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Born a Crime is an at once humorous and serious memoir by Trevor Noah. The book begins in South Africa, where Noah is from, under apartheid, and continues throughout his childhood and adolescence, as South Africa rid itself of apartheid. At the beginning of the book, Noah is thrown from a minibus and rolls onto the ground. We learn that his mother was being harassed by the driver, and she has thrown Trevor and jumped after him for their own safety.

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Trevor and his mother go to church every Sunday— three churches, in fact. His mother is a deeply religious woman and wants Noah to be religious as well. She keeps him safe and teaches him how to be independent. She gives him the tools he needs for both survival and success. She teaches him to speak several languages so that he can communicate with many different people.

Noah’s father is white, and it is illegal at the time for his black mother and white father to be together and have a child, hence the title of the book. Noah has to spend much of his childhood indoors so that he won’t be taken away. When he is out with his parents, his father has to walk across the street, and his mother has to pretend he isn’t hers when they see the police.

Noah’s grandmother is a big part of his life, as are his cousins. Although he and his mother are poor, he finds ways to earn money as he gets older: burning CDs with his friends, working as a DJ, and, several times, getting into trouble.

Noah’s father moves away, and his mother marries Abel. Abel is an abusive man who eventually shoots Noah’s mother in the head. She survives, but it is a traumatic incident for everyone.


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Born a Crime is a memoir about Trevor Noah's early life in South Africa, with frequent asides describing the atmosphere during apartheid. Noah's mother is a black South African woman, and his father is a white German man. Noah's mother takes a job in the city and finds ways to stay in the city overnight, despite this being illegal at the time. She later meets Noah's father and, after becoming friends with him, asks him to father her child. This was illegal in South Africa, as mixed marriages were not allowed and mixed-race children could be deemed evidence of a crime.

After Trevor is born, he must live in a way that does not give away his mixed parentage, which makes life hard for his mother. He ends up moving into Soweto with his grandmother. This brings its own difficulties because, as far as the residence of Soweto know, Trevor is white. The memoir goes on to describe some of his escapades in Soweto, as well as the very religious life his mother led.

Once apartheid ends, Trevor and his...

(The entire section contains 730 words.)

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