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It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

Noah, Trevor (Author)
Penguin Random House 2019. 296 pages
First published: 2019
ISBN: 9780525582168 (hardcover)
9780525582182 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Memoir

Text Elements:

conflict, multigenre, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Anecdotal hilarity combines with fascinating facts on South Africa as it transitions away from apartheid, in this memoir by comedian and TV talk-show host, Trevor Noah.

The book alternates engaging nonfiction information about the history of apartheid (“an endless supply of expendable bodies was needed to go in the ground and get [the gold and diamonds] all out”) with chapters that recount key episodes of Trevor’s youth: “‘What do you mean, “Why are we running?” Those men were trying to kill us.’ ‘You never told me that! You just threw me out of the car!’… My mother had saved my life.”

Direct, conversational language is rich in humour and perspective, conveying Trevor’s upbringing as a mixed-race anomaly in a society rigidly structured on racist principles.

Topics include poverty, oppression and injustice, as well as creativity, entrepreneurship and deep spiritual belief. As someone who doesn’t fit the norms of the country’s ‘racial’ classifications, young Trevor gains insider knowledge across cultural and economic barriers, broadening the tale’s wisdom—and optimism: “There were no paved roads, minimal electricity, inadequate sewage. But when you put one million people together in one place, they find a way to make a life for themselves.” Readers will appreciate the book’s loving portrayal of friends and family, and Trevor’s evident gratitude for his powerhouse of a mother.

Back material offers an overview of apartheid political history, with comparisons to segregation in the United States.

  •  

    Read the non-fiction information that precedes the first chapter. In small groups, share and discuss your background knowledge about apartheid and South Africa. As you read, use this information as the context for Trevor’s memoir.

  •  

    Consider how this memoir is similar or different from others you have read. Discuss the techniques Trevor uses to engage his audience, particularly how humour plays a role. What makes his voice distinct?

  •  With a partner, plan an interview with Trevor Noah. Use his memoir as a springboard for questions about his life as well as his writing process. Create a script (questions and answers) and perform the mock interview for an audience of peers.
  •  

    Watch a teacher-selected video clip of the author in action as host of The Daily Show. Use this to begin a web of words that describe him.

  •  

    Read and take notes on the first two chapters. Discuss what you learned about South Africa and apartheid, then refine your notes.

  •  

    Trevor was poor but he felt rich. In teams, discuss and create a bullet point list of reasons for each descriptor.

  •  

    With a partner, make a Top Ten list of surprising facts about South Africa.

  •  

    Trevor claims that books were his prized possessions. What works of fiction have you read that made a powerful impression on you? In what ways? Write a letter to a school librarian recommending a few books you believe should be found in a school library (elementary or secondary.) Explain the effect these books have had on your life. Share your choices with classmates.

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To cooperate with others
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Social Sciences