Born A Crime

Born A Crime

Stories From A South African Childhood

Book - 2016
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One of the comedy world's fastest-rising stars tells his wild coming of age story during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. Noah provides something deeper than traditional memorists: powerfully funny observations about how farcical political and social systems play out in our lives. Trevor Noah is the host of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, where he gleefully provides America with its nightly dose of serrated satire. He is a light-footed but cutting observer of the relentless absurdities of politics, nationalism and race--and in particular the craziness of his own young life, which he's lived at the intersections of culture and history. In his first book, Noah tells his coming of age story with his larger-than-life mother during the last gasps of apartheid-era South Africa and the turbulent years that followed. Noah was born illegal--the son of a white, Dutch father and a black Xhosa mother, who had to pretend to be his nanny or his father's servant in the brief moments when the family came together. His brilliantly eccentric mother loomed over his life--a comically zealous Christian (they went to church six days a week and three times on Sunday), a savvy hustler who kept food on their table during rough times, and an aggressively involved, if often seriously misguided, parent who set Noah on his bumpy path to stardom. The stories Noah tells are sometimes dark, occasionally bizarre, frequently tender, and always hilarious--whether he's subsisting on caterpillars during months of extreme poverty or making comically pitiful attempts at teenage romance in a color-obsessed world; whether's he's being thrown into jail as the hapless fall guy for a crime he didn't commit or being thrown by his mother from a speeding car driven by murderous gangsters.
Publisher: [Toronto] :, Doubleday Canada,, 2016
ISBN: 9780385689229
Branch Call Number: 792.7028092 NOA NVD
Characteristics: x, 288 pages : illustration ; 24 cm


From the critics

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Jul 07, 2019

Referred by Whoorl after she listened to audiobook

Chapel_Hill_MarthaW Jul 06, 2019

I kind of feel like the last person on earth to read this book, but I have done so at last, and I really liked it. Trevor Noah is, unsurprisingly, a very funny writer, and he's incredibly adept at weaving together hilarious childhood anecdotes with a serious depiction of the reality of growing up poor in South Africa. This book is, above all else, a tribute to his (really quite remarkable) mother and I found it really moving in places. My only complaint is that it is very anecdotal and hops around quite a bit, and I occasionally wish it flowed a bit more linearly. That is a minor quibble, though -- I really, really liked this.

Jul 04, 2019

Such a clever lad! A very entertaining read. And a terrific insight into growing up in the culture of Apartheid.

Jun 30, 2019

Comedian Trevor Noah (The Daily Show) writes about his childhood growing up as a mixed race kid in Soweto South Africa during apartheid. I enjoyed learning about South African culture, but thought that Noah might have exaggerated some of the stories to make them more entertaining. There is nothing wrong with some exaggeration (that's what comedians generally do) but I was often left wondering how to separate truth from fiction in these pages.

Jun 29, 2019

This was a book club book or I may not have read it as I'm not much of a reader of biography books. This book was a joy to read. It was funny and sad and a great history lesson. I finished reading it with a wish to meet his wonderful mother who had a life well lived. I did not know Trevor Noah before I read this book and am so glad I took the time to read it with all the great summer books out there. The short history at the start of the chapters was very useful.

May 29, 2019

I was feeling rushed as readers were waiting so I couldn't renew this book. I thought I'd start skimming to get through it faster, but I just couldn't. It was so interesting, enlightening, well written, funny! and surprising. I won't have trouble returning it on time as I can't put it down. Excellent story, excellent book, nice clean pages, not with ruffled edges like some books I know. This historical fiction has taught me in depth about apartheid and made me realize that growing up in Africa is very much like growing up in North America; definitely recommended reading...

Feb 16, 2019

This is BEST as an audio book. His stories and the voices he uses for each person had me cracking up the entire time.

Jan 29, 2019

The author described his emotions and experiences in a sharp and funny way. The book will keep the readers occupied an entire time. It gives you an idea of how a kid get to grow in South Africa. It talks about apartheid, racial discriminations, domestic violence, a strong mother and a witty son. I enjoyed reading it

Jan 28, 2019

An earlier comment stated that it was like a history lesson reading "Born a Crime." I agree. As we all know, Trevor Noah also has a talent communicating verbally. I did not know he can speak many languages. A reader of "Born a Crime" will find that he does just fine writing as well. He's an extremely talented man. I'd love to see him write more novels. He has the right blend of insight, clarity and humor.

Jan 25, 2019

Wow. Noah's account of his South African youth from the perspective of a half-black, half-white child struggling against the ridiculous restrictions of apartheid is eye-opening, entertaining; at times utterly infuriating and uproariously hilarious. Through it all, the love and faith of his fiercely independent mother both exasperated and sustained him. An excellent read.

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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

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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Apr 04, 2019

jackycwyeung thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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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