About Trevor Noah and His Book, "Born a Crime"
Before reading this book I didn't know who Trevor Noah was and I knew nothing about growing up in South Africa in the 1980's and 1990's.
On the dedication page Trevor writes: "For my mother, My first fan. Thank you for making me a man." His thoughts about his mother throughout this story explain a lot.
His story of his becoming a man is inspiring, I starts with the country under apartheid and then the transition that followed it.
Trevor's mother Patricia taught him to face injustice with humor and that must have sowed the seeds for who he is today.
“If my mother had one goal,
it was to free my mind.”— Trevor Noah
His birth into this world began as a criminal act. He was "Born a Crime", to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison.
During the early years of his life he spent most of his time inside so as not to be noticed. The government could have taken him away from his mother and his dad didn't live with them and couldn't even walk by him on the street.
After Apartheid ended a time came when he and his mother began a new life trying to live openly and freely but they still had many challenges with life the different groups and subgroups.
"language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.”
“Chapter 4: Chameleon"
"it is useful to know the language of your oppressor."
“Chapter 4: Chameleon”
Trevor was smart and his education and resourcefulness was his life line to success.
The book is his memoir of growing up in South Africa. It was challenging, sad, and even funny, but the true story of the book is in his love for his mother. The Trevor America knows best is of him from the desk of the Daily Show.
He has a facebook page.
He also has an instagram account.
Yuval Noah Harari, the author of "Homo Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow", builds on the past and projects the "History of Tomorrow". He writes that the 21st century will brings a big shift in the trends of events that will have a real impact on life as we know it and then asks, "what if we actually found a way to achieve “bliss, immortality, and divinity?”
Achieving these goals sounds good but he explores the down side if it turns out that only a small select group accomplish this by upgrading themselves through biotechnology and genetic engineering, and then leaving the masses behind. The "Homo Deus" of the future might just be the special few who, using artificial intelligence, know us better than we know ourselves.
The book defines the history of humans as "humanism". It adds that "the single greatest constant in history is that everything changes". From this it concludes that looking at humanity according to the humanist creed, where the universe revolves around humankind, will also change.
Humans throughout history have sought for deliverance from famine, disease, and war, and have done so with some success. The resulting toll on humanity looking back has been huge, but today your more likely to commit suicide than be murdered, and are more at risk of dying of obesity than starvation. This book talks about how delicate life has been, but it also compares the past with the real progress that has been made and what changes may occur next.
In the book’s final section, Harari talks about a change in religion in which the greatest moral good is to "increase the flow of information". This new religion “has nothing against human experiences,” he writes; “It just doesn’t think those experiences have intrinsic value.” What has value is "information" and it is the new religion.
The book looks into much of what has traditionally defined humanity and then takes those trends in surprising directions. Whether you agree with the conclusions or not it is an interesting book to read.
Alice Sebold, author of "The Lovely Bones" in 2007
"The Lovely Bones", by Alice Sebold, was published in 2002. It has sold millions of copies and been on best sellers lists for year. When you see all the reviews you find that many people love it but many hate it. It is dark and not for young kids but it has a different approach. The book is a commentary from heaven by the brutally murdered victim of as serial killer and pedophile.
“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.” This is the first sentence but it is Susie’s voice that tells of her brief life, her tragic death, and the decade that follows as she sees it from heaven.
The author, Alice Sebold’s, first book was not fiction and dealt with her own death. In this book Susie Salmon tells of her own rape and murder by a neighbor. In a controlled matter of fact voice she tells of the deep emotions and grief of her family over the years that follow. The struggles of both her parents, sister, and brother. She watches everyone she knew on earth including her killer from heaven. After she died as she moves on into “her heaven” and it was her friend Ruth that her soul briefly touched as it left.
Ruth then becomes friends with Ray Singh who was the first and only boy to have kissed Susie. She eventually comes back briefly using Ruth’s body and has one more experience with Ray.
Her parents have very different reactions to the tragedy and their stories that follow the event are a lesson or at least an experience in grief and in love. The tenderness of their feelings for each other add a lot to the story.
Susie says of her life and the time that follows it: “The events that my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future.”
The ending of the book shifted the dialog form the "matter a fact" overview of most of the book. The value of the story is not in the ending but in the feelings shared all through the book. I felt it was well written in a graceful style.
This paragraph comes on the page before Chapter One.
Inside the snow globe on my father's desk, there was a penguin wearing a red-and-white-striped scarf. When I was little my father would pull me into his lap and reach for the snow globe. He would turn it over, letting all the snow collect on the top, then quickly invert it. The two of us watched the snow fall gently around the penguin. The penguin was alone in there, I thought, and I worried for him. When I told my father this, he said, "Don't worry, Susie, he has a nice life. He's trapped in a perfect world."
J.D as an adult, at about 10, and when he first joined the Marines, both pictures with his "Mamaw".
J.D. Vance grew up first the Appalachian Jackson, a small town of about six thousand in the heart of southeastern Kentucky’s coal country. He later moved to the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio. His neighbors, friends and family were what Americans call white trash, hillbillies, and rednecks.
His mother was an addict and provided him with a revolving door of father figures. His Scottish-Irish grandparents were new-middle class (still very much hillbillies) and taught him solid values. The language of his youth was colorful and harsh but it could also be considered down to earth and real.
“Mamaw”, his grandmother, once set her husband on fire when he came home drunk. His grandfather, “Papaw”, could be violent and once tossed a fully decorated Christmas tree out the back door. They both packed guns and swore up a storm and obviously had tempers. They were also anchors whose encouragement and love helped J.D. endure decades of challenges and heartbreak.
A sense of family comes through strong in this book. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and especially his grandparents were close to each other and to J.D.. Loyalty to the family was important. If you had a large extended family growing up, this book may take you back.
J.D. said in the introduction that “he hasn’t done anything great in his life”. He said the coolest thing he has done was to graduate from Yale Law School, something that he, as a 13-year old, would have considered ludicrous."
In the Marines (he served in Iraq), at Ohio State, and then at Yale Law School, J.D. learned to make right choices. He tried to find answers for the problems of the community he grew up in. He studied sociology, psychology, community, culture, and faith looking for answers. The solution, he believes, is not government action but in people asking themselves “what we can do to make things better?”
After Law School, he wrote about his findings for the National Review and for the New York Times. Declaring that he survived with the help of caring family and friends, he writes, “I am one lucky son of a bitch.”
He mentioned that many of his people couldn’t support Obama because they couldn’t connect. Obama was black but that wasn't enough. He was polished. His language, clothing and education communicated that he was different than they were.
Understanding how J.D. looked at his life and why he wanted to do what he did is well worth reading this book for. I like the book and would recommend it.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
"You will not read a more important book about America this year."--The Economist
"A riveting book."--The Wall Street Journal
"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times
New York Times recommended as one of 6 books to help understand the Trump win.
Dr. Lucy Kalanithi and Dr. Paul Kalanithi with their daughter, Elizabeth Acadia. Courtesy of Lucy Kalanithi
Bill Gates, who had this book on his recommended list, titled his review "This Book Left Me in Tears". Good title but it is a real look at real people and it really can bring you to tears.
The book is about Paul Kalanithi who received a masters degree in literature and was planning on a PHD at Stanford but he had been obsessed with the question of "what makes life worth living in the face of death? His father had been a doctor. He wanted to know “where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” He set aside his plans for literature and writing and went to medical school. He wanted to have relationships with the suffering, and felt that he could learn more about what makes human life meaningful. He
When Paul was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2013, he was a 36-year-old on the verge of making big contributions to the world with his mind and hands. He was a gifted doctor—a chief resident in neurosurgery at Stanford just months away from completing the most grueling training of any clinical field. He was also a brilliant scientist. His postdoctoral research on gene therapy won him his field’s highest research award. He could have written a good book on any subject he chose".
As he was ending his residency he learned that he had stage 4 cancer and that he might have 5 to 10 years to live. He could return to neurosurgery or he could write? He did both. He and his wife then chose to have a baby that came eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis.
He said of his pending death that is was unsettling (a big understatement) but he added; “Yet there is no other way to live.”
Both this book and "The Heart" (see last review) are about death. This one is nonfiction, the other is a novel. Both are very well written and both have the potential to change your thinking. The beauty and wonder of the body is really revealed in these writings. Paul wanted to find what makes human life meaningful and I think the answer is in both of these books.
The French author, Maylis De Kerangal, wrote this novel about three 20 year old French men who go surfing in the middle of the night. On the way back they have a terrible accident and one man dies.
The book starts with the sentence: "The thing about Simon Limbres's heart, this human heart, is that from the moment of his birth, when its rhythm accelerated, as did the other hearts around it, in celebration of the event......................" . The sentence continues for more than a page. Many of sentences are long and often are as poetic as this first one. You find yourself seeing this human and his connection to his heart differently. The story really is about his heart, his death, and the care and grief that follow. It has a poetic feel to it because of the writers approach.
I liked Bill Gates review of this book. He called it "A poetic novel about grief". He felt that quality of the language used added the poetic flavor
Kirkus review said "Doctors and other medical experts hasten to prepare a young man’s organs for transplant and reckon with the need to be both compassionate and precise in a hurry." The book looks at matter of the heart from many sides and you feel and learn from the grief.
Lincoln's Greatest Speech, The Second Inaugural by Ronald C. White Jr. is a treasure.
The "Contents" page captures the unique approach that the author, Ronald C. White Jr., approached this book with. Each chapter is a focus on on of eight key area of the speech.
1. "Inauguration Day"
2. "At this second appearing.."
3. "And the war came".
4. "Somehow, the cause of the war..."
5. "Both read the same Bible & pray to the same God.."
6."The Almighty has His own purposes."
7. "Every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword".
8."With malice towards none; with charity for all..."
A favorite thought worth pondering is in the third verse of chapter 5. It says,
"Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God ; each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces: but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully".
"Wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces" reminds us of Genesis 3:19 where it says that "By the sweat of thy face you will eat bread". Addressing slavery in this way is brilliant.
Lincoln's surpassed any previous President with his use of the Bible in his speeches. This speech acknowledged the universal use of the Bible on both sides of the war and in doing so brings God's influence and leverage into the discussion.
The book helps understand the deep insights of the "The Second Inaugural, Lincoln's Greatest Speech. The best summary statement of this effort is from Lincoln:
"I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me".
Poem by Mark Massey
If I were an elephant I’d fly a kite.
I’d send it up high to capture the light
and hang in the air, oh what a sight…
but everyone knows they can’t fly a kite.
If I were an elephant I’d drive a car.
I’d fill it with gas and drive it afar.
People may say, “that’s very bizarre”,
‘cause everyone knows they can’t drive a car.
If I were an elephant I’d fly a plane...
the fun I would have I could never explain.
People may say, “that’s really insane”,
‘cause everyone knows they can’t fly a plane.
If I were an elephant I’d go into space...
oh, just imagine that wonderful place.
Imagine the smile it would put on my face...
everyone knows they can’t go into space.
So I'll go through life doing elephant good,
expressing my girth as all elephants should
and I'll live my life as an elephant would
but... I’d do all those things if an elephant could.
The "Blog" section of this site is mostly thoughts about books. A new Poetry Section of original poetry has just been added.
This poem and author were a surprise to find. The more you learn about Elephants the more you "feel" for their lives. "Gentle Giants" with feelings, families, and culture. The poem just jumped out at me asking to be posted.
I have another book overview I am working on and will post this week. The "What Matters" sections is another area of this blog and it needs updating. You don't really update "Core Values" but you find new ways to express or add to them.
I may redo the book section soon. If I do I will add a "complete" list of books read in the last 15 years rather than this shortened list now posted in the "Book Section".
Some folks come to this Blog from daily posts inviting on Twitter & Pinterest. (Thanks for coming) The Twitter account focuses on literature, writing and "things that matter". The Pinterest site is large and covers a lot of subjects of some interest.
I hear a lot "that blogs are not as popular now" and then everyone who tells me that gives me two or three blog addresses that they go to often.
I hope I can keep improving this one and make some more of those lists.
Thanks for reading.
Blog: Book Reviews, comments on Authors (last two were Kids Books) Pictures: Pictures I have taken or liked, not connected to other themes What Matters: Thoughts on Core Values
Thoughts on This Post: Most of what I have written about in this section is nor children book stories. That said think about this quote: "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."~ C.S. Lewis
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”