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.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780399588174
Branch Call Number: BIO NOAH T. Noah 11/2016
Characteristics: x, 288 pages ;,25 cm


From Library Staff

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.

Reader: High school Juniors and Seniors or college Freshmen --- 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 ... Read More »

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Aug 07, 2017

Enjoyed reading his story. Great hussle story, everybody's got one.
As a child my dad had to pick up dried buffalo turds in North Dakota in order
to have fuel to burn in the iron stove of the familys mud turf house with a dirt floor~1925 in the good ole USA.

Aug 06, 2017

Having heard Trevor Noah on NPR programs, I was interested in reading this book. It was a mind opening experience. His writing style is in the great tradition of storytelling, where one essay/chapter builds the foundation information to make the next ones rich in background material and yet each one is a jewel in itself.

Jul 19, 2017

I entered this with no knowledge of Noah's life prior to The Daily Show. His life story (what is presented on page) was a fascinating story pf tragic struggle and triumph. I was hoping for humor and was delighted with the insight into life under Apartheid. In my opinion it could have been written / edited better - but this was all about the message: that language, decency and common experiences should unite and the dangers of racial segregation. If you're a white American, please consider reading Ta-Nehisi Coates letter "Between the World and Me" to compliment Noah's work.

Jul 15, 2017

As fans of Trevor Noah, reading his autobiography was insightful, shocking and overall delightfully funny. The polished host of the Daily Show and fluid stand up comic we see today was forged by a childhood I personally could not imagine until reading his accounts of it for myself. Not only did Mr. Noah survive, he flourished. I've recommended this book to everyone I know who is an avid reader. Please read it. Even if you are not, you will enjoy this book.

Jul 12, 2017

A lot is packed into these pages. Intimate glimpse of how life can be physically impoverished but rich in family and cultural traditions. Noah gives us a rich portrait of his mother - determined, emboldened by an unwavering belief in God, hard working, hard on her son who she feels she must harden because the world in hard. Noah's tales of life under apartheid and the lunacy of its laws and rules made me consider what kinds of systemic discrimination Blacks have faced in our country as well. And, there is the young life of Trevor Noah, irreverent, risk taking, impetuous, smart and because of his mixed race and upbringing, often the outsider. I liked this book a lot and the pages just whipped by.

Jul 09, 2017

Sprinkled as counter-point chapters to Noah's anecdotes about his childhood, the information about how apartheid was actually shaped and enforced in South Africa is fascinating. But for me Noah himself comes across basically as a self-absorbed delinquent. For example, he writes about one friend who was caught along with him in a shoplifting incident - the friend lied to the police in order to exonerate Noah, and that's the last we hear of the friend. Noah got off, his friend went to prison - end of friend, I guess. Plenty of stories like that where Noah manages to walk away from the chaos he creates and fails to think about the consequences for people he might have considered in a more thoughtful way. It's true, Noah did have to adapt and survive in a harsh environment, I understand that, but I saw little empathy in him for other people as he grows up (he's good on a societal level - cares about equality - but not really on a personal level.) He leans toward self-congratulation about his exploits, with not enough self-criticism or self-reflection for my taste. Also: if you're hoping to figure out how he got from this grim beginning of racism, abuse and poverty to currently hosting the Daily Show, you won't find it in this book. For me, the best part of the books was in trying to figure out his mother - part saint, part tyrant, she both neglected and saved him. Complicated and interesting woman.

Jun 26, 2017

Very compelling and engaging tale of growing up under apartheid in South Africa, distilled into pithy, funny, thoughtful essay/stories about his childhood. Completely worth reading.

Jun 20, 2017

As Trevor Noah explained apartheid in South Africa, I found myself developing deeper insights into racism and poverty in America.

I'm a huge Trevor Noah fan and was quite intrigued with his story which is richly infused with love, wisdom, humor, and compassion. His mother and step-father were abusive. His mother had an exceedingly rugged childhood, and she was determined to give her son a better life.

Some elements of the book seemed exaggerated and not entirely credible. In one part of the book, for example, he wrote about spending ALL day on Sunday in church. Yet, he recounted in another part of the book that he spent Sunday afternoons with his father until his mother re-married. But, it is a memoir, and none of us has a perfect memory or understanding of what happened during our childhoods.

I was very disappointed that he didn't identify his father except for first name and country of origin. I was even more disappointed that there weren't any photos.

Jun 11, 2017

Outstanding. Informative about the recent history of S Africa with plenty of his humor too.

Jun 05, 2017

Shocking, hilarious and absolutely fascinating. Finished it in less than a day.

Here is an excellent CBC interview with Trevor Noah:

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Apr 04, 2017

wrtrchk thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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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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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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