South African comedian Trevor Noah was largely unknown when he was tapped to succeed Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Showin 2015. Instead of talking about showbiz in his first memoir, he focuses on his formative years under Apartheid and life with his indomitable mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah.

Parts of Noah’s memoir are tremendously funny. (The future humorist had the gift of smart talk and knack for trouble at an early age.) But the title of this book reflects its serious undercurrents. Under the laws of South Africa when he was born, Noah’s existence was literally proof of a crime. His skin color was too different from either his black mother or white father for either one of them to acknowledge him in public. If the authorities had suspected their true relationship, his parents would have been arrested and Noah taken into state custody. In his teen years, the country moved towards racial integration, but finding his way out of generational poverty wasn’t easy. This book is a great choice for anyone who wants a better understanding of Noah’s perspective as a comedian. Having grown up under a police state certainly informs the way he makes fun of politics in America today.

Reviewed by Lynn Heitkamp