“We live in a world where we don’t see the ramifications of what we do to others because we don’t live with them…If we could see one another’s pain and empathize with one another, it would never be worth it to us to commit the crimes in the first place.”
4/5 stars. ebook, 322 pages. Read January 5, 2021 to January 7, 2021.
I don’t think I’ve really talked about this awesome new book club I’m apart of. It’s a meet-in-person club with people who actually read the book, all while drinking copious amounts of alcohol with engaging and amazing discussions. Every. Single. Month. I chose The Vegetarian for my read in May and it was epic.
It’s a book lover’s dream and I’m so happy I found it. Born a Crime was another book club read and unlike the last one this book was an unexpected pleasure.
Confession: I have never watched The Daily Show and only knew about Trevor Noah in passing. It wasn’t until I came across this book that I even knew he was from South Africa.
Born a Crime is Trevor Noah’s memoir and testament to his childhood and his country, South Africa, and especially his mother. Trevor Noah is ‘coloured’ and was born during the time of apartheid meaning that he was actually born a crime. He legally wasn’t allowed to exist. His mother is black and his father is white and relations between the two were not allowed, among many of the rules that oppressed the black population of South Africa at the time. The story describes how Noah grew up, how his mom raised him alone, and how he learned and worked within the regimented system that existed in South Africa. Trevor’s story is highly entertaining and engaging while also drawing attention to the intense racial issues that still plague South Africa today. Trevor’s story is also a testament to his mother and everything that she did for him in raising him. If you’ve read the first chapter of this book you also know it involves being thrown out of a moving vehicle to save him. Just one example of how funny, interesting, and captivating Trevor’s story is.
“My mom did what school didn’t. She taught me how to think.”
Trevor’s story isn’t about his miraculous rise to fame, it’s about his country, his mother, and is a coming of age story for a kid growing up in a difficult situation. Trevor is humble and while he gives some details about his rise to fame he takes a reflective stance about what his new situation means to him and others.
“The first thing I learned about having money was that it gives you choices. People don’t want to be rich. They want to be able to choose. The richer you are, the more choices you have. That is the freedom of money.”
Considering I didn’t even know much about Trevor Noah prior to reading this book I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book and just how humorous it is. A good comedian can make light of serious situations and issues while drawing your attention to these sensitive topics without offensive, Trevor has mastered this.
“If you’re Native American and you pray to the wolves, you’re a savage. If you’re African and you pray to your ancestors, you’re a primitive. But when white people pray to a guy who turns water into wine, well, that’s just common sense.”
Whether you love memoirs or not, I feel that there is something in this book for everyone while also providing a unique insight into difficult part of South African history.
“Had I recognized it only then? We were losers and neighbourhood schemers. We were the children of the help, without futures. We were, none of us, what our parents wanted us to be. We were not what any other adults wanted us to be. We were nobodies, or else, somehow, a city.”
ebook, 132 pages.
Read on February 7, 2019.
This is the only full-fiction selection from the Canada Reads 2019 shortlist though its story is likely all too real for many. This is an intricate story of a set of first-generation Canadian brothers, Michael and Francis, and their upbringing in the rough neighbourhood of Scarborough, Ontario in the 90s.
The story has a weaving timeline that begins in the present day in which Michael is welcoming an old school friend, Aisha, into the home he still shares with his ailing mother after Aisha’s father has passed away. The two of them allude to a tragic event involving Francis and from there Michael ruminates on the details of his childhood opening the whole story up to the reader as well as the events that brought about the death of his brother, Francis.
Michael and Francis’ mother is originally from Trinidad and Tobago and with their father absent, she is the sole provider for her boys. She works hard, too hard, in order to keep food on the table for them. It is her character I find the most tragic. After Francis dies, she is never herself again. She tried so hard to bring her boys the best yet they were never able to overcome the impossible circumstances that poverty and race trapped them in.
Francis was the cool kid in the neighbourhood. Popular and into his fair share of trouble and with a dream of being involved in hip hop and music but was constantly fighting the barrage of prejudice against him. Kids from this neighbourhood were made up of a variety of immigrant families struggling to get by. Crime, poverty, and gangs became prevalent and not much was expected of kids like Michael and Francis, and like many of the kids in the neighbourhood, they got smothered in this trapt environment. Aisha was the exception. Aisha did well very well in school and managed to escape the neighbourhood with a scholarship. Aisha and Michael used to spend lots of time at the local library as a way to get out of the house and because Michael was never quite cool enough to hang out with Francis and his friends at a local barbershop.
The story is an encompassing story that touches on immigration, race, poverty and the Black Lives Matter movement, yet the approach of these difficult ideas is broached in such a delicate manner. It’s written in a very matter-of-fact way in that it emphasises that this is just another ordinary family and that their situation isn’t all that unique, making the impact of the story that much more poignant. It’s a very politically and timely piece that is uniquely Canadian in terms of the setting but all-encompassing with its ideas.
The ideas alone are enough to move you but the way Michael and his mother’s life end up, without Francis and without hope of a better life, are what truly make this novel.
We were just acting out the strangest, tragic little roles, pretending to be criminals in order to get by. We gave very convincing performances.”
4/5 stars. ebook, 368 pages.
Read from June 4, 2018 to June 14, 2018.
This book has been heralded with awards and accolades for its unique and outspoken story about Baby, a twelve-year-old girl just trying to make sense of the world and how she fits into it.
Baby is her name. Her real name, not some cute nickname. Baby’s parents were very young when they had her with her mother exiting from her life at an early age. Jules, Baby’s father, loves her but unfortunately, he seems to love heroin more. Jules does the best he can but often finds himself in less than ideal situations for raising a child. While Baby is on the cusp of leaving her childhood behind her, she tells her story with the frankness that can only come from that of a child yet she is slowly becoming more aware of how abnormal her life is with her father as she ages. While there are many pervasive aspects to this novel involving sexuality, drugs and prostitution, the quirky and honest way that Baby delivers her story makes for an enthralling combination of awe, shock and amusement.
“Suddenly I realized that I wanted everything to be as it was when I was younger. When you’re young enough, you don’t know that you live in a cheap lousy apartment. A cracked chair is nothing other than a chair. A dandelion growing out of a crack in the side walk outside your front door is a garden. You could believe that a song your partner was singing in the evening was the most tragic opera in the world. It never occurs to you when you are very young to need something other than what your parents have to offer you.”
The success of this book comes with how the author has delivered it in combination with some beautiful, and at times, poignant writing. Baby’s understanding and sense of the world is appropriate for her age yet reflective and insightful enough to engage any reader. Even if you had the idea of a normal childhood, the delivery of Baby’s story will still appeal to you because of how she approaches childhood and the insights she has on it. Childhood, in many ways, is horrible and magnificent time, which is reflective of the tone of this book. It is a portion of our lives that we can truly never ever relive or experience again for better and for worse.
“As a kid, you have nothing to do with the way the world is run; you just have to hurry to catch up with it.”
I thoroughly enjoyed Baby’s story and found the book to be highly readable and engaging. I think most fiction lovers will appreciate this quirky, awkward and honest rendition of a peculiar and traumatizing childhood.