A WRITER'S WIT
My Book World
South African Childhood. New York:
Noah, host of Comedy Central’s Daily Show, has written a touching and transformational memoir. In writing honestly of his metamorphosis through the years, he thus transforms the reader. Most Americans, myself included, probably have only a vague idea of what South Africa’s apartheid was really like. Noah makes it crystal clear: blacks, whites, coloreds, the latter having a different definition than it had in the US. Noah was colored: half white and half black. Under the first nine years of his life, his birth was illegal, according to apartheid; his life with his black mother and his white father was illegal. But it wasn’t nonexistent.
This joyful book reveals the ways in which he and his mother negotiate their way around Noah’s lack of existence. He tells tales of attending church on Sunday, his mother seeing that he always makes it to three services in three different churches. Noah divulges tales of naughty behavior when he is in his teens and twenties. He even does a short stint in jail but avoids a long prison sentence, all for illegal sales of pirated audio material. But though he is enterprising and makes a good living for the ‘hood, he realizes he will never do any better than that if he doesn’t get out. The book’s climax takes place when a near-fatal fit of violence occurs between his stepfather and mother, itself a miracle of survival. I had hoped to read of Noah’s continuing education, as he becomes a comedian, and now host of an incredibly important source of satire and news. But we will have to wait for his next book, when he will hopefully be as generous as he is in the first and share once again his miraculous story. Can’t wait.
NEXT TIME: New Yorker Fiction