Born in a country ravaged by racism to a rebellious single mother and her mostly aloof German partner. Being neither a black nor a white in a land where identities are forged based on skin colour. Being subjected to an abusive childhood by one’s step-father. Being poor – spending a life walking down miles since cars are a luxury, sleeping in a garage, being picked up and punished by cops randomly, being a failure around girls, witnessing one’s mother survive a bullet – shot into her head – all lay a context to a sad, morose read. Don’t they?
Not when it is Trevor Noah’s autobiography! Everything is ironically funny – the racist laws, the illogical rules, the dingy poverty, the tragic encounters with life in general and the extremely lucky escapades he manages every single time. Stacked up in neat essays, the thing I loved the most is the strong portrayal that Trevor carries out throughout the book about his mother – a headstrong woman, a rebel, an optimist and an ardent Christian. In a country revamping itself from the apartheid era, she’s the one who gives Trevor the courage to dream big – by daringly providing him with an English education, a better lifestyle, a better world-view! Trevor’s witty narration also weaves around a plethora of social issues ranging from racial discrimination, domestic violence, abuse, superstition, police brutality among others that gripped South Africa back then. Despite it all, the silver lining of this warm memoir is that he emerges a winner and not a victim. It is perhaps the biggest lesson that the book upholds too!
“We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to. “What if…” “If only…” “I wonder what would have…” You will never, never know, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days.”
“My mom did what school didn’t. She taught me how to think.”
“I walked out of his house that day an inch taller. Seeing him had reaffirmed his choosing of me. He chose to have me in his life. He chose to answer my letter. I was wanted. Being chosen is the greatest gift you can give to another human being.”
“When it was time to pick my name, she chose Trevor, a name with no meaning whatsoever in South Africa, no precedent in my family. It’s not even a Biblical name. “It’s just a name,” she explains. “My mother wanted her child beholden to no fate. She wanted me to be free to go anywhere, do anything, be anyone.”