Born a Crime Book Summary By Trevor Noah

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Born a Crime is a book that tells the story of Trevor Noah's upbringing in South Africa during apartheid and post-apartheid times.

As Adrian Chen, writer for The New Yorker said, it is “a riveting account of survival”.

Trevor was born, quite literally, "a crime", as he was the product of an interracial relationship – something forbidden by law.

He recounts experiences from this tumultuous time which ended up shaping who he is today, including both successes and struggles that he overcame on his journey.

This book provides an outstanding insight into how life was during this period and allows readers to gain a true understanding of what it was like to live through these challenging times.

It features humorous anecdotes from Trevor's life which will captivate audiences - no matter their background or knowledge of South African history.

Born a Crime Book

Book Name: Born a Crime (Stories from a South African Childhood)

Author(s): Trevor Noah

Rating: 4.4/5

Reading Time: 18 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

Trevor Noah is an internationally renowned comedian and host of the award-winning Daily Show.

A South African native, he has been nominated for various awards including winning the 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards for Best Host.

Apart from hosting, his big break came in 2016 when he released his New York Times Bestseller "Born a Crime," which details his upbringing as mixed-race child during apartheid in South Africa.

The book was also adapted into a film starring Lupita Nyong'o as Trevor's mother and recently became available on Netflix.

In the book, Trevor discusses racism, poverty and other social issues in South Africa through his experience growing up within these turbulent times.

Through this story and perspective, readers are able to gain a better understanding of how people were affected by these difficult laws that forced those of different ethnicities to endure unthinkable suffering.

Growing Up Under Apartheid: How Trevor Noah Faced Racism And Uncoverd Absurdities Of A Divided South Africa

Trevor Noah Faced Racism

If you’ve been following international entertainment news, then you know that Trevor Noah is the host of Comedy Central’s late night political-satire show, The Daily Show.

But what many people don’t know is the compelling backstory of Trevor Noah and the South Africa of his childhood.

Born during apartheid in South Africa to a white father and Black mother, young Trevor Noah was a rare thing in the country – a child of mixed heritage.

Weaving through childhood and adolescence, it was an extraordinary period for Noah, filled with learning about and experiencing in the absurdities, cruelties and inequalities of institutionalized racism.

From understanding why his very existence was seen as a crime under the laws at that time to how he used language itself to tackle race relations in South Africa to why Hitler got him into trouble, readers can see what made up young Trevor’s formative years and enabled him to become the man he is today.

Trevor Noah: A Living Testimony Of A Crime In Apartheid South Africa

In apartheid South Africa, Trevor Noah’s birth was a crime.

The justice system in place during this dark time had established laws prohibiting interracial sex and even went to such extreme measures as having police units spy through windows for transgressors.

Thus, when Trevor was born to a Black mother and white father on February 20, 1984, both of them were risking prison for the crime of producing their baby boy.

Underneath the unjust Apartheid law which sought to keep Blacks and whites segregated and apart, there lay deep-rooted racism that prevented mixing of races.

The law saw it as unnatural for Blacks and whites to want to mix, so interracial couples were severely punished if caught.

This means that Trevor Noah’s very existence was considered a crime by South African officials – one that could result in up to 5 years in prison for his parents if discovered.

The Power Of Opposites: How Two Very Different Parents Raised An Inspirational Son

Power Of Opposites

It was clear from day one that Noah’s parents were incredibly different.

His father, Robert, a man of Swiss-German descent, had moved to South Africa in the late 1970s and while he never truly understood the country’s racism, he still managed to open one of the first mixed restaurants in Johannesburg amidst it all.

On the other hand was Noah’s mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah, who had grown up poor and experienced incredible poverty living in a single hut with 14 other undesired relatives she still managed to learn English from a white missionary and push her way out of misfortune.

Not only did their differences manifest themselves on physical levels such as skin colour but they reached deeper than just that – from Robert being quiet and withdrawn to Patricia being ambitious and fiery.

They even varied on religious levels; with Robert being religiously distant while Patricia devoutly Christian, managing to visit three different churches each week without fail.

Noah’s parents were unique in every way – their outward appearances as well as their internal drive for success showed this time and time again.

It is no surprise then that Noah’s immense determination was well sculpted by them both growing up.

Noah Learns Valuable Life Lessons From His Loving Mother Despite Growing Up In Poverty

Noah’s mother wanted the best for him, even when life seemed to be at its most difficult.

She made sure he was educated, spending her meager income on books, encyclopedias, and the Bible.

She even quizzed him on what he read in an effort to get him thinking about life beyond the ghetto.

But despite these efforts, Noah proved to be a real rascal and often put his mother’s hard work to waste.

His behavior included infatuation with knives, pyromaniacal tendencies, and even burning down a house–which warranted the painful spankings she gave him as punishment.

Though it may have been severe discipline, it was all done out of love in an effort to keep Noah from continuously paying the “black tax” of poverty his parents did before him.

Navigating Post-Apartheid South Africa: The Courage And Resilience Of Noah And His Mother

South Africa

Post-apartheid South Africa may have brought some respite from the horrors of apartheid, but it was no easy transition.

People weren’t sure who held the power and this led to a power struggle between two of the biggest tribes – the Zulus and the Xhosas.

Noah’s mother had her own challenges to face, like having to take public minibuses which were extremely dangerous and often involved drivers or operators fighting turf wars over routes.

On one such occasion, a Zulu driver threatened her after they argued, making sure she had no way of getting off.

But she remained strong; as they slowed at an intersection, she forced open the doors, pushed Noah out and leaped after with Andrew in her arms before running home as quickly as possible.

Fortunately Noah was able to navigate his way through post-apartheid times by using his ability with languages – since there were eleven official languages now in South Africa he learned several in order to help him on occasions such as when he overheard a gang of approaching Zulu boys planning to mug him.

His fluency in the language protected him from potential harm.

Post-apartheid South Africa certainly had its bright moments but it was hard for those living there too.

The Power Of Wit And Skill: How Noah’S Experiences In Apartheid South Africa Led To A Career In Comedy

Officially, Noah was “coloured” during apartheid.

This meant that he had neither fully Black nor fully white ancestry.

But this classification left him with a difficult quandary: where did he belong? He felt as though the end of apartheid made this harder for him, because for many years he’d been taught that if he mixed with whites, he and his descendants would also be considered white.

Yet, Noah was never in any doubt; he knew he was Black.

He was raised by his African mother and spoke several African languages.

Even in school, Noah made friends with the Black kids and even asked to be moved from a predominantly white classroom group to one of only Black kids.

Still, although it seemed as though identification solely based on race concerned him, it seems as though in practice Noah could easily move between various groups without being constrained by racial boundaries: rich kids, nerds and jocks alike all welcomed him at school because of his comedic skills.

Race may have been official but to Noah he was always simply black.

Noah Learns That Having Good Business Sense Means Understanding Cultural Dynamics Too

Cultural Dynamics

At the peak of Noah’s DJ career, his friend Hitler nearly caused some trouble.

During a cultural festival hosted by a Jewish school, Noah and a dance crew he had assembled got on stage to perform while Noah deejayed.

The crew was made up of people from all walks of life, including a member named – you guessed it – Hitler.

Unfortunately for Noah and the dance crew, little did they know just how offensive this name could be for Westerners with knowledge about World War II and the Holocaust.

So when it was time for Hitler to take center-stage, and the crowd started chanting “Go Hitler, go Hitler!”, the music quickly stopped as there was palpable anger in the air.

In one moment, what could have been an amazing performance quickly turned into an uncomfortable situation that neither Noah nor his dance crew had expected.

It goes to show that even business acumen isn’t always enough in certain situations!

Systemic Racism Fueled Crime For Blacks In Post-Apartheid South Africa

Noah had a few close calls with the law, and he was lucky to avoid the worst-case scenarios.

For instance, when deejaying at a party, a police officer shot his computer and all of his tracks were destroyed.

Under normal circumstances this would have been bad enough, but luckily no criminal charges were pressed against him.

In another incident, Noah snuck out his stepfather’s car for a spin.

The plates on the car matched up to another vehicle, so the police arrested Noah on suspicion of theft.

After spending a week in jail and his mother paying for legal aid and bail, he was released without any charges being filed.

Finally, during his time in jail Noah met someone who had shoplifted PlayStation games but lacked the funds for good legal representation or even posting bail; ultimately this person was sentenced to prison despite committing essentially harmless activity due to being disadvantaged by systemic racism that kept them from having options in life other than crime.

Experiencing first-hand how easily individuals are incarcerated regardless of their innocence made it clear to Noah just how unjust the system is.

Noah’S Experience With Domestic Violence Inspires Hope For A More Just South Africa

Noah’s mother, Patricia, could have been killed by her ex-husband Abel – but luckily, she survived.

Abel was an alcoholic and had a habit of getting violent when he was drunk.

On one fateful night, Abel attacked Patricia while she was holding their baby son Andrew.

Despite going to the police, they refused to take any action and told Patricia not to have enraged Abel in the first place.

Feeling trapped, Patricia stayed in the relationship for fear of what would happen if she tried to escape.

But eventually, with help from friends and family members, Patricia found her strength and moved on with her life; she even remarried after some time had passed.

However, not everything worked out completely for the family; tragically enough, news reached Noah about his ex-stepfather’s worst act: shooting Patricia twice – once in the buttock and once in the back of the head.

Contrary to expectations however, she managed to survive due to the bullet missing all vital organs and even exited through her left nostril before he received only three years’ probation despite his previous behavior of violence.

This incident show us how much work is still remaining to be done for South Africa’s justice system.

Wrap Up

At the end of Born A Crime, Trevor Noah’s story of survival in South Africa through apartheid and beyond comes full circle.

Despite facing tremendous odds and difficulties throughout his life, he was able to overcome many challenges and come out a successful adult.

From poverty, racism, and violence to identity crises, Noah recounts his journey filled with difficult experiences that inspired him to become a better person.

He realized how important it was to stay positive no matter what life throws your way if you want to survive and move forward.

And so this is the final summary of the book: every experience we go through in our lives can shape us for better or for worse; but ultimately it is up to us to decide what kind of person we want to be in order to create our future success.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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