Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor NoahThe compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime New York Times bestseller about one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to 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 earliest 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, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical 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.
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.
The eighteen personal essays collected here 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, Trevor 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, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.
Trevor Noah, "Born a Crime" - Trevor Noah Stand up Comedy show
Born a Crime Teacher’s Guide
Born in to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss expatriate father, Noah is not merely an anomaly in apartheid South Africa; his existence is actually illegal because the regime outlawed relationships between people of different races. Each chapter also begins with a short preface, generally about the social and historical context behind the events Noah recounts. In the first chapter, he focuses on the role of religion in his childhood. He shows how Christianity offers his mother a source of moral strength and discipline, which she seeks to pass onto her children. When they visit her family in Soweto , the subject of chapter three, Trevor cannot leave the yard lest he get picked up and taken away by the police; Noah remembers feeling strangely isolated from his cousins and neighbors, but not yet understanding why he was considered so different. By learning a number of different languages, Noah realized, he could connect to almost anyone and fit himself into situations where it would be dangerous to be an outsider. When she returns in her 20s, she has to find a place for herself and moves into Johannesburg, doing her best to rise socioeconomically and support her son on her own.
Trevor Noah opens his memoir by articulating a central premise: that apartheid relied on creating artificial divisions between groups of people so that the white colonial elite could maintain their hold on power. He introduces the major tribes of South Africa, with a focus on the two main groups: the Zulu and Xhosa. He identifies the Zulu as having taken a forceful and combative approach to resisting colonial power, while the Xhosa primarily used strategy and political maneuvering. These different approaches led to increased tension between the two groups, and once apartheid fell, systematic oppression was replaced by different African tribes fighting against one another. Noah then shifts into the first of his personal recollections: as a child, he was thrown out a moving car by his mother. At age 9, he, his mother, and his infant brother, Andrew , had their car break down on a Sunday as they were trying to get to church.
Need help with Chapter 1 in Trevor Noah's Born a Crime? Check out our revolutionary side-by-side summary and analysis.
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