My wife picked up Trevor Noah’s biography, detailing his life growing up in the aftermath of apartheid in South Africa. Sounds pretty heavy doesn’t it? It both is and isn’t. Trevor Noah is an entertainer, a stand up comedian and late night host, currently on The Daily Show having taken over for John Stewart a few years back, so he has a tremendous talent for comedy, and it is on full display in this book.
He begins by describing what apartheid did to the various communities in South Africa, and that his very existence was considered a crime at that time. Born of a black woman and a white man, whose relationship was illegal in South America at the time, he lived a childhood that was very different from the one I grew up in. Could you imagine walking down the street holding your mother’s hand and having her just let go if the police were nearby? Having your father unable to acknowledge you on the street? The mere thought of that is just plain crazy, but it was a reality that he had to grow up with.
Noah describes the awfulness of everything tinged with his trademark humour, and definitely does not portray himself as a saint or hero, rather he does much the opposite, but in a way that is endearing and funny. His mother on the other hand, she is revered. This man loves and respects his mother more than anything else on the planet, and the endearment shows in every passage or mention that she appears in. She comes across as a truly remarkable woman, and someone that I think I would be honoured to meet.
He describes his childhood, his teen years, and his early adult life up to the point he started to make it big as a comedian. The book ends after his mother survived a murder attempt at the hands of her ex-husband, Trevor’s step-father. This book shows that Noah is a man very much shaped by his mother, and though he tried otherwise, she managed to form him into a caring and respectful man.
It also paints a very vivid picture of what life was like in South Africa at that time, and Noah does a good job detailing the cultural backgrounds of the various groups and factions within the country on a very understandable coles-notes sort of level. I learned a lot about South African history reading this book, and am definitely inclined to do some more reading.
In conclusion, this book was engaging, entertaining, and to a degree, educational. It was a quick read, mostly due to how accessible and friendly it was. If you’re looking for a great non-fiction read, this a great choice. Heck, if you’re looking for a great read period, this is a good choice.