Lately I’ve been reading memoirs and have already written a post on them. Now I have more memoirs to share.
More Memoirs: Trevor Noah Born a Crime (2016)
Loved it. Absolutely loved it.
Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, offers a gripping account of his childhood and young adulthood in South Africa. Born in 1984 during Apartheid (1948-1991), he was literally born a crime because his mother is Xhosa and his father is Swiss.
His consistently clear-eyed commentary on the racial dynamics in his homeland before and after Apartheid is riveting, and he frames every chapter with historical background that makes his stories come alive. I don’t want to spoil the book by giving any details, but I will say the one about the guy named Hitler who has killer dance moves is worth the price.
The linguist in me adored his insights into race, language and identity, and Noah’s gift for language is apparent both in his narrative style and in his facility to move across languages – English, Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, among others.
I was struck by the bit of information he gives about how, during Apartheid, one could pass the test of being white. He mentions the pencil test. He writes, “If you were applying to be white, the pencil went into your hair. If it fell out, you were white. If it stayed in, you were colored.”
Guess what? In the U.S in the 1930s physical anthropologists were hired by the federal government to determine whether the Lumbee people in Robeson County, North Carolina were Native Americans or not, and the pencil test came into play. If the pencil stayed in the hair, then the person was not Indian. If it fell out, the person was. In certain cases, this test placed siblings into separate categories, Indian and non-Indian.
The logic of racial categories? Noah’s point: there is none.
More I won’t say, except read Born a Crime.
Note: For a look into at least one way the white population experienced the oppression of Apartheid – and I am not equating the differing experiences – you might enjoy Searching for Sugar Man (2012), which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
If you have no idea what’s going on in even the first 20 minutes or so, stick with it. You’ll get the idea, and you’ll also get the physical landscape as well as some of the historical footage for Noah’s book.
More Memoirs: David Lynch Room to Dream (2018)
While writing my latest contemporary romance this summer, The Hard Bargain, I sent my heroine, an actor, on a cruise and figured she should take a book along. I chose for her David Lynch‘s new memoir.
By the time I was reaching the end of writing my story, it finally occurred to me that I – as a responsible author – should also read Lynch’s book.
So now this is a case of (my) life imitating (my) art.
Confession: I never saw Eraserhead or Twin Peaks, and I kinda sorta didn’t understand Blue Velvet when I saw it (I might get it now …?). However, you don’t have to know or even like Lynch’s work to be fascinated by this extensive portrait of a truly creative genius who, in addition to being a revered director, also paints, writes and makes furniture.
An artist so completely on his own path is inspiring to me.
More Memoirs: Tiffany Haddish The Last Black Unicorn (2017)
Tiffany Haddish exploded onto the scene last year in the movie Girls Trip.
I loved her monologue for Saturday Night Live last November.
So, when I was looking through memoirs, The Last Black Unicorn caught my eye.
This was also the book that led me to Born a Crime.
Haddish and Noah share the experience of a difficult childhood filled with domestic violence, racism and poverty, and they both succeed through great senses of humor and indomitable spirit. While Noah has an eye for the larger whole in which his life enfolds, Haddish tells her stories with immediacy. They are raw and often harrowing, and I admire the honesty she shows throughout. Although she doesn’t intend for the reader to enjoy every aspect of her life (she acknowledges that’s impossible), she kept me with her the whole time.
Unicorn and Crime are completely different books, and it’s not fair to compare them further. However, I can offer you the link to the two authors together, namely Noah’s interview of Haddish on The Daily Show.
See also: What I’m Reading
Categorised in: What I'm Reading
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen