Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah is one of the most important characters in Trevor Noah’s autobiography Born a Crime. Her name Nombuyiselo means “She Who Gives Back” (Chapter 5, p. 74). She is Trevor’s mother and an authority figure in his life, as her influence helps him evolve. Patricia had a relationship with Robert, Trevor’s father, but it was never official as apartheid considered it illegal.
Patricia has two other sons, Andrew and Isaac, who were born out of her marriage with Abel. After divorcing Abel, Patricia remarries and extends her family: “They were coming home from church, a big group, my mom and Andrew and Isaac, her new husband and his children and a whole bunch of his extended family, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews.” (Chapter 18, p. 272).
Patricia has two other siblings, an elder sister and a younger brother. After her parents’ divorce, Patricia chose to stay with her father but was sent instead to live with her father’s sister in Transkei, where she spent her teenage years in misery. Patricia did not see her family for twelve years, until after Trevor’s birth, when she reconnected with her mother Frances.
Patricia works different jobs. First, she is a secretary for a “multinational pharmaceutical company in Braamfontein, a suburb of Johannesburg” (Chapter 2, p. 29). Then, she leaves her job to help Abel with his Mighty Mechanics workshop. In the end, she gets a job as a “secretary with a real-estate developer” (Chapter 18, p. 258) and regains her financial independence.
Patricia is an ambitious and determined woman who wants more both for herself and for her son Trevor. Despite living an unhappy life in Transkei with her cousins, she is ambitious and goes to school, where she is taught English and learns how to read and write. Her ambition helps her get a job sewing school uniforms and, although she is paid modestly, she feels proud:
Her pay at the end of each day was a plate of food. She used to say it was the best food she’d ever eaten, because it was...