Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Nonfiction mini-reviews: Born a Crime and The Broken Way

Trevor Noah is known to many as a comedian and the host of The Daily Show. But his childhood certainly did not suggest that he would have international fame--in fact, Noah's very existence was illegal as a bi-racial child in South Africa. He writes about his upbringing with a strong and devout mother, a large extended family, and infrequent visits with his white father. Reading this book confirms that Noah's humor is not confined to a tv studio and gives us insight into the difficulties of growing up in South Africa during apartheid.

A lot of readers talk about books that actually make them laugh out loud, but I don't experience that very often. This was a rare exception, and I often found myself laughing and then reading a passage out loud to my husband. Noah strikes a careful balance here as the hilarious stories are often a result of the poverty and discrimination he faced as a child and young man. While you might laugh at his youthful attempts to persuade his mother that they really didn't need to attend a third church service, things become a bit more serious when his mother throws him out of a moving taxi on the way to said service because their lives were in danger. While the stories are arranged somewhat haphazardly, I loved reading them and perhaps the loveliest thing is that there are no stories about his success as a comedian and television personality. Instead, readers are treated to the highs and lows of a bi-racial boy in South Africa who could be anyone facing similar problems; we just happened to get the hilarious and thoughtful stories of Trevor Noah.

Born a Crime
by Trevor Noah
Spiegel and Grau November 2016
304 pages
Read via Netgalley

"Who doesn't know what it's like to smile thinly and say you're fine when you're not, when you're almost faint with pain? There isn't one of us not bearing the wounds from our own bloody battles. There isn't one of us who isn't cut right from the beginning." Ann Voskamp opens this book with the discovery that one of her children is suffering from the same demons that haunts her: the need to cut open her arms and let out the pain. Slowly, carefully, and with grace and beauty, she wonders if there is something beautiful and worthwhile to be found right in the midst of our greatest pain.

So often, we are tempted to hide the difficulties we are struggling with at that moment. It just seems so incredibly vulnerable to give voice to the things that are breaking our heart. In The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp invites us to follow in Christ's brokenness and asks if maybe we find true community when we share exactly those moments of heartbreak. When we embrace other's brokenness as well as our own, we find healing together. It sounds simple in theory, but it's tough to actually carry out. I think this book is one I will be reading and thinking about for a long time.

The Broken Way
A Daring Path Forward into the Abundant Life
By Ann Voskamp
Zondervan October 2016
288 pages
From the library