Born a Crime

by Trevor Noah

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Chapters 11–12 Summary and Analysis

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Chapter 11

Now in grade eight, Trevor starts at a new school yet again. This time, he’s at a “Model C School,” a hybrid between a government and a private institution. The desirability of the program draws students from all backgrounds, and Trevor finds himself enrolled with a more diverse student body than ever before. Despite this, he still feels like an outsider.

But before long, he finds an enterprising niche. He’s the fastest kid on campus, which means he’s always first in line to buy his lunch from the school tuck shop. Soon, students begin preordering their lunch from him and giving him a commission to buy it for them.

This gives him two things he desperately needs: an income and the social freedom that comes with providing a highly desirable service that crosses racial and economic boundaries. Everyone wants to order their lunch from Trevor, which means he is finally welcome everywhere.

Chapter 12

Soon, Trevor is faced with another obstacle when he develops his second crush, this time becoming infatuated with a colored Cape Malay girl named Zaheera.

Zaheera is beautiful and popular, but she’s also very shy and reserved. Her best friend is Johanna, who is a friend of Trevor’s, so the two spend plenty of time together and soon develop a close friendship. Despite their rapport, Trevor—who is still chastened by his humiliation at Maylene’s rejection—is afraid to be honest with her about how he feels.

Drawing from his extensive knowledge of American romantic teen movies, he soon develops a strategy that mirrors what seems to work on-screen: he’ll remain the attentive, non-threatening best friend while Zaheera negotiates the challenging world of teen romance. If all goes according to plan, she will become disillusioned with popular boys and finally realize that the perfect boyfriend—Trevor—has been nearby all along.

As the two become closer, his feelings deepen. He watches Zaheera navigate an on-again, off-again romance with Gary, a popular fellow student whom Trevor knows she doesn’t really like all that much. When they break up for good, Trevor finally decides he is ready to take action, and when they return to school after the mid-year holidays, he plans to ask her to the upcoming dance.

A few days after they return from vacation, Zaheera still hasn’t returned to school. Concerned that she might be sick, Trevor asks Johanna where their friend is. Surprised he hasn’t heard, Johanna gives him some startling news. Zaheera’s dad got a job in America, and the entire family has emigrated. She was especially sad to leave, Johanna tells him, because she had such a huge crush on Trevor.

Stunned, Trevor realizes just what his inaction has cost him. The entire time he had been afraid to tell Zaheera how he felt about her, she had been feeling the same way about him. Because he waited in silence instead of risking heartbreak, neither of them learned the extent of the other’s feelings until it was too late.


As Trevor grows into his teens, he begins to deliberately cultivate his social identity with more intention. In his romantic life, his crush on his classmate Zaheera leads him to adopt a passive, non-threatening persona and hang around her periphery as much as possible. His hope is that she will default to him when she becomes tired of the tedious world of teen dating, but his plan backfires. Zaheera moves away, and he only finds out when she has already left that his feelings are reciprocated.

This misguided approach leads him to a new understanding of regret: that actions not taken are often more regrettable than those that are taken. This reiterates a principle that Patricia has demonstrated all along: if you don’t stand up for what you want, you may wait too long and lose your chance.

Somewhat more successfully, during these years he also becomes the “tuck shop guy.” This gives him two new advantages, both of which are valuable to a poor teen with a sense of social statelessness: he starts earning money of his own, which affords him a freedom he has never had, and he ingratiates himself to his peers in a way that gives him a new sense of social freedom and belonging. By becoming the tuck shop guy, Trevor also taps into an entrepreneurial spirit that foreshadows events yet to come.

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Chapters 9–10 Summary and Analysis


Chapters 13–14 Summary and Analysis