Born a Crime

This study guide will help you analyze Trevor Noah’s autobiography Born a Crime. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective. The quotes in this analysis are from the 2016 edition by Spiegel & Grau

Presentation of the text

Title: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (2016)

Author: Trevor Noah

Genre: Autobiography

Trevor Noah (b. 1984) is a South African comedian and television host. He has hosted multiple television shows and is currently the host of The Daily Show, an American satirical news program. He also performs as a stand-up comedian.

His autobiography, Born a Crime, was published in 2016 and focuses on Noah’s life in South Africa, during the apartheid system. The book mainly follows the consequences of apartheid’s system of racial classification, which labeled Noah as colored, his mother as black, and his father as white. The autobiography was well-received by the audience and is going to be adapted into a film which will be directed by Liesl Tommy, a South African-American director. 


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 


The most important symbol, which appears as a leitmotif throughout the book, is the secondhand car that Patricia buys when she moves with Trevor to Eden Park. For Trevor, the secondhand car is a bad omen, as he associates it with meeting Abel and, implicitly, with trouble. However, before Patricia meets Abel, the car is a symbol of opportunity. Although it does not function properly, the car allows Patricia and Trevor to spend quality time together and create memories:

She’d put me on her lap and let me steer and work the indicators while she worked the pedals and the stick shift. After a few months of that, she taught me how to work the stick. She was still working the clutch, but I’d climb onto her lap and take the stick, and she’d call out the gears as we drove. (Chapter 5, p. 77)

The car...

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Born a Crime

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