Posts tagged ‘apartheid’

Born a Crime 15-end: read-along at Book Bloggers International

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Born a Crime:
chapters 15-end
read-along at
Book Bloggers International

And here we are already at the end of the read-along:

1. Did you like the book? What were some of your favorite passages or chapters?

I liked a lot the book. I don’t think I had read anything in depth about life during and after the apartheid, with concrete details on daily life and all the issues involved, so this was a real eye-opener.
I definitely loved the style of the book, with lots of humor, but also some good slaps in the face as for culture differences and things we allow in our society today.
What interested me more personally were all the passages related to language, how Trevor maneuvered thanks to his knowledge of so many languages, how it allowed him to be accepted by different groups, and also the deep connection between language and identity.

2. In Part III, the book’s chapters get longer, and darker, as Noah goes from being a teenager to a young man. What struck you most about these chapters? Would you call the book a coming of age story?

It all depends what you call a “coming of age story“. In an American context, this expression is often quite mild, about usual teen stuff and first look into the world of work and adults.
Trevor grew up more quickly than most of kids here, he started to work very young as well, before being a teen.
In part 3, he discovers more ugly parts of the adult world, like abuse of women at home, alcoholism, crimes, prison, injustice.
It is a coming of age story in the sense that he realizes he can take a stand towards these issues and part from them, for instance when he realizes his petty crimes do affect real people, he decides to stop. Also when he decides to leave home, not agreeing with his mother’s reaction face to abuse.

3. In Chapter 16, “The Cheese Boys,” Noah writes,

…crime succeeds because crime does the one thing the government doesn’t do: crime cares. Crime is grassroots. Crime looks for the young kids who need support and a lifting hand. Crime offers internship programs and summer jobs and opportunities for advancement. Crime gets involved in the community. Crime doesn’t discriminate.

What do you think Noah meant by this and do you agree?

The context is extremely important. In Trevor’s context when he writes this, with the examples he gives, yes, I agree. But this no longer works taken out of context. For instance this would not apply to gang crimes in Chicago…

4. In “My Mother’s Life,” Noah says children have to learn how to love their parents unconditionally and that it’s not automatic or instinctive. Do you agree with this statement?

I personally agree, I have not experienced love of parents as something automatic or instinctive either, but again, I assume it all depends on the context you grew up and were raised.

5. Do you watch The Daily Show? If you do, has reading the book changed how you see Noah in any way?

I do not have TV. The person who presented this book in my book club and made me want to read it talked about The Daily Show. So I watched one episode on YouTube to see what they were talking about, but I was not impressed at all. I didn’t think his humor there was smart. It’s so much better in the book.

6. Are you left with any unanswered questions you’re wondering about?

I was hoping to get more details about why he left his country to live in the US! It seems so much different than the context he grew up in. There are some elements of answer in the last chapter, but still, there’s a huge difference between deciding to live his own life, away from his mother’s context, and deciding to come and work in the TV American world! But maybe that will be another book!

I would have hoped that someone that smart, who got to know so well all the different groups and issues of his country, would have used his talents to help improve the social situation of his country.
I wonder what his Mom thinks about his current work.

7. Anything else that caught your attention or you want to discuss?

There are some other major topics in the last part:

  • the bad job we do when we say we want to help others – in Africa or even in our own society: like he said, you can teach someone how to fish, but if you don’t give them the basic tool, a fishing rod, to start with, what’s the point? Just to satisfy your own conscience, at best

  • the awful job done by Colonials in the world of education – for instance, they had no idea who Hitler really was and so gave this name as a normal European first name. So sad in the first place that we pushed them to adopt some European first names, but they already had beautiful first names, so much more meaningful that many modern names that no longer mean anything

  • how your relationships with others change when you get to a one on one connection, and see someone’s face. Trevor realized this while dealing with a stolen camera, and saw the faces of the people who had lost their precious souvenirs. We can apply this to many things, for instance law making, or general statements we sometimes make, until we meet someone who is in that very situation.

  • police corruption and unfairness, how they were always taking the side of the abusive violent husband in the book, instead of the victim.

  • how faith can have some very concrete results! (chapter 18)

VERDICT: If you know nothing about South Africa, I highly recommend this book. An easy read, with lots of humor, but that goes right to the heart of things, with amazing concrete examples of a feisty mother and how she raised her children.

Eiffel Tower Orange

 

If you want to see my comments on the other chapters, please check:

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Born a Crime 9-14: read-along at Book Bloggers International

born-a-crime

Born a Crime:
chapters 9-14
read-along at
Book Bloggers International

This book is so good, I’m surprised not more bloggers have joined the read-along

So here are the questions proposed today on the chapters 9-14 of the book, with my answers:

1. This past week was Valentine’s Day, and appropriately Part II features not one, not two, but three stories from Noah’s tragic misadventures in romance. Which one of these was your favorite? Which the saddest? Did they remind you of any of your own teenage heartbreaks? Juicy details pls

Sorry I didn’t take too many notes on that, I found all these stories rather sad. And I’m not your best candidate for that type of story. I spent my teenage years in studies and books, no time for dating.

2. In Chapter 9, “The Mulberry Tree,” Noah says that’s it’s easier to be an outsider trying to fit in than an insider who doesn’t. Do you think this is true? How do you think that experience shaped how Noah related to the world going forward? How did you react to the actions of Abel?

I actually had a hard time understanding really what he meant by that sentence, I reread it in the context several times, in vain. I would appreciate if you could tell me how you understand this passage.

3. Trevor Noah: entrepreneur or hustler?

Aren’t the two words synonyms, lol? I think he was probably a bit of both, which made sense for a smart kid who had finally found a way to survive and makes the best of a tough situation. And anyway, he was racketing anyone, he was using the greed of the other kids for his own interest, using the only strengths he had, his speed and his idea to come up with that idea.

4. One of the most tragi-comic stories in the section, I think, is Chapter 13, “Colorblind.” What were some of your reactions to the story? Noah never tells us what happens to his friend–why do you think that is??

It actually did not surprise me on the side of the justice: we often only see what we want to see, and we automatically block what we do not want to see.
And on Noah’s part, he may have shut up about it for the sake of his mother.
Why he never tells us about his friend: maybe because deep down he still feels guilty about it?

5. Anything else you found interesting or want to discuss?

– What amazed me in chapter 9 was how arbitrary the apartheid classifications could be, how for instance, for a reason or another, you could be reclassified as white, or vice versa! And how the system built enmity between the groups:

That’s what apartheid did: it convinced every group that it was because of the other race that they didn’t get into the club.
p.120

– Behind Trevor’s humor and sharpness, it’s very sad to feel deeper his inner solitude in these chapters.
I wonder if the fact of never having felt by any group white, black, colored, was the ultimate reason why he left his country.

Eiffel Tower Orange

If you want to see my comments on the other chapters, please check:

 

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Born a Crime 4-8: read-along at Book Bloggers International

born-a-crime

Born a Crime:
chapters 4-8
read-along at
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.

Eiffel Tower Orange

If you want to see my comments on the other chapters, please check:

 

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