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Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah, is a story about institutionalized racism and the effect it has on a child. It is also the story of the author’s life, and despite the fact that it was a life of hardship, Noah relates stories from his childhood with humor. Noah was a child of an interracial marriage, and he grew up in South Africa under the system of apartheid, a system that considered interracial marriage a crime. Noah suffered from his parents’ “crime,” as he struggled to find his place in a society where blacks were considered subhuman and families like his were shunned. Noah experienced firsthand how blacks and whites were treated differently, particularly by the police, who enforced the laws of apartheid and promoted injustice.

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Noah was a victim of his environment—both his physical environment of South Africa and the historical time in which he lived. The story highlights the influence of environment on a person’s social and moral development, because Noah lives in a number of different places in his life and each place molds him into the person he becomes. Noah experiences the realities of racism and existence within a police state, and he learns to live within the system. He considers the English language as a tool for survival in a world that equates English with intelligence. He also considers crime an opportunity for success.

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