Born A Crime – Trevor Noah

Comedy Central Daily Show Host, Trevor Noah, 33, details his childhood in South Africa, first under the despotism of apartheid and then after. The son of a white father and a black mother, Noah was born a crime since race mixing was, at the time, illegal. Light-skinned, he never fit comfortably into any racial mold. This book is more a paean to his mother than anything else. Fiercely religious and a strict disciplinarian, she refused to accept the status quo and made sure he had books and an education. Though admirable, his mother had problems which culminated in her being shot by an angry ex-husband. She survived, but the ex-husband walked with three years probation since police in South Africa routinely make light of domestic abuse. Equally chilling are the racial incidents Noah describes like being stopped by cops who took him and his friends to jail for no reason other than to extort a bribe. Noah does not delve deeply into his adult success, but his mother did something right because he’s a good writer with the comedian’s ability to see irony and humor in even the most horrific situations.

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Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand

unbroken-cover_custom-s6-c10Brilliant book about Olympic runner, WWII soldier and Japanese POW Louie Zamperini.  As a child, Louie was a troublemaker.  He turns his life around through track and field, breaking high school records and going to the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936.  However, his athletic career ends when WWII breaks out.  Louie enlists in the Army and becomes a bombardier.  His plane is shot down over the Pacific.  He is one of three to survive.  One of them dies at sea, but Louie and Phil survive for 46 days only to be captured by the Japanese and placed in a series of horrific POW camps with sadistic guards until the war ends.  Back home, he tries to live a normal life, but turns to drink to deal with the memories.  Faith enables him to quit drinking, become a motivational speaker and forgive the men who wronged him during the war.  In 1998, Louie carries the Olympic torch in Japan, putting the war behind him for good.  Louie’s grit and determination are awe-inspiring.  He does indeed remain, unbroken.

Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt

cvr9780684874357_9780684874357_hrHumor and eloquence in the face of unimaginable poverty are the hallmarks of this Pulitzer Prize winning memoir about the author’s Irish Catholic upbringing in the slums of Limerick, Ireland.  McCourt’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed her children as his father, Malachy, drinks his wages when he gets a job — which isn’t often.  The family is forced, among other things, to gather coal from the roadside for fuel, to use rags as diapers and to beg for a pig’s head for Christmas dinner. Although at times depressing, the book is still a wonderful read and a testament to the author’s intelligence and ability to persevere.