Looking to add a new World Literature title to your curriculum? Maybe you’re desperate for any novel that will engage your students. Or perhaps you’d just like to add a title to your syllabus from the last one hundred years. I’ve got just the recommendation, and in this post I’m going to share why you need to teach Born a Crime by Trevor Noah!
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Born a Crime Summary
Born a Crime is Trevor Noah’s memoir about his early life in South Africa. If you’re not familiar with Trevor Noah, he was a long-time host of The Daily Show and a stand-up comedian.
He was also born a mixed-race child during South Africa’s apartheid. This led to a host of challenges for him and his family, as well as a unique perspective on race and oppression.
Born a Crime follows Noah’s early years. The stories of his youth introduce readers to his beautiful, stubborn, intelligent, and tough mother. It shows us the realities of living during extreme racial segregation. Most of all, this novel is sure to make you laugh as Noah shares anecdotes from his youth.
The unabridged version is unfiltered; there’s more swearing and some more adult-themed snippets. The young readers version is a little shorter (with the more mature scenes cut entirely) and swear words are swapped for milder ones.
Born a Crime offers a humorous point-of-view with deep, meaningful themes. The availability of both versions of the text allows you to choose one right for your class, students, and school.
Reason You Need to Teach Born a Crime #1: Humor
The best reason to teach Born a Crime is a simple one: it’s funny!
How many times have you heard students complain that everything they read in English class is boring? Or depressing?
Born a Crime is a refreshing break from the usual canon. While it does have its serious moments and themes, its author is a comedian. Your students won’t be able to resist laughing at young Trevor’s antics, his mother’s parenting, or the situations he finds himself in.
Reason You Need to Teach Born a Crime #2: New Perspective
Another great reason to add Born a Crime to your curriculum is the new perspective it offers.
Trevor Noah grew up in South Africa but later emigrated to the United States. This means he can speak to life in South Africa as a true South African in a way that is accessible to Americans. He explains the differences in culture, education, and society.
For teachers trying to expose young readers to a world outside of America, this unique perspective and voice is gold.
I also love that it shows students what racism in another country looks like. Students should be aware of America’s history of slavery and segregation, but they might think it’s a problem only in our country. Born a Crime shows a more global picture.
Plus, after learning about poverty in South Africa, your students may find themselves a little more appreciative of the opportunities and education they have here at home.
Reason You Need to Teach Born a Crime #3: Deep Themes
Lastly, the novel makes for great teaching material. Any teacher looking for a teachable novel is probably on the hunt for deep themes, and Born a Crime has plenty.
With apartheid in play, you can engage students in rich discussions about systemic oppression. Since these systems are not America-based, you may even find that your administrators and parents are less likely to oppose this novel than others based on controversy.
Secondly, you can explore love and family. These ideas play a huge part in the novel from page one to the very end.
Trevor and his mother navigate the world together–a world that never condoned Trevor’s conception in the first place. This can lead to all kinds of discussions about love, family, and fostering personal growth through relationships.
Another theme worth exploring is identity. As a mixed-race boy, Trevor often finds himself at odds with a society that insists on categorizing everyone by color.
He changes his racial identity and language frequently to suit his situation. Enjoy having some deep discussions about identity with your students while reading.
Lastly, even humor itself can be a theme to explore in Born a Crime. Trevor and his mother often use humor to create resilience as they face tough situations. No doubt, this is an idea your students will have some experience with.
There is no shortage of deep, complex ideas to discuss and analyze with your students in Born a Crime. In between laughter, you’re sure to have some rich talks.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah offers a unique combination of humor, deep ideas, and a diverse perspective to teachers and their curriculum. I know I’ve searched for books like it for a long time.
If you need a refreshing new title for your classroom, be sure to check it out.