Born a Crime:
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.
If you want to see my comments on the other chapters, please check: