Born a Crime:
Book Bloggers International
Unfortunately, apart from a couple of ladies running Book Bloggers International, no one else seemed to have joined this read-along. So it’s looks more for me like a scheduled reading, with a few chapters per week, than a read-along per se. Which is actually not bad, as at least, it gave me the incentive to read the read and enough time to do so.
So here are the questions proposed today on the chapters 4-8 of the book, with my answers:
1. What do you think were the themes in Part I of the book? How were the essays tied together?
Maybe the common theme is Identity: identify who he is, how he is the same or different than others, identify and getting to know better his roots (his people, his mother, his father)
2. In Chapter 4, Noah talks about the power of language and how it can overcome–or at the very least confuse–racism. He says if people speak the same language, they recognize one another as members of the same “tribe,” even if they look completely different. “Maybe I didn’t look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you.” Do you think this is true?
I totally agree, you see this also at the social level between groups of people. Plus of course, language is the first tool to really know someone else and understand what they mean deeply.
He also says, “Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.”
Being bilingual myself, I would even go further and say it defines who I am to myself! I have already talked about this in my review of In Other Words, but as it fits perfectly here, I can reiterate that I actually feel a very different person whether I’m in the US speaking English or in France speaking my native language.
And no, I do not suffer from a dual personality disorder. But language and thinking are extremely connected, so it really makes sense that you would think differently depending on the language you use. And your cultural references get different, your look on life. It can definitely influence the perception you have of yourself.
And so of course influence the perception others have of you, as Trevor experienced early on in life.
3. What would you do if you came home and found out your kid had burned down someone’s house?
I would certainly react different from Trevor’s mother, but again, we really need to look at the cultural context here.
4. In Chapter 7, Noah talks about his dog Fufi and how she basically formed his entire philosophy regarding relationships. What do you think of this philosophy, and does this simile really work after you start thinking about it?
It works as a reminder that you cannot own others nor what they do. But at the same time, the issue is more complex: when you start building a real relationship with someone, each member needs to keep his own identity and goal in life, while building something common with the other.
5. Which chapter made you cry more, the one where Noah meets his father as an adult or the first chapter?
This chapter 8, only because it resonates too closely to my own story.
It was wonderful that whatever she had lived with Trevor’s father, she thought it was essential to grow-up healthily to meet his dad.
6. Anything else that surprised you or you want to discuss?
– It was interesting to see how Trevor as a young boy would enjoy the special treatment he received, and go along with it, without knowing at first it had something to do with race.
– I was amazed and shocked by the connection between racism and the restricted access to education:
British racism said, ‘If the monkey can walk like a man and talk like a man, then perhaps he is a man’. Afrikaner racism said, ‘Why give a book to a monkey?’
– I am even more impressed by the toughness of Trevor’s Mum, how she managed to be independent, stick to her ideas of what she thought right, ignoring the social pressure around her, and how she strives to give her son everything she didn’t have, especially education (books were more important to her than food) and access to the English language, as a safe exit door, so he would not be trapped but free to become whom he wanted to be:
My mom raised me as if there were no limitations on where I could go or what I could do.
And this was at a time when it was impossible to know that official apartheid would end one day.
As modestly as we lived at home, I never felt poor because our lies were rich with experience.
Interestingly, this is actually one of the main points of the current minimalism movement.
– And the passage where they argue through letters is so hilarious – that would be better than doing it through SMS!! This kid knew how to write official letters!!
– Within the context they lived in, I’m so impressed by their positive outlook on life. Here in our rich country, too often we consider the glass half-empty instead of seeing it half-full, and focus on superficial things.
Other quotations I want to keep track of, in chapter 4:
I soon learned that the quickest way to bridge the race gap was through language.
And to have all this paragraph together:
Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people. I became a chameleon. My color didn’t change, but I could change your perception of my color…. Maybe I didn’t look like you.
If you want to see my comments on the other chapters, please check:
- Chapters 15-end (Part III) Discussion