Born a Crime

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Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (book cover).jpg
AuthorTrevor Noah
PublisherSpiegel & Grau
Publication date
November 15, 2016
Media typePrint (Hardback)

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood is an autobiographical comedy book written by the South African comedian Trevor Noah, published in 2016. A film adaptation is being produced by Paramount Players.


The book details Trevor Noah growing up in his native South Africa during the apartheid era. As the mixed-race son of a white swiss father and a black mother, Noah himself was classified as a "colored" in accordance to the apartheid system of racial classification. According to Noah, he stated that even under apartheid, he felt trouble fitting in because it was a crime "for [him] to be born as a mixed-race baby", hence the title of his book.[1]

In large part, the book is a paean to Noah's mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo, who grew up in a hut with 14 occupants. Noah describes her as being stubborn, fearless, and an extraordinary teacher. She was a fiercely religious woman who took her son to three churches every Sunday, a prayer meeting on Tuesday, Bible study on Wednesday and youth church on Thursday, even when black South Africans were rioting in the streets and most people were cowering in their homes.[2]

The book opens with young Noah being thrown out of a minibus by his mother because she thought the driver, a man from another South African tribe, was going to kill them. Later in life, young Noah is caught stealing a car, and his mother lays down the law about crime and punishment. Later, Noah tells the story of how his stepfather shot her in the head while she was returning from church with her family. Young Noah developed social and mental agility that helped him during these times of trial, whether he was talking in their own language with different tribes, or risking arrest and violence by selling illegal bootleg CDs in dangerous neighborhoods. Through it all, his mother administered tough love and "old-school, Old Testament discipline".[3] And through his autobiography, Noah tells his story with admirable articulation and engaging humor.


Published in November 2016, Born a Crime[4] was received favorably by major U.S. book reviewers.[2][1][3][5] It became a #1 New York Times Bestseller and was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, Newsday, Esquire, NPR, and Booklist.[5] In early 2017, its title was used as a clue in the New York Times Crossword Puzzle.[6]

Film adaptation[edit]

The memoir will be adapted into a film starring Lupita Nyong'o as Patricia, Noah's mother. Nyong'o will also produce the film with Noah through his production company, Ark Angel Productions.[7] In March 2018, Liesl Tommy was hired to direct the film.[8] The film will be produced by Paramount Players.


  1. ^ a b Darden, Jeneé (2017-02-18). "Born a Crime: A Memoir of Love, Hope, and Resistance". Los Angeles Review of Books. Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  2. ^ a b Kakutani, Michiko (2016-11-28). "'Born a Crime,' Trevor Noah's Raw Account of Life Under Apartheid". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  3. ^ a b Seymour, Gene (2016-11-14). "Trevor Noah recalls childhood under apartheid in new memoir". USAToday. Gannett Company. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  4. ^ Noah, Trevor (15 November 2016). Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. New York: Spiegel & Grau. ISBN 978-0399588174.
  5. ^ a b "Born a Crime by Trevor Noah". Penguin Random House website. Penguin Random House. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  6. ^ Mahowald, Kyle (2017-02-10). "New York Times Crossword Solution 02/10/17". website. New York Times. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Clement, Olivia (27 March 2018). "Tony Nominee Liesl Tommy to Direct Trevor Noah Biopic Starring Lupita Nyong'o". Retrieved 29 April 2018.