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Book club guide: "Born A Crime" by Trevor Noah discussion questions and menu

Book club guide: "Born A Crime" by Trevor Noah discussion questions and menu

Born A Crime is a relatable collection of stories, which author and Daily Show host uses to relay his life experiences as well as those of his mother, the defining influence in his life. This is a book everyone seems to be talking about these days not just because its author is on TV, but because it's poignant and humorous. So grab some pals and some nostalgic finger foods and see where a conversation inspired by Born A Crime takes your book club.

Trevor Noah's unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa's tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle. 

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man's relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother: his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

- Discuss the role of religion and spirituality in South Africa, and in Trevor’s family. How did it affect different people’s motivations?

- It can be argued that this book is more the story of Patricia, Trevor’s mother, than the author himself. How did her independence affect Trevor? How did she teach him to think for himself?

- Trevor describes himself as a chameleon, using language to blend in with different groups. In what ways does this affect how he seems himself?

- Discuss the role of patriarchy and masculinity in South African culture. How does it affect how different people respond to Patricia’s abuse from her husband? (i.e. Patricia, Trevor, the police, etc.)

- What did you know about apartheid South Africa before reading this book? What did you learn that you found most surprising?

- What are some of the lessons Trevor learns about love?

- Which story in the collection resonated the most with you? Was it comedic or tragic?

- In reading this book, did you recall any events from your childhood that were formative? Do you feel differently about the event looking back then you did when it occurred?


Print these bespoke bookmarks — emblazoned with South African art — in color and on cardstock or other heavy paper, two-sided if you can, or print the pages on separate sheets, then cut the bookmarks out and glue them together.


Instead of serving a full meal of chicken and rice (my original literary recipe for this book) during your book club discussion, try snacking on some of these bite-sized treats! This menu embraces the spirit of looking back on life by taking some childhood favorites and adding a twist.

"Born a Crime" — A literary soundtrack

"Born a Crime" — A literary soundtrack

Literary recipe: Chicken curry and yellow rice inspired by "Born A Crime"

Literary recipe: Chicken curry and yellow rice inspired by "Born A Crime"