Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (audiobook)

“Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.”

born-a-crime

Synopsis from GoodreadsTrevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

Feelings: This audiobook was the highest-rated new book of 2016 by Audible customers and was the winner of Audible’s Best of 2016 – Celebrity Memoirs. And I completely understand why. I’m a fan of Trevor Noah. I especially kept up with The Daily Show during the presidential election process. He has a way of sifting through the political BS and in a way, he made sure I was really seeing what was going on. He has such a unique perspective, which you learn all about in this book, and I now have a deeper understanding of where he’s coming from during his commentary on American politics and culture.

He has a great ability to paint a picture of a world I’ve never experienced. In no way can I say that I now suddenly totally understand what it’s like to be considered colored in South Africa, but I do finally have a surface level understanding…which is more than I had before. I also was completely unaware of the number of languages and stigmatisms throughout South Africa. In the book, he talks about how black people in South Africa hated John Cecil Rhodes more than Hitler, because of the difference in impact for their people and I wanted to hide under a rock. (See my last name to understand.) I’d always heard that he “founded” or “established” Zimbabwe (once called Rhodesia), but I was completely naive to the negative side of what he did. Now I”m interested in learning more about someone who may have been my ancestor.

Issues: When I picked up this audiobook, I’d just finished another collection of essays. I think this may have tainted my experience with this book. The only issue I really had was with the way the essays were organized. I tried to figure out why they were in the order that they were, but I couldn’t really track with it. They weren’t necessarily in time order, so sometimes it took me a minute to figure out when it was in relation to what he’d already shared.

Narration: No one else could have done this book justice. His accent and personality make this an easy listening book. He does different voices for the people he quotes, speaks in multiple languages, and adds little quirks that, to me, have become trademark Trevor Noah. Rating him as a narrator independent from the actual story, I’d give him 5 stars.

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed this audiobook. I think it would be great on its own, if you aren’t into audiobooks, but his narration really adds something special. I’m now really interested in audiobooks from authors who had very different experiences for me. There’s something about hearing it in their own voice that adds more life to their story. I also want to say, that even if you don’t watch The Daily Show for whatever reason, this book isn’t loaded with political commentary. So it’s still a great read.

This is a great video posted by Audible.com where he talks about his writing process!

 

Goodreads rating: 4.57/5

Audible.com rating: 4.9/5

My rating: 4.75/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

“Now and then in life, love catches you unawares, illuminating the dark corners of your mind, and filling them with radiance. Once in awhile you are faced with a beauty and a joy that takes your soul, all unprepared, by assault.”

call-the-midwife

Synopsis from GoodreadsAn unforgettable story of the joy of motherhood, the bravery of a community, and the hope of one extraordinary woman At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in post war London’s East End slums. The colorful characters she meets while delivering babies all over London-from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lives to the woman with twenty-four children who can’t speak English to the prostitutes and dockers of the city’s seedier side-illuminate a fascinating time in history. Beautifully written and utterly moving, The Midwife will touch the hearts of anyone who is, and everyone who has, a mother.

Feelings: I love this series on PBS; I probably cry every episode. I knew that at some point I’d want to pick up the book that started it all. I wanted to see if there was anything left out or really, just how different it was. Jennifer Worth is someone that I liked at the beginning of season 1 and then after a while, I felt myself drifting apart from her. I wanted to reconnect with her through her memoirs and that’s just what happened.

I find midwifery to be fascinating. I wasn’t bored by any of Jenny’s stories. Each patient and baby had a unique experience and outcome. Knowing that these were true stories was really eye opening. As an American, I’m not all that familiar with the history of English life so I really learned a lot from this book.

Issues: Nearly the first half of the book had a great flow. Each chapter had a new topic and was a story all on its own. Then we got to the part about Mary and suddenly the whole tone of the book shifted. It had been up to that point full of hope and life, while still being honest about the suffering that was happening in the East End. Mary’s story, while really interesting, was kind of a detour. It could have been the topic of a book in itself, but in this book it just derailed what was going on. And when Mary’s story was over, we shifted back to how the book flowed before.

Characters: Jenny has such a strong voice. Her narrations and ways of telling stories were inviting, while also being full of lessons and truth. She weaves together history, medical terminology, tales of heartbreak, and moments of love and laughter. Even as a memoir, we see a lot of character growth from beginning to end. She shows us how what she experienced shaped her through her adult life.

I love the Sisters of Nonnatus House. Each one is unique and special, with their own stories and histories. It was interesting to read the perspective of these Sisters from someone who was outside their religion. She tells their stories with reverence and openness.

I would have liked to learn more about the other nurses that she worked with: Cynthia, Trixie, and Chummy. We do learn a bit about Chummy’s life and where she was coming from. Having watched the show, I already felt like I knew these characters, but without that background knowledge, I wouldn’t have known anything about Cynthia and Trixie.

Comparisons: Sister Monica Joan! Cynthia! Sister Bernadette! The gang’s all here in this book. Trixie is there, but she’s rarely in the stories, unlike in the show. Chummy meets a police officer, but it doesn’t play out like it does in the show. I think overall, the show does a really great job of capturing the heart of Jenny’s experiences in the East End.

Final thoughts: This book is not for the faint at heart. Meaning: If you’re squeamish when it comes to anatomy and how babies are made and born…part of me wants to say “look elsewhere” and the other part wants to recommend this book to you. Ha! I’m looking forward to picking up the next book and learning more!

Goodreads rating: 4.17/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn