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Born a Crime Full Book Introduction

Born a Crime

11 min / Published
By Renew

Born a Crime



Trevor Noah was born in South Africa before the elimination of apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial segregation. Because his father is white and his mother is Black, he was born a “crime.” Though he was classified as colored and suffered from all kinds of inequality, he grew up under the protection of his mother, who was brave, pious, rebellious, and optimistic. Thanks to that, Noah grew up like a normal teenager without being negatively influenced by his social environment. Moreover, he inherited his mother’s nature and took control of his life.


Overview | Chapter 1

Hi, welcome to Bookey. Today we’ll unlock the book Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.


How could someone be born a crime? The protagonist and author of this book, Trevor Noah, is one such person. He was born a crime simply because his father is white and his mother is Black—such a combination was illegal under the Immorality Act. It was a crime no less than treason. The Immorality Act enacted by the apartheid regime in South Africa aimed at denying Black South Africans the same right to marry as whites. According to the Immorality Act, having sexual relations with a person of another race was a crime. The parents would be sentenced, and children born to such a relationship would be sent to an orphanage.


In this book, Noah uses the first person point of view to explain how he grew up in South Africa, depicting what life was like under apartheid. We can see from this book that Noah, who was “born a crime,” had a difficult childhood. He spent little time with his father, and when he did, they mostly stayed indoors. If they went outside together, his father could only walk on the other side of the road, pretending not to know Noah and his mother. Otherwise, they would all be taken away by the police for investigation. Trevor has darker skin than his father, and he was classified as “colored.” In South Africa, mixed people were classified as their own separate group, neither black nor white, but “colored.” The government forced people to register their race – Black people, white people, Indian people, and colored people. As a mixed person, Noah has lighter skin than his mother, so he couldn’t walk with his mother in public either. Every time they went out for a walk, his mother would invite a colored neighbor to join them, so she could pose as a maid to avoid the police’s investigation.


Noah grew up with his mother and has been deeply influenced by her. As a matter of fact, this memoir of Noah’s is more like an epic for his mother. A strong and independent woman, his mother never succumbed to her fate because of her race. She would give her every effort to do what she wanted and eventually make it happen. Including Noah, she gave birth to him not because she wanted to be part of a man’s life but to have a baby of her own. After Noah’s birth, she raised him alone, keeping a reasonable and safe distance from his father, and managed to give Noah a normal life in a racially discriminative environment. Though life was hard, Noah learned to confront it with optimism under his mother’s protection and eventually became a world-famous talk show host. Michiko Kakutani, the former chief book critic for The New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize winner, praised this book as “a love letter to the author’s remarkable mother.” And it indeed deserves such praise.

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