Tale of a mixed-race South African childhood is a surprisingly gripping and fast read.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah.
Spiegel & Grau, Imprint of Random House, 2016.
Autobiography, 285 pages.
Purposefully born to a Xhosa mother and a Swiss/German father in South Africa, the act of Trevor Noah’s very birth was a crime in apartheid South Africa, so he spent the first five years of his life inside except for the occasional carefully orchestrated outing. Visibly lighter skinned than his family, but not quite white either, Trevor holds a unique, insider/outsider perspective on the South Africa of his childhood.
I bought this book at Target thanks to my new policy. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t have chosen it on my own. I actually flipped through this book previously and then found a children’s book instead. It was presented like a comedy book, not something I would seek given my unusual taste in humor.
“If I had to choose, I have no idea who I would pick between a biological brother I didn’t know and Felix, who I loved so much.” p. 171
Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah.
UK: The Chicken House. US reprint: Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Middle grade realistic fiction, illuminated book, 282 pages (including extras).
AR Level: 4.8 (worth 7.0 points)
Dara Palmer’s life is sooo dramatic. She was clearly born to be a star, you can tell by how much TV she watches! It’s life or death that she gets the part of Maria in her school’s production of The Sound of Music, so when she doesn’t, some family members feel that it’s her dark skin keeping her from a part in the musical, not her overacting.
This was entirely an impulse buy. When I opened the book and discovered that it was illuminated (text is complemented/completed by pictures drawn around the margins and in the white space of the book), I was surprised. Another surprise followed as I found out the book was set in Great Britain. This edition is slightly Americanized (5th grade instead of 6th year), but the characters are still very British.
Dara Palmer is a pretty unlikeable character. She literally states this at the end of the first chapter:
“This all happened a while ago now. Let me just say, I was a different person back then. I don’t know if you’re going to like the old me much when you hear what I was like, but I’ve changed. Stuff happened along the way – all kinds of stuff, actually. Nuns and noodles were just the beginning.” ~page 2
Dara is self-absorbed, overly dramatic, and yet somehow magnetic. She comes off as very unsympathetic, until we get to know her a little more. If it wasn’t for the caveat in the first chapter, I might not have made it past the second. And that would have been a shame.