Born a Crime

by Trevor Noah

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Why did Trevor's mom marry Abel, not Trevor's father, in Born a Crime?

Quick answer:

One reason why Trevor's mom married Abel when she said she wouldn't consider marrying Trevor's father is that under the laws of South African apartheid, mixed-race relationships were illegal.

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Initially, Patricia's choices were determined by the limitations of South Africa's race-mixing policies. Under the segregationist laws of the apartheid era, all race-mixing was illegal. This means that Trevor's mother, a Black Xhosa woman, could not legally marry Trevor's white father even if she wanted to or be publicly involved with him in any capacity. Instead, the two had to hide their relationship until the fall of the segregationist government.

This is where the memoir's title, Born a Crime, comes from. Trevor's birth is a criminal act under existing laws—from his first day on earth, he bears the burden of concealing that crime.

It also bears noting that Trevor's mother did not initially intend to raise Trevor with his father's involvement at all. Contrary to the restrictive conventions of the time, which she had little interest in or deference for, Patricia set out to be a single mother from the beginning. Not because she didn't like or respect Trevor's father, but because that was the version of life and motherhood that made the most sense to her. When Trevor's dad realized he wanted to be involved with his son, it was a nice surprise, but it didn't change the terms of the relationship between him and Patricia—they shared a son, for whom they both cared deeply, but had no intention of living together as parents.

When she later changes her mind and marries Abel, multiple factors could be at play. By the time Abel comes around, Patricia is much older than she was when Trevor was born. Sometimes, people's relationship needs and preferences simply change over time—what didn't fit her lifestyle in her younger days might have eventually grown to seem appealing.

Given what Trevor reveals about Abel—that over the course of the book, he grows increasingly more manipulative, abusive, and dangerous—it's also very possible that even early on in the relationship, Patricia had less freedom to define her own terms of involvement in her relationship with Abel. She may have married him because she felt she had no other choice.

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