South Africa: SA Book Awards Honor Author Trevor Noah

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The 2020 SA Book Awards’ highest honor goes to Trevor Noah for his rendition for young readers of his memoir, ‘Born a Crime.’

Trevor Noah in his acceptance video for his wins in the 2020 SA Book Awards program. Image: SABA, Nielsen

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Noah: ‘My Family’s Story and My Country’s Story’
In a ceremony streamed live from South Africa this morning (October 1), the 20th anniversary edition of the SA Book Awards has named the South African comedian, political commentator, Daily Show host, producer, and author Trevor Noah its Book of the Year winner.

The awards program is hosted by the South African Booksellers Association and sponsored by Nielsen Book with the support of the Publishers Association of South Africa, or PASA, a member-association of the International Publishers Association. Today’s ceremony had been expected to be staged in Durban, but was held digitally instead, of course, because of the public health emergency.

These awards are chosen in three categories—adult fiction, adult nonfiction, and children’s—by the votes of booksellers, and eligible books are written by South African authors and published in the country, as tracked by Nielsen Bookscan South Africa.

Organizers tell us that this year saw a record number of booksellers voting.

The visibility, of course, is going this morning to Noah, who won the Children’s Book category prize for Trevor Noah: Born a Crime (Penguin Random House). Noah also was named to the overall Book of the Year honor because, the awards program announced, he received the highest number of bookseller votes and was “the clear favorite” among participating retailers.

In comments on the wins, Noah is quoted, saying, “Writing a book was a very scary experience, but turning the book into a book specifically for kids was even more scary because children have a very short attention span if  your book is boring.

His reference here is to the fact that his children’s book, It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime (Penguin Random House, April 2020),  is a recasting for a younger audience of his adult memoir, Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood.

Noah also thanked his readers and praised parents who have read the book with their children as well as teachers who have recommended it.

Informed of his win of the Book of the Year award, Noah said, “This book was my blood, sweat and tears.  It was my family’s story and my country’s story.”

In a taped message of thanks, Noah says that he’d like to get some of his fellow South African authors onto the show, “so we can get some of your books to the rest of the world.

“I think we have some of the best stories to tell, some of the most amazing, inspirational stories to share with others. And if we write them down, people will talk about them, people will remember them.

“And that is the goal for South Africa. To be out there, the powerhouse, the way we always knew we could be.

“I’m going to go and celebrate this by not hanging out with anybody because of coronavirus.”

The self-published author Jackie Phamotse has won the SA Book Award in the adult fiction category for her Bare: The Cradle of the Hockey Club.

And Pieter du Toit won the adult nonfiction category award for his Stellenbosch Mafia: Inside the Billionaire’s Club (Jonathan Ball 

Pieter du Toit and Jackie Phamotse, winners of the SA Book Awards’ adult nonfiction and fiction honors, respectively. Images: Nielsen

Shortlists for the 2020 SA Book Awards

The winner in each category is in bold.

Adult Fiction

  • Death on the Limpopo by Sally Andrew 
  • Sex, lies & Stellenbosch by Eva Mazza 
  • Zulus of New York by Zakes Mda 
  • Bare: The Cradle of the Hockey Club by Jackie Phamotse

Adult Nonfiction

  • Dit proe soos huis by Herman Lensing 
  • Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashul by Pieter-Louis Myburgh 
  • Betting on a Darkie by Mteto Nyati 
  • Stellenbosch Mafia by Pieter Du Toit 

Children’s Books (Fiction and Nonfiction)

  • Die Groot Jaco Jacobs Storieboek by Jaco Jacobs 
  • Zackie Mostert by Jaco Jacobs 
  • Yes Yanga! by Refiloe Moahloli 
  • It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

At this writing, the 6:23 a.m. ET (1023 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 674,339 cases in South Africa’s population of 58 million, with 16,734 fatalities.

The BBC reports that South Africa’s economy lost as many as 2.2 million jobs in the second quarter of 2020 during lockdowns for the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Most businesses there were closed for five weeks, starting March 27.

More from Publishing Perspectives on South Africa is here, more from us on publishing and book awards is here, and more on Nielsen is here

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.