A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This memoir provides a relatable, informative view of life under South African Apartheid and its aftermath. Through Noah's personal experience and observations, and through publisher's epilogue on history of Apartheid, young readers learn about injustice and division created by Apartheid, and difficult conditions that persisted in its aftermath.
Maintain hope in face of serious adversity. It's possible to rise above poverty, injustice, and abuse and enjoy a successful career. Change can happen in an unjust society.
Positive Role Models
Noah tells an honest story, including his childhood mischief and petty crimes committed as a young adult. Book is full of life lessons, but no one would say his growing up was exemplary. But he emerges from poverty, injustice, and abuse to enjoy a successful career. His mother's fierce love and personal independence are inspiring, but she also stays too long in an abusive relationship. Noah's father sounds like a nice person, but circumstances keep him mostly outside of Noah's childhood. Stepfather Abel is the opposite of a role model.
Violence & Scariness
Begins with Noah, his mother, and little brother hurtling out of moving minibus, threatened by the driver. Throughout book, kids receive corporal punishment in school and at home, including being struck with belt or switch by a parent, getting spanked or rapped on knuckles with metal ruler, having mouth washed out with soap by teacher. Worst violence in book comes at hands of Noah's stepfather, Abel. Abel beats neighbor child who threw berries at Trevor, threatens the child's father. Abel beats Trevor's mom, Patricia, with a bicycle. After she finally leaves him, Abel shows up at ner new home and shoots Patricia in buttocks, then in the head. Includes historical facts about white police murdering unarmed black protesters.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A kiss between teens. Trevor says that his parents had "sexual relations" in context of explaining why he says he was "born a crime."
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Products & Purchases
Brands mentioned: McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, Converse All-Stars, Dickies, Jell-O.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Early in book, Trevor tells how children would take empty bottles from men passed out drunk, return bottles for deposit, use money to buy food. When they're teens, Trevor and his friend steel chocolates filled with liqueur from a mall store, drink the booze, eat the chocolates. Trevor's stepfather, Abel, smokes pot and drinks to excess, eventually giving up smoking to dedicate himself to drinking. Abel drinks all profits from his car repair business, never comes home from work sober. He also sometimes becomes dangerously violent when drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that It's Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood is an adaptation for younger readers of comedian and Daily Show host Noah's 2016 memoir Born a Crime. Noah grew up as the ultimate outsider: the son of a black South African mother and a white European father, at a time when laws under Apartheid made it illegal for mixed-race couples to marry or have children. The book explores gender roles, and the relationships between different factions within the black community, as well as between blacks and whites and "colored" (mixed race) people. There are incidents of disturbing violence against Trevor and his mother, who's beaten and shot by his stepfather. The publisher's epilogue on the history of Apartheid mentions the Sharpeville Massacre, when white police opened fire on a crowd of unarmed black protesters, killing dozens of people. Noah, who was a mischievous kid, makes a distinction between the corporal punishment he receives from his devoted mother and the callous violence of his stepfather. Abel, the stepfather, is frequently drunk and has a history of marijuana use. Trevor describes the petty crimes he committed as a young adult, as well: He and his friends were loan sharks and music pirates before Trevor began his career as a comedian and television host. Fans of Noah's stand-up comedy or The Daily Show will find plenty of his trademark sharpness and self-effacing humor even as he relates memories of suffering poverty and abuse.
Is It Any Good?
Trevor Noah's adapted memoir is the best kind of kids' nonfiction: His misadventures are highly relatable and engaging, even when things go horribly wrong. Readers will come away with deeper knowledge about what Apartheid was, and the social ramifications of racism, sexism, and poverty. It's Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood entertains while it teaches readers essential historical lessons, leading them to consider social issues thoughtfully. Information is presented effectively for young readers through Noah's personal experience and observations, and through the publisher's epilogue on the history of Apartheid. This is not an easy book, but it's easy to appreciate.
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