Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is narrated in the first person by Trevor Noah, who is also the main character, as the book tells real stories from his life. The narrator presents the events that took place roughly between 1984 – the year of his birth – and 2009 – the year when his stepfather shoots his mother. The events are told in retrospect, strictly from Trevor’s perspective.
At times, the narrator presents events that took place before he was born, as he heard them from others. For example, he talks about his mother’s childhood, which he learned about from her stories:
My mother never sat me down and told me the whole story of her life in Transkei. She’d give me little bursts, random details, stories of having to keep her wits about her to avoid getting raped by strange men in the village. She’d tell me these things and I’d be like, Lady, clearly you do not know what kind of stories to be telling a ten-year-old. (Chapter 5, p. 73)
The narrator’s tone is humorous throughout the memoir and reflects Trevor Noah’s career as a comedian. The stories he tells are meant to amuse readers and to create the portrait of a young boy who uses humor as a coping mechanism for the difficult life under apartheid. For example, he humorously describes the episode in which he defecates on the kitchen floor, suddenly aware of his great-grandmother’s presence:
It was like the scene in Jurassic Park when the children turn and the T. rex is right there. Her eyes were wide open, cloudy white and darting around the room. I knew she couldn’t see me, bu...