Freshman Read Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime”

Freshman Read Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime

Mia Villavicencio, Staff Writer

This past January, THS freshmen read comedian and author Trevor Noah’s autobiography, Born A Crime. The district’s Central Office mandated as a curriculum requirement a full-grade reading for the first time this year to complement the students’ understanding of South African apartheid.

The novel recounts Noah’s experiences growing up in South Africa as the son of a white father and a black mother, which was illegal at the time. The story focuses on his struggle to find his identity in a divided society and the discrimination he faced as a biracial child. Although the book deals with some serious themes, Noah’s lighthearted, comedic tone makes it enjoyable to read. 

The administration first presented the idea of a whole grade reading to the English department last summer. The presumed purpose was to provide the students with a common reading experience and to develop their reading proficiency through a shared exploration of mature themes. Dr. Rabinowitz, a ninth-grade English teacher, thought that Born A Crime would be a well-suited candidate for the project because it was accessible and enjoyable for all reading levels. Additionally, she believed that the contemporary nature of the book would expose students to a unique writing style that diverged from that of traditional texts like Romeo and Juliet and The Kite Runner. Noah’s expression was mature enough to make readers comprehend the gravity of the subject manner while still maintaining an easygoing tone that would appeal to high school students. 

Catherine Lee, a ninth-grader, described the purpose of the shared reading experience as a way of “providing the whole freshman class with an insight into [Trevor Noah’s] life and for the students to learn the themes of [poverty, personal growth, struggle to find one’s identity, and belonging].” She said she enjoyed the story and learned a lot despite the explicit language and mature content it contains. Another student, Richie Cavalier-Mazzotta, perceived it as a way of “making the book a shared point of reference for the whole grade so that students could talk about the book outside of class and have it be something that they were aware of in relation to their lives.” 

Feedback from various students showed that they enjoyed the reading tremendously. They were enthralled by Noah’s contemporary writing style, and believed that it “offered a perspective which isn’t often shown in stories of racial oppression.” The author’s unique cultural background gave the students new insight as to how biracial individuals struggle to define their identities in a divided society. 

Dr. Rabinowitz was happy to hear how enthusiastic her students were about the book. This year marked the beginning of a new tradition for THS freshmen and proved to be a very didactic, eye-opening, and enjoyable experience for teachers and students alike. Although the students didn’t get the chance to see Trevor Noah live in New York City as planned, Born A Crime brought his soul and strife to life in a way that connected the entire grade and opened their eyes to the harsh realities of racism and apartheid.