Born A Crime

Born A Crime

Stories From A South African Childhood

Book - 2016
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The compelling, inspiring and comically sublime story of a young man's coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. Trevor Noah is one of the comedy world's brightest new voices, a light-footed but sharp-minded observer of the absurdities of politics, race and identity, sharing jokes and insights drawn from the wealth of experience acquired in his relatively young life. As host of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, he provides viewers in America and around the globe with their nightly dose of biting satire, but here Noah turns his focus inward, giving readers a deeply personal, heartfelt and humorous look at the world that shaped him. Noah was born a crime, the son of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the first years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, take him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa's white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle. A collection of eighteen personal essays, Born a Crime tells 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. Born a Crime is equally the story of that young man's fearless, rebellious and fervently religious mother - a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence and abuse that ultimately threatens her own life. 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 an unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a lovable delinquent making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed with only a keen sense of humour and a mother's unconventional, unconditional love.
Publisher: London :, John Murray,, 2016.
Branch Call Number: 791.45028 NOA
Characteristics: x, 288 pages ;,25 cm.

Opinion


Featured Blogs and Events

Trevor Noah in my Christmas stocking!

South African born comedian Trevor Noah is a terrific talker - let there be no doubt about that. But can he write? Well here's our chance to find out with his hot-off-the press biography Born a Crime. Not the first sentence in the book, but right near the start of Chapter 1, is the following sentence: I was nine years old when my mother threw me out of a moving car. And the book careens onwa… (more)


From Library Staff

Comedian and host of the Daily Show Trevor Noah was born at a time when his existence was illegal - the child of an interracial couple. This is the compelling, sometimes hilarious, always moving story of his childhood and the lengths his powerful mother went to hide and protect him.

Comment
ChristchurchTeens Oct 26, 2016

Comedian and host of the Daily Show Trevor Noah was born at a time when his existence was illegal - the child of an interracial couple. This is the compelling, sometimes hilarious, always moving story of his childhood and the lengths his powerful mother went to hide and protect him.


From the critics


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m
mattfromthecity
Nov 20, 2020

This is really enjoyable, there's a lot of laughs sprinkled in some deep, personal and painful memories, but if you are a fan of Trevor's comedy or his work on television you will probably enjoy this book, as well. Even though this was written several years ago, his memories of apartheid come off as extremely relevant today, and if nothing else, seeing that world through the eyes of the oppressed, and not oppressor, is worth your time.

1
1234ravenmore
Nov 04, 2020

Trevor Noah: Born a Crime
By Trevor Noah

This book is definitely a great way to see struggle from apartheid in Africa, and it was so funny. There were points in the story where I was confused whether to laugh or cry because of the unfairness. You could definitely see how much the author loved his mom and it was just a fantastic collection of vignettes. Born a Crime is definitely a book I would recommend to many people.

d
Debramsey
Oct 15, 2020

Excellent - what an amazing mother - will recommend to others! TY Nita!

q
qianhaha
Sep 23, 2020

Funny stories, smart business tactics, this book is great. I would recommend it to anyone looking for some intriguing stories; it captivated me. The business tactics are really smart, as well. I learned a lot from just reading about Trevor Noah - a kid who was street smart. I really enjoyed the listen (I listened to the audiobook instead of reading the book).
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Follow me on aclibrary.org if you like my book reviews :D The five seconds it takes to follow me will make me so happy :DDDDD

c
Cidherman
Sep 21, 2020

Well written, fascinating book . I feel enriched for having read it.

Reviewed in the United States on July 29, 2020

I was not familiar with Trevor Noah prior to cracking his memoir, BORN A CRIME. I can tell you, that it in no way diminished my enjoyment of his book, or my appreciation of him, for allowing a glimpse into a world that was completely foreign to me.

It is a great story and touches on so many relevant aspects of humans and our social
constraints and boundaries. Noah was born in South Africa near the end of Apartheid. He grew up in a part of that world, in circumstances that I could never have known or understood, without him having so generously shared it, by telling his story.

If you want to make your life richer and fuller by understanding racism, crime, poverty, education, politics, and feminism and abuse in ways you've never looked at them before, BORN A CRIME is your ticket to see the world through someone elses eyes.

This is a great book and a opportunity for readers to experience life in a time and place that is completely different from how most of us grew up.

Well written, fascinating book. I feel enriched for having read it!

c
Cidherman
Sep 14, 2020

Well written, fascinating book. I feel enriched for having read it.

Reviewed in the United States on July 29, 2020

I was not familiar with Trevor Noah prior to cracking his memoir, BORN A CRIME. I can tell you, that it in no way diminished my enjoyment of his book, or my appreciation of him, for allowing a glimpse into a world that was completely foreign to me.

It is a great story and touches on so many relevant aspects of humans and our social
constraints and boundaries. Noah was born in South Africa near the end of Apartheid. He grew up in a part of that world, in circumstances that I could never have known or understood, without him having so generously shared it, by telling his story.

If you want to make your life richer and fuller by understanding racism, crime, poverty, education, politics, and feminism and abuse in ways you've never looked at them before, BORN A CRIME is your ticket to see the world through someone elses eyes.

This is a great book and a opportunity for readers to experience life in a time and place that is completely different from how most of us grew up.

Well written, fascinating book. I feel enriched for having read it.

i
Ivy_Digest
Sep 13, 2020

Even if you don't know this charismatic TV host and stand up comedian, his story of racism is eye-opening yet engaging. With wit and heart, Trevor weaves an unforgettable childhood of growing up light-skinned in a country that punishes mixed relations. His courageous mom tried to hide him and he wasn't accepted in school for being neither pure black nor pure white. With his signature humor, Trevor retells his youthful indiscretions and how he tried to find friends and direction in life. I recommend this to all readers just because it's so well-written. A kid version is available "It's Trevor Noah Born A Crime".--@IvyDigest
https://www.instagram.com/p/B1Hw92ggSyL/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

c
ChadTSmith
Aug 31, 2020

Trevor Noah's born a crime is a comical yet intriguing autobiography about his life in South Africa. It provides an example of how a mixed-race child dealt with South African life during the period of Apartheid. Trevor Noah's commentary makes this book a pleasure to read during casual moments but it is incorporated in a way that does not detract from the serious themes in the novel. Another thing I personally enjoyed was Trevor's mother and the various mother and son moments the book had. They treated each other as equals which gave Trevor more expression in the relationship, however, if it is needed his mother would take charge to do whatever is best for the family. The only parts of the book that I didn't like were moments where there were no jokes or serious moments but those are few and far between. I recommend reading it!

k
KaedonC
Aug 07, 2020

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is an autobiography about Trevor's life in Africa. Trevor was born a crime as it was illegal for different races to marry and have children in Africa. The story starts in Trevor's early life when he was introduced to Judaism, but wasn't forced to convert. Growing up, Trevor's mom stressed independence and free thought as well as all the values of Judaism. In Trevor's whole early life, he couldn't be seen with his parents and had to have his mother's friends pose as his mother. Trevor struggled to fit in at school as he didn't know which group to play with. Later in high school, Trevor had to start a lunch delivery business to move up and be accepted by his fellow classmates. After highschool, he started getting into comedy in 2002 and has been on ever since. I found the fact that Trevor burned down a house and did petty crimes to be unexpected. Trevor had a rough, but loving relationship with his mother as he was always getting in trouble. Trevor didn't see his dad much and could only meet in secret. Trevor talks about politics and race in a kind of close way as he has been through a lot. I would recommend this book to middle schoolers interested in learning about racial problems.

s
sapbear
Jun 30, 2020

Wow! Trevor Noah's stories are educational, enlightening, hilarious, horrifying and important. Even though the book is based in South Africa, so much is relevant to America today. A must read. In fact, I even just ordered copies for my nieces and my son.

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Age Suitability

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1
1234ravenmore
Nov 04, 2020

1234ravenmore thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

q
qianhaha
Sep 23, 2020

qianhaha thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

i
Ivy_Digest
Sep 13, 2020

Ivy_Digest thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

c
ChadTSmith
Aug 31, 2020

ChadTSmith thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

j
jackycwyeung
Apr 04, 2019

jackycwyeung thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

k
katboxjanitor
Mar 06, 2018

katboxjanitor thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

g
green_turtle_2159
Sep 21, 2017

green_turtle_2159 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

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wrtrchk
Apr 04, 2017

wrtrchk thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Quotes

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“Nelson Mandela once said, 'If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.' He was so right. When you make the effort to speak someone else's language, even if it's just basic phrases here and there, you are saying to them, 'I understand that you have a culture and identity that exists beyond me. I see you as a human being”
― Trevor Noah, Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

k
katboxjanitor
Mar 06, 2018

People thought my mom was crazy. Ice rinks and drive-ins and suburbs, these things were izinto zabelungu—the things of white people. So many black people had internalized the logic of apartheid and made it their own. Why teach a black child white things? Neighbors and relatives used to pester my mom. “Why do all this? Why show him the world when he’s never going to leave the ghetto?” “Because,” she would say, “even if he never leaves the ghetto, he will know that the ghetto is not the world. If that is all I accomplish, I’ve done enough.”

k
katboxjanitor
Mar 06, 2018

But the more we went to church and the longer I sat in those pews the more I learned about how Christianity works: If you’re Native American and you pray to the wolves, you’re a savage. If you’re African and you pray to your ancestors, you’re a primitive. But when white people pray to a guy who turns water into wine, well, that’s just common sense.

This quote could be titled 'Christianity, assimilate or else!'

l
Liber_vermis
Nov 18, 2017

"In the [neighbour]hood, even if you're not a hardcore criminal, crime is in your life in some way or another. There are degrees of it. ... The hood made me realized that crime succeeds because crime does the one thing the government doesn't do: crime cares. Crime is grassroots. Crime looks for the young kids who need support and a lifting hand. Crime offers internship programs and summer jobs and opportunities for advancement. Crime gets involved in the community. Crime doesn't discriminate." (p. 209)

s
shayshortt
Feb 21, 2017

The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate is what it was. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another so you can run them all.

Summary

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SPL_Sonya Sep 23, 2019

Trevor Noah is best known as the late night talk show host who took over the Daily Show after the retirement of Jon Stewart in 2015. Trevor Noah is South African and this book relates the many fascinating and improbable stories that made up his childhood.

Noah reminds us of the horrors of apartheid (forced segregation of the races) in his native country. The fact that his mother is black and his father is white was actually a crime when he was born in the 1980s. People of different races could not marry and definitely could not have a child together. But that's exactly what happened in Trevor's case.

By the bizarre and hateful traditions of South Africa at that time he was labelled as 'coloured' to differentiate him from black people and white people. Everyone was classified based on their race. He was kept out of the public eye as much as possible growing up. When seen in public, Trevor's mother had to pretend she did not know him. As a child Trevor found this profoundly disturbing. His white father from Switzerland also could not acknowledge any connection with the boy.

Despite the horrors of life in South Africa, this memoir is upbeat and very funny. Trevor Noah was the kind of child that drives parents crazy. He was impulsive, clever and always getting himself into trouble. He was maddening and yet he was also adorable and irresistible.

There is no bitterness in his retelling of his childhood despite the poverty and violence that was always around him. He relates how difficult it was to fit in because of his unusual racial status. Noah's honesty is refreshing. At no time in his book does he exaggerate his importance or avoid embarrassing stories about himself. Quite the opposite, in fact. His stories about his first girlfriend, his illegal money making schemes and his trouble fitting in with other kids are honest, endearing and often hilarious.

It is incredible to think that a young man who grew up under such horrible circumstances could turn out to be the successful host of a TV show half a world away.

s
shayshortt
Feb 21, 2017

When Trevor Noah was born in South Africa in 1984, his existence was literally illegal, proof that his black, Xhosa mother and his white, Swiss-German father had violated the Immorality Act of 1927, one of the many laws defining the system known as apartheid. The crime carried a punishment of four to five years in prison, and mixed race children were often seized and placed in state-run orphanages. But Noah’s mother was determined and clever, and she managed to hold onto her son, refusing to flee her home country in order to raise him. But it made his childhood complicated, even after apartheid officially ended in 1994. Racial hierarchies and inequities persisted, and despite receiving a good education, his upbringing was anything but easy. In a series of essays, Born a Crime chronicles Noah’s experience growing up under apartheid and its aftermath.

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