Born a Crime

by Trevor Noah

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Student Question

What advice from Noah's mother in his book impacted Noah's identity and their relationship?

"My mother showed me what was possible," Noah writes (p. 73).

Quick answer:

Throughout Born a Crime, Trevor Noah tells us how much his mom influenced him. He cites many sage quotes from her. She tells him "Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you." She also shows him that "the highest rung of what's possible is far beyond the world you can see." By helping him confront his trauma and by showing him a world outside "the ghetto," we understand why Noah calls his mom his "teammate".

Expert Answers

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As you already note, Trevor's Noah's mom has had a huge impact on his life. As Noah says in Born a Crime: "She was my mom. She was my teammate. It had always been me and her together. Me and her against the world."

What are some of the lessons Noah learned from his “teammate”? You already give us one. His mother showed him what was "possible." According to Noah, she showed him that "the highest rung of what's possible is far beyond the world you can see."

How did the pressure to see more impact Noah? What does this tell us about his relationship with his mom? It reinforces how close they were. In the book, he tells us how, together, they would drive to the ice rink or to the drive-in movie theater. It's almost as if they're best friends.

We might also be able to say that his mom's belief that Noah shouldn't be content with his surroundings, that he shouldn't settle, made him ambitious. As Noah writes, "Comfort can be dangerous. Comfort can provide a floor but also a ceiling." Maybe by pushing them out of their comfort zone and into places they weren’t supposed to be, Noah’s mom helped give him the drive to not be content.

When it comes to pain and trauma, we can also see how Noah's mom impacted him. "Don’t cry about your past," his mom told him. "Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you, but don’t hold on to it. Don’t be bitter." Noah's current profession as a comedian and satirist should let us know that he has not let his pain and trauma turn him into a humorless person.

"If my mother had one goal," Noah tells us, "it was to free my mind." If you wanted to find an adverse way in which Noah's mom influenced him, we might say that at times Noah was a little too free, a little too dismissive of boundaries. Think about some of the trouble Noah gets into. How did Noah go a little too far sometimes?

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