In Trevor Noah’s autobiography Born a Crime, Frances Noah is Trevor’s grandmother. Trevor describes her as a woman who is “barely five feet tall, hunched over from years in the factory” (Chapter 3, p. 42), but still strong and “the family matriarch” (Chapter 3, p. 42). She is also “calm, calculating, with a mind as sharp as anything” (Chapter 3, p. 42) and one of the dominant female figures in Trevor’s life.
Frances is a religious woman who balances her faith in God with her indigenous Xhosa faith. She is protective of Trevor, whom she treats differently because she is afraid of losing him. For example, she forces Trevor to remain hidden inside the house during apartheid because he is mixed-race. While Trevor is stubborn and does not understand her over-protectiveness growing up, he later realizes that it came out of love.
Frances has a rather tense relationship with her daughter, Patricia, who lives away from her for twelve years. When Patricia returns home, Frances insists that Patricia’s money goes to the family, which prompts her daughter to leave home for good. When Patricia wants to escape her abusive marriage, Frances convinces her to stay: “her argument was basically, ‘All men do it.’ My grandfather, Temperance, had hit her” (Chapter 18, p. 253).
Temperance Noah is Trevor’s grandfather. He is divorced from Frances and has remarried, but continuously flirts with other women:
His nickname in the neighborhood was ‘Tat Shisha,’ which translates loosely to ‘the smokin’ hot grandpa.’ And that’s exactly who he was. He loved the ladies, and the ladies loved him. He’d put on his best suit and stroll through the streets of Soweto on random afternoons, making everybody laugh and charming all the women he’d meet. (Chapter 3, p. 40)
Trevor describes his grandfather as “big and boisterous” (Chapter 3, p. 42) and “eccentric” (Chapter 3, p. 40), and later finds out that he had bipolar disorder. In this light, Trevor recalls an episode in which his grandfather was enraged and wanted to fight him, then sat in complete silence the rest of the day after Trevor refused.
Temperance treated Trevor like he was white, just like Frances did. However, his behavior is ironic, so Trevor is unable to challenge him:
He called me ‘Mastah.’ In the car, he insisted on driving me as if he were my chauffeur. ‘Mastah must always sit in the backseat.’ I never challenged him on it. What was I going to say? ‘I believe your perception of race is flawed, Grandfather.’ No. I was five. I sat in the back. (Chapter 4, p. 58)
In his youth, Temperance was his daughter’s favorite but disappointed her when he sent her to live with his sister after his divorce. In Robert’s absence, Temperance is one of the dominant male figures in Trevor...