Noah’s pre-comedian experience of growing up in a country first strictly divided and then rocked by the fall of apartheid loses some of its grit but none of its potency in this YA adaptation of his memoir for adults Born a Crime (2016).
Indisputable evidence of his white European father and his black Xhosa mother’s illegal interracial relationship, Noah spends his childhood as a perpetual outsider—too black for the white people, too white for the black people, and too mixed for everyone else. But a tenacious spirit of curiosity, an impressive mischievous streak, and an uncompromisingly independent mother shape much of Noah’s early years, and instances of struggle, danger, and bullying are attributed to political upheaval, racism, and bigotry mainly through the lens of adult hindsight. Divided into chapters of individual but interconnected childhood recollections, the book mirrors some of the ebb and flow of Noah’s stand-up—strategically disjointed to fuel emotional crescendos without overlapping and diluting them. North American readers unacquainted with South African culture may encounter some different (but not wholly unfamiliar) racial dynamics—the term “colored people,” for instance, has a different meaning and history than it does in the U.S.—but Noah does a thorough job of walking them through the colonial history, cultural and language idiosyncrasies, and political structures without bogging down the text, and what he doesn’t fully unpack still leaves room for discussion.
Startling in its honesty, humor, and humility. (historical note) (Memoir. 13-18)