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Born a Crime book image
Biography & Autobiography

Born a Crime

By Trevor Noah

book iconRandom House Publishing Group


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • More than one million copies sold! A “brilliant” (Lupita Nyong’o, Time), “poignant” (Entertainment Weekly), “soul-nourishing” (USA Today) memoir about coming of age during the twilight of apartheid
“Noah’s childhood stories are told with all the hilarity and intellect that characterizes his comedy, while illuminating a dark and brutal period in South Africa’s history that must never be forgotten.”—Esquire
Winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor and an NAACP Image Award • Named one of the best books of the year by The New York Time, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Esquire, Newsday, and Booklist

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

Summary by AI

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Author's Background:

  • South African comedian, writer, and television host
  • Born to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father during apartheid

Main Theme:

  • Growing up as a mixed-race child in post-apartheid South Africa

Key Points:

  • Childhood in Soweto: Noah's early life in the black township, where he witnessed poverty, violence, and racial discrimination
  • Complex Family Dynamics: His mother's resilience and determination, his father's absence, and his stepfather's abusive behavior
  • Education and Identity: Noah's struggles with his mixed heritage and his search for a sense of belonging
  • Humor and Resilience: Noah's use of humor to cope with adversity and to bridge cultural divides
  • Social Commentary: The book explores the legacy of apartheid, racial inequality, and the challenges of reconciliation


  • Positive:
    • Praised for its honesty, humor, and insights into South African society
    • Won several awards, including the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work
  • Negative:
    • Some critics have questioned the accuracy of certain events depicted in the book

Who Should Read It:

  • Anyone interested in South African history and culture
  • Readers who enjoy memoirs and stories of resilience
  • Those who appreciate humor and social commentary


Peter Trizuliak



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