A story about racial injustice. A story about perseverance. A story about a family who dare to dream, despite of all the odds against them.
The book describes in detail what a life looks like under racial injustice, violence, and threats. It gives different perspective on how people under different circumstances operates and live. A perspective from a young boy growing up in such a neighborhood.
Trevor Noah was born in South Africa in 1984. At the time, South Africa had a social system called apartheid.
Apartheid was a police state, a system of surveillance and laws designed to keep black people under total control.
It’s similar to the segregation system between the black and whites in the United States, but worse, because the state also control where the blacks can and cannot live. Apartheid was then abolished by the movement and uprising of Nelson Mandela.
The book described the childhood of Trevor Noah, how to live a life of a crime. Trevor Noah was born as a result of a crime, because under apartheid, it was illegal for people in different racial background to have a sexual relationship. Trevor’s mother (Patricia) was a black female of Xhosa tribe, and Trevor’s father (Robert) was a white male from Swiss.
They couldn’t walk around the park together, holding hands (or walking side by sides) because they were afraid of being questioned and reported to the authorities. Trevor was considered too light skinned. In public, Trevor’s parents had to pretend that Trevor wasn’t theirs.
she was preparing me to live a life of freedom long before we knew freedom would exist.
Trevor’s mother was a rebel and strong headed. She does not follow the rules. She always find loopholes in an unfair system and exploit them. Trevor’s mother taught him to dream and had huge influence in shaping Trevor’s personalities. She taught him that the circumstances of today, does not necessarily determine his future.
Not surprisingly, Trevor’s childhood was also a filled with his rebellious acts and naughtiness. He loved it. He loved to be naughty. He got into jail for driving a car without a registered license plate.
Trevor was also an entrepreneur since he was young, he had a business of selling pirated music, movies, and PlayStation games, and providing DJ services for the neighborhood.
We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.
The book also provides fairly detailed insights and perspective of the environment that Trevor was living in. The struggle, comfort, and tricks to get around.
The community influence in the neighborhood is very deep and ingrained with everyone. It is good and bad at the same time. It’s good because if you’re poor, the community is very supportive to each other. The community is always trying to help each other. If a mother of one of the household needs someone to run an errand, you are obligated to help her out.
At the same time, it is bad because the community also holds you back from becoming too successful. As part of the community, there’s an expectation to help others that are in needs when there’s an excess of money.
Trevor also talked about the Black Tax. It’s the idea that the younger generation of black family, are responsible to help the previous generation paying off their debt and fix their finances first.
My mother’s greatest fear was that I would end up paying the black tax, that I would get trapped by the cycle of poverty and violence that came before me.
Unlike most people however, Trevor knew that he doesn’t exactly fit to any of the community. He always played along, and it turned out that he is very good at this. He got along with people very well, but deep inside, he knew that he wouldn’t get stuck with them forever. If he had to leave, he would.
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.
The book does not go beyond the life of Trevor Noah in South Africa. It ends with the story of Trevor’s mother. Her life with the second husband, in domestic violence, and how this has impacted Trevor’s life.