Born a Crime


Trevor Noah

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Themes and Colors
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Born a Crime, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty

South African comedian Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime recounts his childhood as his nation transitioned from apartheid, a white supremacist system of government based on racial segregation, forced labor, and the disenfranchisement of nonwhites, to a tenuous democracy led by the black majority. Noah is mixed-race, with a white father (Robert) and a black Xhosa mother (Patricia), making his very existence a violation of the apartheid laws against…

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Identity, Belonging, and Community

Noah’s existence is not only outlawed by the apartheid system; the system also fails to neatly categorize him as black or white, and so his existence as a biracial man reveals the underlying flaws in the system’s conception of race. Nevertheless, he still has to cope with apartheid dividing the world—and people continuing after apartheid to divide themselves—based on race. He is frequently forced to choose a racial group even though that he knows…

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Love and Personal Growth

Noah’s memoir is in large part an ode to his mother, Patricia, whose fearlessness and sense of purpose he largely credits with his eventual success. Since they grow up together, just the two of them, Noah long considers himself and his mother a “team.” Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah—whose middle name is Xhosa for “she who gives back”—at once shows Noah that many rules are based on nonsense and that he must be careful about…

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Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor

Throughout his difficult childhood, Noah and his mother, Patricia, cope with their uncertainty, relative poverty, and fear of the violence surrounding them by using three important tools to manage their relationship to the future: religion, education, and humor. Noah’s mother, in particular, views her future and fate as instruments of God’s will; she dedicates countless hours to prayer in order to gain the sense of control and certainty that she otherwise lacks in her…

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