Trevor Noah was named Jon Stewart’s successor on The Daily Show. I’m fairly confident there aren’t many people who don’t know who Trever Noah is at this point. But I may have been the only person who didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book. What I found between its covers was raw and emotional. It was a story of a mother and son. Of abuse but never neglect. It was a story of a life removed from my own but so human I could relate. Noah grew up in South Africa in the last days of and the furor following apartheid.
“On February 20, 1984, my mother checked into Hillbrow Hospital for a scheduled C-section delivery. Estranged from her family, pregnant by a man she could not be seen with in public, she was alone. The doctors took her up to the delivery room, cut open her belly, and reached in and pulled out a half-white, half-black child who violated any number of laws, statutes, and regulations—I was born a crime.”
Noah was born to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father. The laws made it so Noah spent his formidable days hiding indoors. His parents, who weren’t allowed to marry, couldn’t even be seen together. Noah’s mother looked so different than himself, as a result, she couldn’t walk through the streets with him. If she did, someone might accuse her of kidnapping another person’s child or having committed a crime with a white man by having mixed race child. Their lives dealt with crippling poverty, racism from all sides, and violence. But Noah’s deeply religious mother never let anything bother her, or prevent her from raising a son she chose to have to be a man who could do anything he wanted.
“She taught me to challenge authority and question the system. The only way it backfired on her was that I constantly challenged and questioned her.”
Trevor’s stories ranged far and wide painting a picture of the path to the man we all know and respect today. One story is about going to jail for stealing, or rather not stealing, a car instead of facing the wrath of his mother and step-father. It was a story every inner child can relate to. Another about peddling CDs in which led to gigs as a DJ. One of those parties was at a Jewish school where the crowd morphed from jumping up and down to dead silence when his crew started chanting the name, Hitler. This was two worlds colliding, black and white, neither understanding why the other is offended. Noah tells the story of sitting at the police station, watching a video of himself and his best friend shoplifting, and the police want to know who the white boy is. The exposure on the black and white film left everyone blind by their own prejudice, to the fact that the boy was Noah.
I’ve learned, laughed, and cried through his book. It’s an emotional journey and deals heavily with fear, love, and what both will do to push you as a human. I would have liked to read more about how he traveled from South Africa to the United States and made a name for himself becoming the man we know today on The Daily Show. I listened to the audiobook, as I do with most autobiographies because it brings something to extra to that can’t be read on the page. It was brilliant.