3 Sentence Summary
Born a Crime is a memoir by Trevor Noah that narrates his experiences growing up in apartheid South Africa. The book recounts his life journey, from his early days as a mischievous boy to a restless young man. Noah writes with humor and sincerity, bringing readers on a journey through his life filled with both laughter and heartbreak.
Summary Read Time: Less than 5 minutes
Actual Book Length: 289
First Published in: 2016
Below is the detailed yet quick summary of the book:
Trevor Noah‘s mother, Patricia, was born into a Xhosa tribe in South Africa and raised as the middle child of a working-class single mother. Despite the difficulties she faced growing up, Patricia was determined to make a better life for herself and worked hard to achieve her goals. She eventually moved to Johannesburg where she met Robert and had Trevor. He was a mixed-race child whose existence was considered a crime under apartheid laws.
Trevor had a happy childhood, despite having to hide the truth about his parents’ relationship. He was raised by his mother to be a curious and an independent thinker. She encouraged him to have ambitions and a strong educational foundation. Trevor attended a private Catholic school where he was often disciplined for his questioning of authority and tendency to challenge rules. Despite these difficulties, he remained close with both his mother and father and appreciated the strong foundation of love and support they provided for him.
When Patricia marries Abel, a charismatic mechanic, Trevor’s relationship with his father gradually decreases. Soon Trevor gets kicked out of Catholic school. At his new school, Trevor struggles to fit in with any specific group, as he’s considered either too black or too white. He becomes resourceful and fluid in moving between communities, focusing on improving his language skills.
As Trevor enters high school, his stepfather’s alcohol problem leads to economic difficulties and occasional physical abuse. To cut their losses, they move to a primarily white neighborhood and Patricia divorces Abel but continues to live with him. Despite these challenges, Trevor finds a way to make money for himself. He first starts by placing lunch orders for students and then by selling pirated and mix CDs. He eventually makes a few close friends and gains financial stability.
Despite the challenges he faces, Trevor remains determined to achieve his goals and make a better life for himself and his family. With Patricia’s encouragement and support, he develops a strong sense of self and the ambition to succeed.
After high school, Trevor faces a crossroads. Without the funds to attend university, he focuses on growing his CD business and moonlighting as a DJ. This line of work leads him to frequent Alexandra, a neighborhood plagued by crime. As tensions rise between him and his stepfather Abel, Trevor moves into his own apartment and hopes his mother will eventually leave Abel. A setback comes when Patricia becomes pregnant again, causing Trevor to distance himself from her and his younger brothers. However, his DJ career takes off and eventually leads him to reconnect with his estranged father Robert.
In his mid-twenties, Trevor is shocked to receive a phone call about Abel shooting his mother. Despite the trauma, Patricia only sustains minor injuries, and the incident deepens their bond. Unfortunately, Abel serves only parole for the crime. Despite the difficult circumstances, Trevor remains focused on building a successful career and maintaining a loving relationship with his family.