Many of our readers would be familiar with Barack Obama’s memoirs of growing up in Hawaii with his single mother. This quarterly’s book bears similarities with that wonderful book – a young boy growing up with a single mother, though in Africa, but very much like Obama, with no notable fatherly presence.
In turns funny – after all, he is a comedian – , in turns serious, the work provides a fascinating in-depth look at what it was like to be a mixed-race kid growing up in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. And grow up he did pretty quickly, as you necessarily adapt to constantly changing circumstances, whether it be the neighbourhood you just arrived in, or the new school you started attending, as his mother sought to provide her son with the best, though often demanding, upbringing her very limited resources would permit.
Some interesting, and doubtless true, insights include:
- Language, even more than colour, defines who you are
- People don’t want to be rich – they want to be able to choose – money gives you choices
- People say “Give a man a fish, ………. “ What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.”
It may be hard to believe, but our comedian also happened to be quite an enterprising lad, buying any kind of bootlegged stuff he could get his hands on, mostly CDs, and remixing and reselling it to his classmates at a handsome profit. That in turn led to a career of sorts as a DJ at impromptu street venues in Johannesburg neighbourhoods. And, slowly but surely, he evolved into a top notch late night comedy television host in America today.
Trevor Noah, Born a Crime, Doubleday Canada