The hero of Trevor Noah’s story

If you think the Daily Show host is funny, you should meet his mother.

At least one good thing has come out of recent political events: a flood of films and books reflecting the experiences of people of color. When the presidential campaigns began, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me topped the New York Times hardcover nonfiction best-seller list. Soon after the inauguration, Moonlight won the Oscar for best picture. Many other straight-talking books (like Just Mercy, The Underground Railroad, and Home­going) and hard-hitting movies (Fences, The Birth of a Nation, and 13th) have also attracted large audiences. Most are deeply troubling. A few are inspirational. Trevor Noah’s memoir is both.

Published a week after the election, this collection of 18 stories provides a welcome break from the angst that has settled over much of America since then. Noah is not an American, but he knows race. Born in South Africa to a white Swiss-German father and a black Xhosa mother when his very existence broke the law against interracial coupling, he did not fit any of his country’s legally mandated racial categories. His black cousins considered him white. White kids thought he was colored. Colored kids spoke a different language. And he obviously wasn’t Indian. “I was the anomaly wherever we lived,” he writes. But he was philosophical about his outsider status. “I learned that even though I didn’t belong to one group, I could be a part of any group that was laughing.”

Fortunately, Noah is good at making people laugh. Within a few years of finishing high school, he had become one of South Africa’s top comedians. By age 30 he was making regular appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which soon became The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. The boy who spent his earliest years in his grandmother’s two-room house in Soweto with “just one communal outdoor tap and one outdoor toilet shared by six or seven houses” has come a long way. According to the Wall Street Journal, Noah, now 33, recently bought a 3,600-square-foot, $10 million Manhattan apartment with three and a half baths.