Born A Crime
Stories From A South African ChildhoodBook - 2016
NAMED ONE OF PASTE 'S BEST MEMOIRS OF THE DECADE * NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Michiko Kakutani, New York Times * USA Today * San Francisco Chronicle * NPR * Esquire * Newsday * Booklist
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 stories 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.
Praise for Born a Crime
"[A] compelling new memoir . . . By turns alarming, sad and funny, [Trevor Noah's] book provides a harrowing look, through the prism of Mr. Noah's family, at life in South Africa under apartheid. . . . Born a Crime is not just an unnerving account of growing up in South Africa under apartheid, but a love letter to the author's remarkable mother." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"[An] unforgettable memoir." -- Parade
"What makes Born a Crime such a soul-nourishing pleasure, even with all its darker edges and perilous turns, is reading Noah recount in brisk, warmly conversational prose how he learned to negotiate his way through the bullying and ostracism. . . . What also helped was having a mother like Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah. . . . Consider Born a Crime another such gift to her--and an enormous gift to the rest of us." --USA Today
"[Noah] thrives with the help of his astonishingly fearless mother. . . . Their fierce bond makes this story soar." --People
From Library Staff
LibrarySquare Nov 06, 2019
June 2, 2021
Recommended by: Andrew Luck.
The 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 T... Read More »
From the critics
QuotesAdd a Quote
“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
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.”
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!'
"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)
AgeAdd Age Suitability
green_turtle_2159 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over
SummaryAdd a Summary
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.
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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