Posts tagged ‘South Africa’

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 join us at Book Bloggers International for the following chapters, here is the schedule:

  • Monday, February 6th: Chapters 1-3 Discussion
  • Monday, February 13th: Chapters 4-8 (End of Part I) Discussion
  • Monday, February 20th: Chapters 9-14 (Part II) Discussion
  • Tuesday, February 28th: Chapters 15-18 (Part III) Discussion and Wrap-Up

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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 join us at Book Bloggers International for the following chapters, here is the schedule:

  • Monday, February 6th: Chapters 1-3 Discussion
  • Monday, February 13th: Chapters 4-8 (End of Part I) Discussion
  • Monday, February 20th: Chapters 9-14 (Part II) Discussion
  • Tuesday, February 28th: Chapters 15-18 (Part III) Discussion and Wrap-Up

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Born a Crime 1-3: read-along at Book Bloggers International

born-a-crime

Born a Crime:
chapters 1- 3
read-along at
Book Bloggers International

Wow, I have not done a read-along for ages.

A couple of weeks ago, a member of our book club (where at each meeting, each member presents a book they enjoyed reading the previous month), was super excited about Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah.

It sounded so good I added it to my list of books to read. And then a few days later, I realized Book Bloggers International was organizing a nice leisurely read-along on it. So I didn’t have a choice but participate!

So here are the questions proposed today on the first 3 chapters of the book, with my answers (click on this link to participate):

1. Easy peasy question: are you enjoying the book so far? What do you think of Noah’s writing style?

I am really enjoying the book so far, especially thanks to the author’s writing style, which I would qualify as raw: so honest, so hilarious, and on target.
The reader has to be ready for a few slaps in the face, like for instance in the passage on secondhand cars: it is so funny, and suddenly at the turn on a sentence you are right in the middle of a tragedy.

2. What did you know about South Africa and apartheid before going into this book? Is there anything that’s surprised you so far or that you’ve learned?

Growing up in France, closer to Africa then the US, I heard so much about Mandela, but I didn’t know too much about some aspects that are still current today.
Actually only a few months ago, thanks to one of my students who hard recently traveled to South Africa, did I realize that townships were still reality. You don’t need too many google pictures to understand how tough things still are…

It is certainly not surprising, as so many problems, if not all, all over the world, have their roots in European colonization, but it was enlightening to read about the roots of apartheid in the 1650s.
In the first lines “apart hate, is what it was”, made me curious about the etymology of the word apartheid. I didn’t know that it’s simply the Afrikaans word for “separateness”, or “the state of being apart”.

3. How have you responded to each chapter? 

I like the insertion of data at the end of each chapter. Reading the Immorality Act of 1927 made me see things had improved a bit between humans, and I was actually surprised that for once, the woman was slightly less punished than the man!
Otherwise, my reactions are covered above.

4. Do you have any favorite quotes from the book you’d like to share?

“For the million people who lived in Soweto, there were no stores, no bars, no restaurants. There were no paved roads, minimal electricity, inadequate sewerage. But when you put one million people together in one place, they find a way to make a life for themselves.” (chapter 3)

5. What’s your initial impression of Noah’s mother? What about Noah himself?

His Mum had such an amazing faith and courage!
Noah sounds like a regular kid, doing all kinds of things a kid would do (and I bet there’s much more coming!), but honest about them, well at least to the reader, cf. the shit story!!
I like the way he tries to draw her mother’s reasoning to its logical conclusion, something I would have done too, lol.

6.Noah says that everything that’s gone wrong in his life has been because of a secondhand car. Have you ever felt like that about anything?

Not really, because very early on, I realized that to survive, I had to always try to look at what was happening in a positive way, to look for the one tiny positive element hidden somewhere in the tough situation.

Eiffel Tower Orange

If you want to join us at Book Bloggers International for the following chapters, here is the schedule:

  • Monday, February 6th: Chapters 1-3 Discussion
  • Monday, February 13th: Chapters 4-8 (End of Part I) Discussion
  • Monday, February 20th: Chapters 9-14 (Part II) Discussion
  • Tuesday, February 28th: Chapters 15-18 (Part III) Discussion and Wrap-Up

#12mos12rals

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