Born a Crime

by Trevor Noah

Start Free Trial

Student Question

What is the importance of reading personal stories about historical injustices, as seen in Born a Crime?

Quick answer:

It is important to read personal stories about injustices and big moments in history because it allows the reader to better understand the impact of those events on individual people. This builds better empathy for all those impacted and leads to more understanding of the events as a whole. Trevor Noah structures his memoir the way he does so that the readers can see just how the absurd injustices of apartheid played out in his particular case.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Born a Crime tells a very personal story, and one that could only come from a particular time and place. For Trevor Noah to effectively tell his story, it is necessary to understand the greater context in which it occurred. This is why he begins most chapters with a short history or cultural lesson of South Africa.

By presenting his own personal stories side-by-side with larger events, Trevor Noah gives his readers better context to understand both aspects of this book. His personal accounts of growing up in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa become more poignant when the reader understands how the country's history and policies affected his life. Noah's many personal anecdotes become more understandable this way.

Furthermore, the reader also sees the human consequences of larger events when the story focuses on a particular person or family. By viewing apartheid and its effects through the prism of Trevor Noah's life, the reader can build more empathy for all those affected by it.

Overall, this is a great way to present stories of injustices to readers. Injustices in history affect people as individuals, not just as whole populations. Often when studying history, we learn about things in a very broad manner. For instance, many textbooks that describe apartheid South Africa just focus on the policies and how they affected large populations of people. This is an important part of the history. Yet, it lacks the context of how it affects people at the ground level. It's not enough to just say that apartheid was bad; to truly build understanding and make connections with those affected, it is useful to see how larger historical events impact people as individuals.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial