Born a Crime

by

Trevor Noah

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Born a Crime can help.
Now an internationally renowned comedian, the narrator and protagonist of Born a Crime was born in 1984 to a black Xhosa mother (Patricia) and a white Swiss father (Robert). Trevor’s very existence violated the strict racial separation laws of apartheid, and Born a Crime is his memoir of growing up during apartheid’s end and aftermath. As a child, he is mostly confined inside because he looks colored, not black, so the government could forcibly put him up for adoption and relocate him if they discover him living with his family. When he visits his grandmother Frances and their family in Soweto, he cannot play outside with his cousins but also gets plenty of special privileges because they see him as white and he speaks English. Trevor learns to navigate his position as a constant outsider by building bridges through language: he learns Afrikaans, Zulu, Tsonga, in addition to English, Xhosa, and a handful of languages he never even mentions in the book. By always speaking with people in their native languages, he reassures and connects with them, building trust and often avoiding possibly violent confrontations. Growing up, Trevor is comfortable neither around colored kids (who see him as too white for speaking English instead of Afrikaans but also too black for being connected to his mother’s family) nor white kids (who all live in walled-off mansions to which he is never invited). Instead, his closest friends are books and his mother. In high school, he continues to feel isolated from any particular group, but he finds a niche by spending his lunch hour reselling cafeteria food (which buys his bus ticket home) and joking with various groups of students. And, in the final years of high school, he starts the business selling pirated CDs with Tim and Sizwe that ultimately turns into a life of DJing and reselling secondhand goods in Sizwe’s dangerous township of Alexandra after graduation. Born a Crime leaves off following Trevor’s life after he has been doing this for roughly a year and had his first run-ins with the legal system.

Trevor Noah Quotes in Born a Crime

The Born a Crime quotes below are all either spoken by Trevor Noah or refer to Trevor Noah. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Born a Crime published in 2016.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate, is what it was. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another so you can run them all.

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

The white man was quite stern with the native. “You need to pray to Jesus,” he said. “Jesus will save you.” To which the native replied, “Well, we do need to be saved—saved from you, but that's beside the point. So let’s give this Jesus thing a shot.”

Page Number: 5-6
Explanation and Analysis:

The triumph of democracy over apartheid is sometimes called the Bloodless Revolution. It is called that because very little white blood was spilled. Black blood ran in the streets.

As the apartheid regime fell, we knew that the black man was now going to rule. The question was, which black man?

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker)
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

In any society built on institutionalized racism, race-mixing doesn't merely challenge the system as unjust, it reveals the system as unsustainable and incoherent. Race-mixing proves that races can mix—and in a lot of cases, want to mix. Because a mixed person embodies that rebuke to the logic of the system, race-mixing becomes a crime worse than treason.

Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

There is something magical about Soweto. Yes, it was a prison designed by our oppressors, but it also gave us a sense of self-determination and control. Soweto was ours. It had an aspirational quality that you don't find elsewhere. In America the dream is to make it out of the ghetto. In Soweto, because there was no leaving the ghetto, the dream was to transform the ghetto.

For the million people who lived in Soweto, there were no stores, no bars, no restaurants. There were no paved roads, minimal electricity, inadequate sewerage. But when you put one million people together in one place, they find a way to make a life for themselves. A black-market economy rose up, with every type of business being run out of someone's house: auto mechanics, day cafe, guys selling refurbished tires.

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker), Trevor’s Grandmother / Frances Noah
Related Symbols: The Secondhand Volkswagen
Page Number: 40-41
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

As a kid I understood that people were different colors, but in my head white and black and brown were like types of chocolate. Dad was the white chocolate, mom was the dark chocolate, and I was the milk chocolate. But we were all just chocolate. I didn't know any of it had anything to do with “race.” I didn't know what race was. My mother never referred to my dad as white or to me as mixed. So when the other kids in Soweto called me “white,” even though I was light brown, I just thought they had their colors mixed up, like they hadn't learned them properly. “Ah, yes, my friend. You've confused aqua with turquoise. I can see how you made that mistake. You're not the first.”

Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

I was eleven years old, and it was like I was seeing my country for the first time. In the townships you don't see segregation, because everyone is black. In the white world, any time my mother took me to a white church, we were the only black people there, and my mom didn't separate herself from anyone. She didn't care. She'd go right up and sit with the white people. And at Maryvale, the kids were mixed up and hanging out together. Before that day, I had never seen people being together and yet not together, occupying the same space yet choosing not to associate with each other in any way. In an instant I could see, I could feel, how the boundaries were drawn. Groups moved in color patterns across the yard, up the stairs, down the hall. It was insane. I looked over at the white kids I'd met that morning. Ten minutes earlier I'd thought I was at a school where they were a majority. Now I realized how few of them there actually were compared to everyone else.

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker)
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

So many black families spend all of their time trying to fix the problems of the past. That is the curse of being black and poor, and it is a curse that follows you from generation to generation. My mother calls it “the black tax.” Because the generations who came before you have been pillaged, rather than being free to use your skills and education to move forward, you lose everything just trying to bring everyone behind you back up to zero. Working for the family in Soweto, my mom had no more freedom than she'd had in Transkei, so she ran away. She ran all the way down to the train station and jumped on a train and disappeared into the city, determined to sleep in public restrooms and rely on the kindness of prostitutes until she could make her own way in the world.

Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

When it was time to pick my name, she chose Trevor, a name with no meaning whatsoever in South Africa, no precedent in my family. It's not even a Biblical name. It's just a name. My mother wanted her child beholden to no fate. She wanted me to be free to go anywhere, do anything, be anyone.

Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

My mom raised me as if there were no limitations on where I could go or what I could do. When I look back I realize she raised me like a white kid—not white culturally, but in the sense of believing that the world was my oyster, that I should speak up for myself, that my ideas and thoughts and decisions mattered.

Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

I was blessed with another trait I inherited from my mother: her ability to forget the pain in life. I remember the thing that caused the trauma, but I don't hold on to the trauma. I never let the memory of something painful prevent me from trying something new. If you think too much about the ass-kicking your mom gave you, or the ass-kicking that life gave you, you'll stop pushing the boundaries and breaking the rules. It's better to take it, spend some time crying, then wake up the next day and move on. You'll have a few bruises and they'll remind you of what happened and that's okay. But after a while the bruises fade, and they fade for a reason—because now it's time to get up to some shit again.

Page Number: 90-91
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Fufi was my first heartbreak. No one has ever betrayed me more than Fufi. It was a valuable lesson to me. The hard thing was understanding that Fufi wasn’t cheating on me with another boy. She was merely living her life to the fullest. Until I knew that she was going out on her own during the day, her other relationship hadn't affected me at all. Fufi had no malicious intent.

I believed that Fufi was my dog but of course that wasn't true. Fufi was a dog. I was a boy. We got along well. She happened to live in my house. That experience shaped what I've felt about relationships for the rest of my life: You do not own the thing that you love.

Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

While I was eating he got up and went and picked up this book, an oversized photo album, and brought it back to the table. “I've been following you,” he said, and he opened it up. It was a scrapbook of everything I had ever done, every time my name was mentioned in a newspaper, everything from magazine covers to the tiniest club listings, from the beginning of my career all the way through to that week. He was smiling so big as he took me through it, looking at the headlines. “Trevor Noah Appearing This Saturday at the Blues Room.” “Trevor Noah Hosting New TV Show.”

I felt a flood of emotions rushing through me. It was everything I could do not to start crying. It felt like this ten-year gap in my life closed right up in an instant, like only a day had passed since I'd last seen him. For years I'd had so many questions. Is he thinking about me? Does he know what I'm doing? Is he proud of me? But he'd been with me the whole time. He'd always been proud of me. Circumstance had pulled us apart, but he was never not my father.

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker), Trevor’s Father / Robert
Page Number: 109-110
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

Colored people had it rough. Imagine: You've been brainwashed into believing that your blood is tainted. You've spent all your time assimilating and aspiring to whiteness. Then, just as you think you're closing in on the finish line, some fucking guy named Nelson Mandela comes along and flips the country on its head. Now the finish line is back where the starting line was, and the benchmark is black. Black is in charge. Black is beautiful. Black is powerful. For centuries colored people were told: Blacks are monkeys. Don't swing from the trees like them. Learn to walk upright like the white man. Then all of a sudden it's Planet of the Apes, and the monkeys have taken over.

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker)
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

As the outsider, you can retreat into a shell, be anonymous, be invisible. Or you can go the other way. You protect yourself by opening up. You don't ask to be accepted for everything you are, just the one part of yourself that you're willing to share. For me it was humor. I learned that even though I didn't belong to one group, I could be a part of any group that was laughing. I'd drop in, pass out the snacks, tell a few jokes. I'd perform for them. I'd catch a bit of their conversation, learn more about their group, and then leave. I never overstayed my welcome. I wasn't popular, but I wasn't an outcast. I was everywhere with everybody, and at the same time I was all by myself.

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker)
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

I don’t regret anything I've ever done in life, any choice that I've made. But I'm consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn't say. We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to. “What if . . .” “If only . . .” “I wonder what would have . . .” You will never, never know, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days.

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker)
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

Life was good, and none of it would have happened without Daniel. Without him, I would never have mastered the world of music piracy and lived a life of endless McDonald's. What he did, on a small scale, showed me how important it is to empower the dispossessed and the disenfranchised in the wake of oppression. Daniel was white. His family had access to education, resources, computers. For generations, while his people were preparing to go to university, my people were crowded into thatched huts singing, “Two times two is four. Three times two is six. La la la ta la.” My family had been denied the things his family had taken for granted. I had a natural talent for selling to people, but without knowledge and resources, where was that going to get me? People always lecture the poor: “Take responsibility for yourself! Make something of yourself!” But with what raw materials are the poor to make something of themselves?

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker)
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

There is also this to consider: The name Hitler does not offend a black South African because Hitler is not the worst thing a black South African can imagine. Every country thinks their history is the most important, and that's especially true in the West. But if black South Africans could go back in time and kill one Person, Cecil Rhodes would come up before Hitler. If people in the Congo could go back in time and kill one person, Belgium's King Leopold would come way before Hitler. If Native Americans could go back in time and kill one person, it would probably be Christopher Columbus or Andrew Jackson.

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker), Sizwe, Hitler
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

It's easy to be judgmental about crime when you live in a world wealthy enough to be removed from it. But the hood taught me that everyone has different notions of right and wrong, different definitions of what constitutes crime, and what level of crime they're willing to participate in.

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker), Sizwe
Page Number: 212-213
Explanation and Analysis:

In society, we do horrible things to one another because we don't see the person it affects. We don't see their face. We don't see them as people. Which was the whole reason the hood was built in the first place, to keep the victims of apartheid out of sight and out of mind. Because if white people ever saw black people as human, they would see that slavery is unconscionable. We live in a world where we don’t see the ramifications of what we do to others, because we don't live with them. It would be a whole lot harder for an investment banker to rip off people with subprime mortgages if he actually had to live with the people he was ripping off. If we could see one another's pain and empathize with one another, it would never be worth it to us to commit the crimes in the first place.

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker)
Page Number: 221-222
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

“I know you see me as some crazy old bitch nagging at you,” she said, “but you forget the reason I ride you so hard and give you so much shit is because I love you. Everything I have ever done I've done from a place of love. If I don't punish you, the world will punish you even worse. The world doesn't love you. If the police get you, the police don't love you. When I beat you, I'm trying to save you. When they beat you, they're trying to kill you.”

Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

I grew up in a world of violence, but I myself was never violent at all. Yes, I played pranks and set fires and broke windows, but I never attacked people. I never hit anyone. I was never angry. I just didn't see myself that way. My mother had exposed me to a different world than the one she grew up in. She bought me the books she never got to read. She took me to the schools that she never got to go to. I immersed myself in those worlds and I came back looking at the world a different way. I saw that not all families are violent. I saw the futility of violence, the cycle that just repeats itself, the damage that's inflicted on people that they in turn inflict on others.

I saw, more than anything, that relationships are not sustained by violence but by love. Love is a creative act. When you love someone you create a new world for them. My mother did that for me, and with the progress I made and the things I learned, I came back and created a new world and a new understanding for her. After that, she never raised her hand to her children again. Unfortunately, by the time she stopped, Abel had started.

Page Number: 262
Explanation and Analysis:

When he said that, my body just let go. I remember the exact traffic light I was at. For a moment there was a complete vacuum of sound, and then I cried tears like I had never cried before. I collapsed in heaving sobs and moans. I cried as if every other thing I’d cried for in my life had been a waste of crying. I cried so hard that if my present crying self could go back in time and see my other crying selves, it would slap them and say, “That shit's not worth crying for.” My cry was not a cry of sadness. It was not catharsis. It wasn't me feeling sorry for myself. It was an expression of raw pain that came from an inability of my body to express that pain in any other way, shape, or form. She was my mom. She was my teammate. It had always been me and her together, me and her against the world. When Andrew said, “shot her in the head,” I broke in two.

Page Number: 274
Explanation and Analysis:

“My child, you must look on the bright side.”

What? What are you talking about, ‘the bright side’? Mom, you were shot in the face. There is no bright side.”

“Of course there is. Now you're officially the best-looking person in the family.”

She broke out in a huge smile and started laughing. Through my tears, I started laughing, too.

Related Characters: Trevor Noah (speaker), Trevor’s Mother / Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah (speaker)
Page Number: 281-282
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Born a Crime LitChart as a printable PDF.
Born a Crime PDF

Trevor Noah Character Timeline in Born a Crime

The timeline below shows where the character Trevor Noah appears in Born a Crime. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Trevor Noah’s book opens with a copy of the 1927 Immorality Act, which creates criminal penalties... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
In a prefatory note, Noah explains that apartheid is really “apart hate”: it exploits the linguistic and tribal differences among... (full context)
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
Trevor Noah knows that jumping out of a car hurts more than it seems to in... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
...The second is a white church, which focuses on closely analyzing scriptures, and is where Noah studies biblical stories in Sunday school. At home, Noah’s mother never allows him to consume... (full context)
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Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
Noah loves church but not the trips to church—it takes an hour to get to white... (full context)
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Noah is already the champion of his Catholic school’s sports day because he always has to... (full context)
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Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
Nelson Mandela is released from prison when Noah is five. Being so young, Noah scarcely understands what is going on, or what apartheid... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
...that it is dangerous to be out, even though they are in a wealthy white suburb—Noah’s family finds themselves stranded, with no more minibuses coming by (these buses are an informal,... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
Soon, the angry minibus driver and Noah’s mother get into an argument—she is a Xhosa woman with a mixed race child, who... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
When they stop running, they realize that they are cut and bleeding. Patricia explains to Trevor that the men were going to kill them; they call the police to bring them... (full context)
Chapter 2
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
In his historical preface, Noah explains that “apartheid was perfect racism,” a product of centuries of fraught history. First, in... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
The chapter begins. Noah’s family is mixed: his mother is a black Xhosa woman, and his father is a... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...but just to “make this child for me.” After a long while, he consents, and Trevor Noah is born by C-section nine months later, on February 20, 1984. (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
The doctors are confused, but Patricia just says Trevor’s father is from Swaziland—this is enough to fill out the birth certificate, even though she... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
On holidays, Patricia also brings Trevor to visit her family in Soweto, which is literally “designed to be bombed” in the... (full context)
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Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
In his travels, Noah “meet[s] other mixed South Africans all the time,” but the difference was that their families... (full context)
Chapter 3
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
In his historical preface, Noah explains how South African Christianity combines the colonizers’ religion with traditional beliefs. In South Africa,... (full context)
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Trevor Noah grows up surrounded by women; the only important male figure in his early life... (full context)
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
The house in Soweto is usually full of women: Trevor’s aunt Sibongile, who dominated her wannabe abusive husband Dinky, and his grandmother Frances Noah, who... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
This woman-centric household is the norm in Soweto: whereas Trevor is merely estranged from his father because of race, other children’s fathers are either imprisoned,... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
...it up from a shanty to a multi-room house over the course of generations. Frances Noah’s house has two rooms—everyone sleeps on the floor in one of them, and the other... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
...more expensive toilet paper, and the flies are a source of constant fear for young Trevor. One day, at age five, when pouring rain promises a perilous journey to the outhouse,... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
...the house,” which she could hear and smell before. Frances can smell it too—and when Trevor’s mother gets home, so can she. She discovers the “shit in the bottom of the... (full context)
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
Patricia makes Trevor pray to “kill the demon,” but he knows he cannot pray for “God to kill... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
In the preface to the chapter, Trevor watches broadcasts of American TV shows, syncing up the original English audio from the radio,... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
The chapter begins. Trevor accidentally breaks his cousin’s eardrum while playing surgeon; his grandmother beats everyone but him, claiming,... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Trevor never realizes this is about race until much later. He thinks it is just “because... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
To “bridge the race gap,” Trevor learns languages. His mother makes sure he learns English, which is the best way to... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
On the street, when anyone asks him where he is from, Trevor simply responds in the same language and accent. When a group of Zulus chat about... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
...African schools open their doors to “children of all colors,” and Patricia manages to get Trevor a scholarship to go to Maryvale College, an elite Catholic school. The students never define... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
After the sixth grade, Trevor moves to a government school, where he gets placed in advanced classes—which are almost entirely... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
...all the black students are “in the B classes,” not the advanced (“A”) classes with Trevor. He asks his counselor to switch over, but she declares that “those kids are gonna... (full context)
Chapter 5
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
In the preface to the chapter, Noah notes that missionaries provide the only education available to black South Africans before the beginning... (full context)
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Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Noah explains that he is “a product of [his mother’s] search for belonging.” Her parents are... (full context)
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Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
Patricia tells this story in occasional vignettes—never all at once—and only so Trevor wouldn’t “take for granted how we got to where we were.” She thinks it wrong... (full context)
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Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
...care for younger, abandoned children. So, to exempt her son from fate, she names him “Trevor, a name with no meaning whatsoever in South Africa, no precedent in my family. It’s... (full context)
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Patricia also makes sure Trevor speaks English as his first language and gives him as many books as possible—he treasures... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
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...books or otherwise losing their force. A few months before its ultimate collapse, Patricia and Trevor move to Eden Park, a colored neighborhood with real, suburban houses, surrounded by black townships.... (full context)
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Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
However, Trevor “never felt poor because our lives were so rich with experience.” They visit white neighborhoods... (full context)
Chapter 6
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
In the preface to the chapter, Trevor Noah explains that apartheid is full of “fatal flaws,” mainly its illogic: for instance, Chinese... (full context)
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
Trevor is something of a nightmare child: he reads endlessly, eats “like a pig” (and always... (full context)
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Patricia has some useful tactics for getting Trevor to fall in line. One day, he wants a toffee apple at the grocery store,... (full context)
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As for all the other kids Trevor knows, “ass-whooping” is still the standard punishment for anything major. Unfortunately for Patricia, Trevor is... (full context)
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Trevor also refuses to follow rules that do not make sense. For instance, he is not... (full context)
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The third psychologist visit is after Trevor brings a knife to school in sixth grade, as a way of deterring his bully... (full context)
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Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Patricia starts dating Abel when Trevor is about six years old. Abel is renting out a white family’s garage, where Patricia... (full context)
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Patricia is too shocked to discipline Trevor, and he gets a “notorious” reputation in his family. His two cousins, who are “supergood... (full context)
Chapter 7
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Cats, Noah notes in his preface, are uncommon everywhere he has ever been in Africa. (In South... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Patricia brings home two black cats a month after she and Trevor move to Eden Park. They are both excited and do not worry about “any nonsense... (full context)
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...not as “members of the family” but more as “a poor-man’s alarm system.” Patricia and Trevor’s dogs are two sisters, Maltese-bull terrier mixes, named Fufi and Panther. They have a love-hate... (full context)
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Fufi and Trevor are inseparable; she does tricks and even manages to jump the yard’s five-foot wall, which... (full context)
Chapter 8
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
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In the chapter’s preface, Trevor Noah recounts the following story: one day, at the age of 24, Trevor’s mother tells... (full context)
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Noah’s father “is a complete mystery.” Trevor knows nothing about him, except for that he has... (full context)
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Trevor does know that Robert is “very Swiss, clean and particular and precise,” living “in his... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
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...Yeoville, where he lives an “extremely frugal” life in a simple house. During his childhood, Trevor visits on Sundays (instead of black church), on his birthday, and on Christmas, which he... (full context)
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Trevor gradually loses contact with his father, who moves away to Cape Town by the time... (full context)
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Robert is not in the phone book, so Trevor checks with acquaintances and then the Swiss embassy. The embassy initially refuses to give Trevor... (full context)
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When he goes to Cape Town, Trevor is apprehensive, afraid that he will not remember his father’s face. But Trevor recognizes him... (full context)
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Trevor decides that his next order of business should be to interview his father; this is... (full context)
Chapter 9
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In his historical preface, Noah explains that South Africa’s first mixed-race people were born after Dutch colonists raped indigenous hunter-gatherer... (full context)
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The chapter begins with a “giant mulberry tree growing out of someone’s front yard” on Trevor and Patricia’s street in Eden Park. The neighborhood’s other children pick its berries and play... (full context)
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So this makes it “weird” for Trevor, who is “colored by complexion but not by culture.” Some colored people hated his blackness... (full context)
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Once, a colored girl “borrows” Trevor’s bicycle so that an older colored kid could steal it—luckily, Trevor’s cousin Mlungisi manages to... (full context)
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Abel comes over soon thereafter—he has not been violent with Trevor or his mother yet, but Trevor is already aware of his temper. Patricia urges Trevor... (full context)
Chapter 10
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In the chapter’s preface, Trevor Noah recalls his mother “trying to teach me about women,” a little bit at a... (full context)
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In his new school, Trevor experiences Valentine’s Day for the first time—Maryvale never celebrated it. He is confused at all... (full context)
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Walking home from school one day, already knowing she would say yes, Trevor asks Maylene and they kiss—his first kiss—in front of McDonald’s. He spends the week in... (full context)
Chapter 11
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In the brief preface Trevor explains that his mother is an expert at conserving gas: she turns the car off... (full context)
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For high school, Trevor goes to a “Model C school”—part public, part private, and “a near-perfect microcosm of post-apartheid... (full context)
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Trevor has no obvious place to go: the colored kids hate him “for being too black,”... (full context)
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Trevor remains an “outsider” and, to make money, becomes “the tuck-shop guy.” He is also “the... (full context)
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Trevor remains “a cultural chameleon,” like “the weed guy [who] is always welcome at the party”... (full context)
Chapter 12
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In the preface, Trevor Noah insists that he has no regret for anything he has done, but plenty of... (full context)
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Trevor is an ugly high schooler, with horrible acne, no money for a haircut, and, thanks... (full context)
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Trevor becomes friends with Johanna, who is popular, and her beautiful but shy friend Zaheera. He... (full context)
Chapter 13
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In his preface, Trevor Noah explains that his family manages to move into a white neighborhood by buying a... (full context)
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Trevor makes one close friend at his new school: Teddy, who is also “naughty as shit”... (full context)
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Teddy’s parents visit Patricia and explain that he has been arrested for shoplifting—Patricia insists Trevor must have been involved, but he denies it and believes he has gotten away with... (full context)
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Then the teacher asks Trevor if he “know[s] of any white kids that Teddy hangs out with.” Trevor is confused,... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Noah’s preface summarizes South Africa’s linguistic situation. There are eleven official languages, with English and Afrikaans... (full context)
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Trevor has “a mini-empire” by the end of high school: using the computer he convinces his... (full context)
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Prom is approaching. All Trevor knows about this “strange ritual” is that it is usually when people lose their virginity,... (full context)
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Trevor has two friends involved in his CD scheme. One is Tim, who (like Teddy) is... (full context)
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Another time, Tim comes to Trevor’s house and they chat about the dance—Tim promises he can get Trevor a date (in... (full context)
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Astonishingly, Tim shows up a  few weeks later with good news—even though Trevor is sure he is lying. Tim takes Trevor into Johannesburg, where they see a girl... (full context)
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Tim and Trevor visit Babiki’s family some more in the next few weeks; they are from the smaller... (full context)
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Trevor also needs new clothes, especially since Babiki is so fashion-obsessed; he has terrible taste but... (full context)
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On “the big night,” Trevor goes to get the BMW keys from Abel, who is completely drunk. First, Abel makes... (full context)
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Sometime later, Sizwe tries one last time to bring Babiki inside and instead tells Trevor she definitely does not speak English. And Trevor realizes that he has never even talked... (full context)
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Trevor tries “every language I knew” and asks everyone he can find if they speak Pedi—nobody... (full context)
Chapter 15
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In his preface, Noah notes that the history of the Holocaust is a central part of a German high... (full context)
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Three Chinese kids start at Trevor’s school while he is in the ninth grade: Bolo (a nickname), Bruce Lee (his actual... (full context)
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Trevor now has everything he needs to control the bootleg business top-to-bottom, but he also has... (full context)
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Trevor is making 500 rand a week, a “dream” salary, which is “the most liberating thing... (full context)
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Trevor has Daniel to thank for his newfound comforts; Daniel’s generosity shows “how important it is... (full context)
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Sizwe soon recommends that Trevor start DJing. Sizwe lives in the dense, dangerous, and hard-partying shantytown of Alexandra; in Alex,... (full context)
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Trevor and Sizwe decide to form a dance crew to teach people new moves mentioned in... (full context)
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At Trevor’s comparatively sophisticated school, they learned some facts about World War II, but nothing about Hitler’s... (full context)
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As the dance crew multiplies Trevor and Sizwe’s success, they begin playing more gigs in the suburbs, for wealthier black families... (full context)
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The room falls silent as Hitler and the crew start their routine; a teacher unplugs Trevor’s microphone and calls him a “horrible, disgusting, vile creature.” Trevor realizes the problem: Hitler’s signature,... (full context)
Chapter 16
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In his brief preface, Noah outlines the history of Alexandra, which was originally a white man’s farm. But this farmer... (full context)
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...out the best in everybody,” which makes him immensely popular. He lives in Alexandra, but Trevor seldom goes there until after high school, when suddenly being from “the hood” is “a... (full context)
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...the newest, nicest part of the hood,” full of two-bedroom houses, where Sizwe lives and Trevor spends plenty of time hanging out and “shooting the shit.” (full context)
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After high school, Trevor moves out of the house with his mother’s encouragement because Abel is too “toxic.” Trevor... (full context)
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...people who have nothing else a way to support themselves, and it “doesn’t discriminate.” Initially, Trevor’s “life of crime” is just selling the pirated CDs, which barely counts as crime at... (full context)
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...legal, nobody asks questions. A stolen car radio? Sure, because “white people have insurance.” Even Trevor’s devout mother once bought a bunch of burger patties, which were definitely stolen, from “some... (full context)
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Every day, Trevor takes the bus into Alex with Sizwe and sets up shop at his house. They... (full context)
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Trevor, Sizwe, and the guys also use loans as an excuse to hang out around the... (full context)
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...in capital” in addition to plenty of goods and cash flowing in and out, which Trevor records in a spreadsheet. The big sales happen after everyone comes home from work, wanting... (full context)
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After two years of this hustle, Trevor is no closer to affording tuition—although he always feels like he is working, it is... (full context)
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...most part, “the township polices itself as well.” However, it also limits people’s ambition—one of Trevor and Sizwe’s friends gets a job at a clothing store, for which everyone teases him.... (full context)
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Trevor is DJing a party in a nice black suburb near Alexandra; the police come in... (full context)
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Soon thereafter, Trevor buys a camera from a local who steals things from people’s baggage at the airport.... (full context)
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...a dance-off against their best dancer. He loses, and the party dissolves into a fight. Trevor’s crew takes a minibus home, but it gets pulled over, and the cops find a... (full context)
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In jail, when Trevor tells the cop he is from Highlands North, the cop is baffled, calls him “rich... (full context)
Chapter 17
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In the short preface, Trevor recalls shoplifting batteries as a ten-year-old, and his mother telling the security guard to take... (full context)
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Trevor’s mother is ruthless—like many black parents, she tries “to discipline [him] before the system does.”... (full context)
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One day, Trevor sees an ad for a cell phone clearance sale in the suburbs and knows he... (full context)
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The cop explains to Trevor that he needs to meet a lawyer, because otherwise he could end up awaiting trial... (full context)
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On Trevor’s third day in jail, “the largest man [he]’d ever seen” gets thrown into his cell... (full context)
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When it is time for Trevor’s bail hearing, he gets briefly thrown in a holding cell under the jailhouse with a... (full context)
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Trevor gets called up for his hearing after only an hour, and his lawyer and Mlungisi... (full context)
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Trevor spends a night at Mlungisi’s place and then returns home, where his mother is silent.... (full context)
Chapter 18
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In Noah’s final preface, he remembers one Saturday, when he secretly eats a huge bowl of custard... (full context)
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The chapter begins. After getting his makeover for the dance with Babiki, Trevor finally starts getting interest from girls, and he returns to the hair salon every week... (full context)
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Patricia probably “broke more than a few hearts in her day,” but Trevor only ever knew of her being with his father and Abel. They meet Abel when... (full context)
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When Trevor’s mother announces that she is planning to marry Abel, Trevor immediately says it is a... (full context)
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...his ideas of what he thought his family should be,” although he seldom gets in Trevor’s way. He forces the dogs to start living in the yard and refuses to fix... (full context)
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...gets back up, Patricia keeps yelling at him, and he hits her again. She brings Trevor and Andrew to the police station. (full context)
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...fine, that they understand that “it happens,” and not to worry. Patricia takes Andrew and Trevor to Soweto, and a few weeks later, Abel comes to apologize. Frances encourages Patricia to... (full context)
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...sell their house and start living out of the garage where the business is based. Trevor sleeps in cars—the most comfortable are German and American ones. At age 11, Trevor starts... (full context)
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Trevor realizes the problem: Abel is buying auto parts on credit, with “a crazy markup,” and... (full context)
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Unlike with Trevor, Patricia stops physically disciplining Andrew relatively early on. She learns this lesson from Trevor, who... (full context)
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...Patricia stops physically disciplining the children, Abel starts hitting them instead. This first happens to Trevor in the sixth grade. He gets caught forging his mother’s signature on a form for... (full context)
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...paying for everything. Her independence makes Abel furious, and he hits her again. The adult Trevor interjects that he “can’t recall the details” because there were so many more incidents just... (full context)
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Abel is unrecognizable when drunk, nothing like his usual self—he once pees on Trevor’s floor, thinking he is in the bathroom, and often kicks Trevor out of bed, thinking... (full context)
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One day after school, Trevor’s mom tells him that Abel has bought a gun because “he thinks he’s the policeman... (full context)
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Trevor almost entirely stops visiting, but one day when he does, there are police cars out... (full context)
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Trevor is confused and frustrated that his mother doesn’t “just leave,” but he remarks that at... (full context)
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Patricia eventually does leave, although Trevor is already deep into his career, living with Mlungisi, and out of touch with the... (full context)
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...gurney with a giant hole through her face. Miraculously, she is awake, and she tells Trevor, “it’s okay, baby. I’m fine.” She tells Trevor to go to Andrew, and he does. (full context)
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Andrew tells Trevor the story in more detail: Abel drunkenly insisted that he would kill the whole family,... (full context)
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Andrew does not know what has happened to Abel. Trevor decides to call him, and he picks up. Trevor yells that he “killed my mom!”... (full context)
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A nurse comes out and reveals that Trevor’s mother does not have health insurance, which means they have to send her back out... (full context)
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The next morning, Trevor visits Patricia, who seems “frail and weak.” He wonders why he did not kill Abel... (full context)
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In a brief afterword, Noah explains that the family later manages to “piece the whole story together.” After shooting Patricia,... (full context)
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The hospital bill is 50,000 rand, but Trevor still tells his mother he “can’t believe you didn’t have health insurance.” She insists that... (full context)