Select language, opens an overlay
Born A Crime

Born A Crime

Stories From A South African Childhood

Book - 2016 | First edition
Average Rating:
Rate this:
The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man's coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. 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. -- From dust jacket.
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, [2016]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780399588174
Call Number: BIO 791.45028 NOAH 2016
Characteristics: x, 288 pages ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

The compelling, inspiring, and funny story of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid.

Totally entertaining, educational, AND enlightening. (Though I'm still curious as to how Trevor Noah became such a successful comic in South Africa. I guess I'll have to wait for his next book...)

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jun 08, 2021

Memoirs by comedians can be a let down, but this one wasn’t. The entire book was undergirded by his deep love for his mother, starting with a tale of when she had to chuck him out of a moving car to when she nearly died at the hands of a violent ex-spouse whom the police had never intercepted. Never preachy, he tells stories of his unconventional growing up years while educating readers unfamiliar with South African cultures or history. I thought this was an absolutely fascinating read.

May 15, 2021

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah is a captivating, humorous and heartwarming read. It follows a collection of stories from the life of comedian Trevor Noah. It shows how he grows and overcomes challenges and hardships through his childhood, and highlights important, uncomfortable topics like racism and the apartheid in South Africa. I rated this book a 4 out of 5, it is an enjoyable and entertaining read that I enjoyed reading.

May 12, 2021

meh. I was expecting more about how he got from SA to the US and how his prosperity has affected his family. I was also expecting it to be funny, which it wasn't at all. I didn't learn anything new about the plight of non-white people in SA and the writing style was quite boring. Sorry I can't give it a better rating.

CMLibrary_Veronica Mar 23, 2021

I really enjoyed this book. On top of loving Trevor Noah and thinking he his hilarious, I think his personality just pours out of this book in a way other memoirs don't. There are definitely some parts of the book that you can just hear him talking in your head and I love that. I do wish I listened to it because I've heard great things about the audiobook, but I'm afraid it wouldn't have been able to keep my attention to finish it. I'm glad I read it, also, because learning the words and seeing how different words are spelled is something I'm super interested in.

ANYWAYS! I loved this book. I love Trevor Noah. I love how different his story is. I wish I could sit down and talk to him for hours about all the things he's experienced because it doesn't feel like this book is enough. I definitely recommend if you're a fan of his or if you just need a good read, this is one! I really hope he continues writing.

Mar 11, 2021

Jccc book group

Mar 03, 2021

A terrific read. Trevor Noah has led a very different life than most of us; his story is enlightening and at times hilarious. Highly recommended.

Feb 01, 2021

Noah is the host of the Daily Show, on Comedy Central, and the way he talks on that show is really apparent in the book as well. HIs ability to turn anything into humor made me laugh constantly while reading this memoir. However, at the same time, I appreciated how he was able to get serious about issues such as racism and explain the type of violence black people experienced in their own country from colonization from Europeans. This book really helped me draw some parallels between black peoples’ experiences in South Africa and the United States, and deepened my understanding of the systematic racism that can dehumanize an entire population. This type of mix between humor at times and discussion of serious issues at others makes this a phenomenal book to read.

Jan 20, 2021

I love Trevor Noah, and this book did not let me down. It was a very honest and educational tale of his childhood in South Africa, what it was like growing up, and how apartheid affecting everything. Easily one of the best biographies I've read, and I look forward to his next one.

Jan 12, 2021

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah; this novel is composed of short stories about Trevor Noah’s life. He has lived a very eventful life, and some of these stories may shock you. He talked about his life experiences in Africa, growing up of mixed race and not knowing where he exactly fit in society. Having born in his country during Apartheid, he and his family ran the risk in the society they live just for being alive and of mixed race. I personally really like this novel. I thought it was very interesting since everything was based on true events. Even though there are some characters in this book that I didn't care for being abusive and toxic, I overall recommend this book as a great read. I believe the age range should be between 12-17 years. 5/5 star rating

pacl_teens Dec 02, 2020

Many have heard of the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, an African comedian. However, few know about what goes behind his work, his story, his background. Noah's coming of age memoir talks about what it was like to grow up in South Africa as a mixed child. Behind his remarkable success lies abuse, bullying, violence, and poverty. As the son of a white father and a black mother, he could never fit in. He describes his heartbreaking story with sprinkles of humor and laughter, and I would highly recommend this book for a variety of audiences. Through relatable, tragic, and hilarious moments, Noah tells an amazing tale. -Olivia, Grade 10

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability
Feb 01, 2021

aayush0215 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Nov 04, 2020

1234ravenmore thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Sep 23, 2020

qianhaha thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Sep 13, 2020

Ivy_Digest thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

Aug 31, 2020

ChadTSmith thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

Apr 04, 2019

jackycwyeung thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Mar 06, 2018

katboxjanitor thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Sep 21, 2017

green_turtle_2159 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Apr 04, 2017

wrtrchk thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


Add a Quote

“Nelson Mandela once said, 'If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.' He was so right. When you make the effort to speak someone else's language, even if it's just basic phrases here and there, you are saying to them, 'I understand that you have a culture and identity that exists beyond me. I see you as a human being”
― Trevor Noah, Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

Mar 06, 2018

People thought my mom was crazy. Ice rinks and drive-ins and suburbs, these things were izinto zabelungu—the things of white people. So many black people had internalized the logic of apartheid and made it their own. Why teach a black child white things? Neighbors and relatives used to pester my mom. “Why do all this? Why show him the world when he’s never going to leave the ghetto?” “Because,” she would say, “even if he never leaves the ghetto, he will know that the ghetto is not the world. If that is all I accomplish, I’ve done enough.”

Mar 06, 2018

But the more we went to church and the longer I sat in those pews the more I learned about how Christianity works: If you’re Native American and you pray to the wolves, you’re a savage. If you’re African and you pray to your ancestors, you’re a primitive. But when white people pray to a guy who turns water into wine, well, that’s just common sense.

This quote could be titled 'Christianity, assimilate or else!'

Nov 18, 2017

"In the [neighbour]hood, even if you're not a hardcore criminal, crime is in your life in some way or another. There are degrees of it. ... The hood made me realized that crime succeeds because crime does the one thing the government doesn't do: crime cares. Crime is grassroots. Crime looks for the young kids who need support and a lifting hand. Crime offers internship programs and summer jobs and opportunities for advancement. Crime gets involved in the community. Crime doesn't discriminate." (p. 209)

Feb 21, 2017

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.


Add a Summary
Feb 01, 2021

Trevor Noah, a stand-up comedian, depicts his childhood in this hilarious memoir as he battles the racist Apartheid in South Africa, combats domestic violence against his mother, and escapes gangs in his hometown of Johannesburg. Trevor tells the story of his deeply religious mother, and how they would spend hours every Sunday just trying to get to Church, even when their car broke down. Trevor discusses the multiple African languages, and how he got to learn many by growing up in diverse schools where he met people of different cultures. He talks about how he almost got arrested for stealing chocolates from the mall, and the police get away he had to execute shortly after. He discusses the segregation in schools and neighborhoods, where white kids were put into higher level classes and lived in better communities with more housing. Trevor sympathizes over how he thought he met his dream friend, a dog, which and later the dog left him for another boy. These childhood stories go on and on, and higher-level make you laugh while others will question the racism, bigotry, and violence that occured in many parts of South Africa.

SPL_Sonya Sep 23, 2019

Trevor Noah is best known as the late night talk show host who took over the Daily Show after the retirement of Jon Stewart in 2015. Trevor Noah is South African and this book relates the many fascinating and improbable stories that made up his childhood.

Noah reminds us of the horrors of apartheid (forced segregation of the races) in his native country. The fact that his mother is black and his father is white was actually a crime when he was born in the 1980s. People of different races could not marry and definitely could not have a child together. But that's exactly what happened in Trevor's case.

By the bizarre and hateful traditions of South Africa at that time he was labelled as 'coloured' to differentiate him from black people and white people. Everyone was classified based on their race. He was kept out of the public eye as much as possible growing up. When seen in public, Trevor's mother had to pretend she did not know him. As a child Trevor found this profoundly disturbing. His white father from Switzerland also could not acknowledge any connection with the boy.

Despite the horrors of life in South Africa, this memoir is upbeat and very funny. Trevor Noah was the kind of child that drives parents crazy. He was impulsive, clever and always getting himself into trouble. He was maddening and yet he was also adorable and irresistible.

There is no bitterness in his retelling of his childhood despite the poverty and violence that was always around him. He relates how difficult it was to fit in because of his unusual racial status. Noah's honesty is refreshing. At no time in his book does he exaggerate his importance or avoid embarrassing stories about himself. Quite the opposite, in fact. His stories about his first girlfriend, his illegal money making schemes and his trouble fitting in with other kids are honest, endearing and often hilarious.

It is incredible to think that a young man who grew up under such horrible circumstances could turn out to be the successful host of a TV show half a world away.

Feb 21, 2017

When Trevor Noah was born in South Africa in 1984, his existence was literally illegal, proof that his black, Xhosa mother and his white, Swiss-German father had violated the Immorality Act of 1927, one of the many laws defining the system known as apartheid. The crime carried a punishment of four to five years in prison, and mixed race children were often seized and placed in state-run orphanages. But Noah’s mother was determined and clever, and she managed to hold onto her son, refusing to flee her home country in order to raise him. But it made his childhood complicated, even after apartheid officially ended in 1994. Racial hierarchies and inequities persisted, and despite receiving a good education, his upbringing was anything but easy. In a series of essays, Born a Crime chronicles Noah’s experience growing up under apartheid and its aftermath.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at MCL

To Top