbreaking life experiences may draw the reader to tears. This makes “Born a Crime” quite the emotional roller coaster.

The only downside to the book is that it tends to skip around chronologically. It does not just start at the beginning of Noah’s life and continue from there. Some chapters include memories from when he was in his early twenties, while the next chapter could focus on a time when he was a teenager or a young child. This however, does not detract from the reading experience. The book is divided based on subject matter rather than his age.

Should you read it? Yes


“Born a Crime” is an inspirational must-read for fans of “The Daily Show” and Noah. Most of us only know him for his comedy, but Noah has much more to offer than just his jokes. He has a wisdom about him that came from his childhood in a country where his very existence was considered a crime.

Collegian reporter Megan Hanner can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @meganhanner48.