Host of the “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah, has become a household name, revered for his quick wit and insightful comedy on current affairs. Until the publication of his memoir, much less commonly known was Noah’s perilous childhood in South Africa. His own birth as a child of mixed races was a crime in the government’s eyes.
Now his incredible story of growing up in apartheid South Africa and its aftermath has been adapted for young readers, perfect for any middle schooler in your life. Noah shares his personal stories with unflinching honesty and comedic jabs to make this adapted version of It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime (Delacorte Press) engaging and thoroughly enjoyable for all ages.
The apartheid may likely be a subject not yet covered in school or discussed at home with middle school children, but it is an essential part of our world history that Noah unpacks in an accessible fashion. During the years of the Apartheid, white rule exploited the clashes between tribes with different languages: Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Sotho, Venda, Ndebele, Tsonga, Pedi and more.
Most importantly, Noah makes the distinction that “the triumph of democracy over apartheid is sometimes called ‘the bloodless revolution.’ It is called that because very little white blood was spilled. Black blood ran in the street.” Noah understands the importance of portraying the truth of the traumatic event, if not correctly recorded in history books, then at least in his own memoir. While there were few white lives lost, the transition to democracy was far from smooth and without sacrifice.
Once Noah gives context for the internal conflicts within his country, he explains why his existence made matters worse. Since his mother is Xhosa and his father is Swiss, this was viewed as scandalous and even criminal. Noah’s father wouldn’t be able to walk with his child in public without people suspecting that he kidnapped him. It was also risky for his parents to be seen in public together.
For this reason, early on in life, Noah spent a good deal of time indoors. His mother though, frustrated with the recurring racism, poverty and abuse, dared her family to do more. Stubborn and deeply religious, Noah’s mother believed in a higher path for her son despite the systematic obstacles they faced. Fighting these challenges with her own determination, we follow her efforts to obtain the best resources possible for him at home and school.
As his mother worked hard to give him every chance of success, Noah tried his best to fit the part in the better neighborhoods and education systems. However, he couldn’t help but feel like an outsider as a child of mixed race who was only present in these places due to his family’s own scrappy resourcefulness. While Noah does a tremendous job unpacking colonialism and the Apartheid crisis, many young readers will still find deep resonance in other themes he discusses.
Battling with issues of race, conflicting identity, poverty, abuse and ultimately finding courageous resilience, Noah illustrates to young readers that they are not alone in their struggles. With heartbreaking honesty and wry humor, Noah alternates between childhood and teenage years to illustrate how, in his own words writing the book, young children “can overcome obstacles and soar to places they may not otherwise believe to be achievable.”
It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime is now available for purchase.
ABOUT TREVOR NOAH:
Trevor Noah is the host of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Daily Show. Noah rose improbably to stardom with The Racist, his one-man show at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He made his US television debut that year on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and has also appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, becoming the first South African stand-up comedian to appear on either late-night program.
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