The book details Trevor Noah growing up in
apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa . As the light-skinned son of a white father and a
black mother, Noah was classified as a ” coloured” in accordance to the apartheid system of racial classification. Noah stated that even under apartheid, he felt trouble fitting in, because it was a crime “for [him] to be born as a mixed-race baby”, hence the title of his book.
In large part, the book is a paean to Noah’s mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo, who grew up in a hut with 14 occupants. She was a fiercely religious woman who took her son to three churches every Sunday, a prayer meeting on Tuesday, Bible study on Wednesday and youth church on Thursday, even when black South Africans were rioting in the streets and most people were cowering in their homes.
The book opens with young Noah being thrown out of a minibus by his mother, because she thought the driver, from another tribe, was trying to kill them. Later in life, young Noah is caught stealing a car, and his mother lays down the law about crime and punishment. She was an important figure in his becoming a man, but she had many problems of her own: years after the minibus incident, Noah’s stepfather shot her in the head while she was returning from church with her family. Young Noah developed a social and mental agility that helped him during these times of trial, whether he was talking in their own language with different tribes, or risking arrest and violence by selling illegal bootleg CDs in dangerous neighborhoods. Through it all, his mother administered tough love and “old-school, Old Testament discipline”.
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