Born A Crime

Born A Crime

Stories From A South African Childhood

Book - 2016
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man's coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times * Newsday * Esquire * NPR * 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

"[Noah's] electrifying memoir sparkles with funny stories . . . and his candid and compassionate essays deepen our perception of the complexities of race, gender, and class." -- Booklist (starred review)

"A gritty memoir . . . studded with insight and provocative social criticism . . . with flashes of brilliant storytelling and acute observations." -- Kirkus Reviews
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, 2016
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780399588174
Characteristics: x, 282 pages ; 25 cm
Call Number: B NOAH, T


From Library Staff

List - Inklings Book Club
DCLbookclubs Dec 07, 2016

Book to be discussed on December 4, 2018, at 7 p.m., Douglas County Libraries in Parker

October 9, 2018.
James H. LaRue meeting room

This collection of personal essays tells the hilarious and moving story of The Daily Show host, from his illegal birth to a white father and black mother in apartheid South Africa, to his growing up and coming of age in the turmoil of the post-apartheid environment, with his remarkable mother by ... Read More »

Mayflower94 Feb 11, 2017

Nothing like living in apartheid South Africa as a colored person, yes, not a black but a colored person. Trevor Noah's memoir of growing up with a black mother and a secret (although unwillingly) white father is heart wrenching yet hilarious. It gives me some insights on race and poverty. Highly... Read More »

mdellapenna Dec 08, 2016

Wonderfully written book! It's an interesting glimpse into what life was like in South Africa during apartheid. Funny, and serious, and gripping all at the same time.

From the critics

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Sep 08, 2018

I read this in one sitting; I couldn't put it down.

Aug 11, 2018

This is Noah's memoir of his childhood to about the age of 20. In this reminiscence of what his childhood was like, Noah jumps around a lot in time. In one chapter he is 6, in the next he is going to his high school prom, and in another he is a pre-schooler, etc. Noah is such a likable person that it is rather hard to believe he was so mischievous as a kid. It's amazing he turned out as we know him - that's the story I want to read. What happened to him after high school graduation when he spent 3 years in buying and selling stuff and making loans in his neighborhood? I guess that will be another book. Through Noah's stories about how he was raised, we get an idea of the strong woman his mother was. I couldn't believe that it took her so long to opt out of her marriage to that mechanic, particularly when he began abusing her son. The stories he tells are short, but usually he manages to find something to joke about in each one.

JessicaGma Aug 09, 2018

I often avoid memoirs of people still living as sometimes they're not as interesting, or show off more than you wanted to know about the person, but this one lives up to the hype. Trevor Noah is a brilliant storyteller, and I learned a great deal about Apartheid in South Africa, about which I knew little. This is worth your time!

Jul 11, 2018

This was really a good read - a journey into what it was like growing up colored in South Africa through Apartheid, written with Trevor's way of telling stories that makes him so interesting in the Daily Show. Both entertaining and informative on a number of levels.

Jul 07, 2018

I have been watching the Daily Show with Trevor Noah for a couple of years now, and was very interested to learn more about this witty and compassionate young man. The book is fascinating from cover to cover; it's very well written, drawing the reader into the complex form of racism that has been part of South Africa for far too long. The story is very personal, funny and sad, with so much hope and a wonderful ending. I would like to see more books by Trevor Noah.

Jul 02, 2018

I stopped watching The Daily Show after Jon Stewart left and only recently starting watching it again, so I decided to read Noah's book. I loved it. The stories of his young life were so interesting and some were funny and tragic at the same time. I still laugh to myself when I think of the story where his grandmother thought a demon had come into the house because there was a terrible smell. You'll have to read it to find out about this "demon." I didn't know much about apartheid before reading Born A Crime and now I feel as though I have at least a rudimentary understanding of it. I can't imagine growing up with the social rules he had to deal with every day. I also appreciated everything his Mom went through to bring him up. She's such a strong woman and I loved the bond they had, even when things were tough. Trevor's a good storyteller and a funny guy and I'm definitely going to keep watching his show, too.

Jun 10, 2018

I absolutely loved this book. I keep going back and thinking about it. So eye opening to a different culture, race, society. I would recommend this to every single person.

May 15, 2018

What a compelling read. It bounces a bit between his time lines but that's to stay on topic, share points, ideas. Very well done, and what an incredible story.

Very inspiring to me as I work on writing, helping with the mindfulness towards what I enjoy in reading.

May 12, 2018

In his biography, Trevor Noah, the current host of The Daily Show, reveals much about his childhood under South African apartheid. Oppressive and barbaric under even the best of circumstances, this system of segregation and discrimination intensified the challenges Noah faced as the son of a Swiss national and a native Xhosa woman, whose relationship was considered a criminal offense.

My overall reaction while reading was -- wow, Trevor was quite the little rascal! Upon finishing the book I can't help but wonder about the well-being of the rest of his family (is everyone OK??). I decreased my rating by one star due to the occasionally disorienting non-linear timeline, but I awarded an additional star for the sheer amount of knowledge I have gained about South African history and culture.

May 10, 2018

One of the best books I've ever read: you have all feelings there. It's a life lesson.

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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.”

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!'

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)

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.


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Mar 06, 2018

katboxjanitor thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Sep 21, 2017

green_turtle_2159 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Apr 04, 2017

wrtrchk thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


Add a Summary

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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