Born a Crime

by

Trevor Noah

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Trevor’s Grandmother / Frances Noah Character Analysis

Trevor’s incisive, devout grandmother, who runs the family’s two-room household (with roughly a dozen residents) in Soweto. Patricia has a tumultuous relationship with Frances in her youth, but they later grow to trust one another. Frances loves that Trevor speaks English as his first language, because that means he can pray in English at the neighborhood’s nightly prayer circles—and everyone knows “English prayers get answered first.”

Trevor’s Grandmother / Frances Noah Quotes in Born a Crime

The Born a Crime quotes below are all either spoken by Trevor’s Grandmother / Frances Noah or refer to Trevor’s Grandmother / Frances 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 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 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:
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Trevor’s Grandmother / Frances Noah Character Timeline in Born a Crime

The timeline below shows where the character Trevor’s Grandmother / Frances Noah appears in Born a Crime. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
...of women: Trevor’s aunt Sibongile, who dominated her wannabe abusive husband Dinky, and his grandmother Frances Noah, who is old but sharp and commanding, “still to this day very active and... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
...prayer followed by songs and often five minutes of “amen.” On Tuesdays, prayer is at Frances Noah’s house; Trevor loves singing and praying, and Frances loves his prayers because he speaks... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
...build 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... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
Later that day, when Frances comes home, Koko exclaims that “there’s something in the house,” which she could hear and... (full context)
Chapter 4
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, “I don’t know how to hit a white child.” She... (full context)
Chapter 5
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
...soon after having her; Patricia is “the problem child” and fights constantly with her mother (Frances) but loves accompanying her father (Temperance) “on his manic misadventures.” She tries to move in... (full context)
Chapter 18
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
...and nearly burns down, but Abel is “too drunk to care.” Patricia calls her mother Frances, insisting that “this man, he’s going to kill us one day,” but Abel hangs up... (full context)
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
...takes Andrew and Trevor to Soweto, and a few weeks later, Abel comes to apologize. Frances encourages Patricia to give him another chance, and she agrees. For years, everything is fine... (full context)