What We Are Reading Today: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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Updated 11 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist.

It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother— his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life, according to review published on goodreads.com.

The 18 personal essays collected in this book are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Noah illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty.

His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time.

What We Are Reading Today: Empires of Vice by Diana S. Kim

Updated 20 February 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Empires of Vice by Diana S. Kim

During the late 19th century, opium was integral to European colonial rule in Southeast Asia. 

The taxation of opium was a major source of revenue for British and French colonizers, who also derived moral authority from imposing a tax on a peculiar vice of their non-European subjects. 

Yet between the 1890s and the 1940s, colonial states began to ban opium, upsetting the very foundations of overseas rule — how did this happen? Empires of Vice traces the history of this dramatic reversal, revealing the colonial legacies that set the stage for the region’s drug problems today, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Diana Kim challenges the conventional wisdom about opium prohibition — that it came about because doctors awoke to the dangers of drug addiction or that it was a response to moral crusaders — uncovering a more complex story deep within the colonial bureaucracy. 

Drawing on a wealth of archival evidence across Southeast Asia and Europe, she shows how prohibition was made possible by the pivotal contributions of seemingly weak bureaucratic officials.