Choices and Perspectives in Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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Born a Crime is all about the choices Trevor Noah and his mother made throughout their life’s journey and a discussion presentation with visual aids would assist me in portraying the impact of social undercurrents on our everyday life choices to a variety of audience with diverse perspectives interactively. PowerPoint allows the usage of images, audio and video resulting in a greater visual impact. It also makes the presentation more interesting and improves the audience's focus.

My mother used to tell me, “I was a product for her search for belonging. She never felt like she belonged anywhere” (Noah 77). When you know how it feels to not belong anywhere, an ordinary human would not, at least deliberately, give birth to a mixed-race child in times of apartheid. Exactly, Patricia Noah is not ordinary. Patricia chose to give birth to Trevor in one of the worst times, without any hope if apartheid would ever end and raised him as a kind human who is now loved by the world for his humor and wit.

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While Trevor is grateful to his mom for saving his life (Noah 17), I would like to focus on two of the most prominent traits that Trevor thanks his mom for - 1. Living life on your own terms and, 2. Having faith in times of distress. These qualities reflect power of choice in our everyday lives. Born a Crime showcases Patricia’s choice of upbringing her child the way she did.

“She wanted to do something, figured out a way to do it, and then she did it” (Noah 22). Patricia made a choice to live her life on her own terms. She was the second girl. She was unwanted, never chosen, never loved. She fed herself, studied English, took secretarial course and left at the age of twenty-two, survived in a “white-only” township and raised a mixed-race child. She found her way through sheer force of will (Noah 73) and instilled the same values and courage in her child.

  1. She named her son Trevor- a name with no meaning in South Africa not even, a biblical reference. She wanted her child to be free (Noah 67).
  2. Patricia introduced her family to Trevor. He was made aware of his roots as well as taught to believe that a world exists outside the ghetto (Noah 74) and he can lead it.
  3. From clothes to car, everything was second hand and limited but Patricia made sure that she filled Trevor’s childhood with first hand experiences and unlimited stories (Noah 72).
  4. She didn’t become a “helicopter” mother. She encouraged him to make mistakes and learn from them. She helped him move out when the atmosphere at home became toxic rather than blackmailing him to support the family or pay back.
  5. Respecting women is a trait very few grow up with in a narrow-minded patriarchal society but Trevor learnt early in his life that you don’t need to control women to be a man. “Being a man doesn’t mean your woman has to be less than you” (Noah 127). He tried to think from a girl’s perspective and accepted Babiki’s “No” to dance with him. He started to respect and acknowledge women from his youth.

She never tried to block his curiosity or force her opinions on him, she did discipline him for breaking rules but not for questioning them. There was a room for discussion even on religion to an extent. She made her child develop his own sense of judgement and taught him to be respectful of other’s opinions as well- a quality most parents find difficult to impart. Patricia included church or Jesus in their daily routines and was always determined to go to church just like everything else in her life.

“Trevor, I prayed. I told you I prayed. I don’t pray for nothing” (Noah 285) Life centered on faith for women in times of apartheid and Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah made sure that her son knew that there was an Almighty who always has his back. Trevor was convinced by his grandma that his prayers got answered (Noah 40). The book’s climax engulfs all readers when the hero of Trevor’s life is shot. The misfiring of gun, miraculous survival of Patricia all hint towards a greater force more than luck and coincidence. Trevor convinces the readers that prayers work and at times, all you are left with is your belief and faith in the almighty. We as humans need something to hold in times of distress and faith comes in handy. Prayers and faith offer courage and peace to the team of mother and son during harsh living conditions and help them to cope up with life.

Upbringing a child is difficult and Patricia completed the task in the best possible manner without seeking any outside help while keeping her head held high. Forced removal, slavery and segregation was the “normal” in 1950’s. The atmosphere was filled with rage, crime and violence and yet Patricia stood unwavering in the face of danger (Noah 13). Not only did she survive the hard times but raised a kind gentleman who spreads laughter and positivity all across the world. As JK Rowling said, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Born a Crime inspires the readers to be thoughtful of the road they take in the crossway of life.   

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