Trevor was literally born a crime Noah begins his book with this historical context explaining how apartheid relied on creating artificial divisions between groups of people so that the white colonial elite could maintain their power at the start of the memoir Noah tells a funny anecdote from his boyhood his mother Patricia Noah was a deeply religious woman and took her son’s to three different church services on Sundays one black one white and one mixed one Sunday with their car broken down they caught a minibus to get home but the driver threatened and insulted them afraid for their safety.
Patricia opened the door pushed Trevor out and then left after him with his baby brother all while the minibus was still moving they ran to a nearby gas station and phoned the police we soon learned that Noah’s mother was born into a black South African family that belonged to the cosa tribe she was determined and independent and as a young woman moved to Johannesburg on her own there she met Robert a swiss german expat and the man who would be Trevor’s father Patricia and Robert had to hide their relationship.
Patricia would dress up as a maid when she visited Robert so that no one would suspect them Trevor was born a light-skinned mixed-race child he spent much of his early years isolated and hidden in order to protect his parents from arrest when he and his mother went out in Jubair Park in Johannesburg a caretaker would walk with Trevor while Patricia trailed behind them Patricia and Robert remained friends.
And Trevor visited his father every week Trevor also spent much time in his grandmother’s house in the black neighbourhood of Soweto where he grew up mostly among women although he was happy he played alongside the sounds of gunshots screams and tear gas firing into crowds Trevor was a rambunctious child and his mother often disciplines him strictly but they also had a very loving relationship Patricia encouraged Trevor to be a curious and independent thinker who reflected critically asked lots of questions.
And thought for himself she enrolled him in a private Catholic school where Trevor often got in trouble for challenging rules and questioning Authority when Trevor was around six his mother started dating a charismatic mechanic named Abel who lived above the garage of a white family Patricia and Trevor sometimes stayed with him one day when Trevor was seven he and another little boy were playing together with a magnifying glass and matches burning words in two pieces of wood suddenly they set a mattress on fire soon enough the fire spread and consumed the entire house the young Trevor was not punished.
But the white family kicked Abel out he moved in with Trevor and his mother eventually Patricia and Abel decided to marry Trevor didn’t trust his new stepfather and the birth of his half-brother Andrew further complicated the family dynamics meanwhile Trevor felt profoundly isolated and was often the target of bullying one day a group of older boys through mulberries at him when Trevor told Abel he realized he could manipulate Abel’s anger to get revenge, sure enough, Abel caught one of the boys and whipped him with a tree branch watching the violence.
Trevor experienced first pleasure and then horror Trevor was kicked out of Catholic school and transferred to a public school at the end of the 6th grade well he felt most comfortable with the black students he didn’t fit in well with any specific group his mother’s family and other residents of Soweto treated him differently as well because of his light-skinned and perfect English living in the primarily coloured neighbourhood of Eden Park.
He was considered either too black or too white Trevor honed his language skills and could code-switch easily learning to move fluidly between communities meanwhile Abel had experienced serious economic troubles after trying to start his own car repair shop Patricia provided money to help him but Abel’s problems with alcohol made him irresponsible and the business failed Abel began to physically abuse Patricia Trevor and their pets to cut their losses.
Abel sold the shop and they moved to a primarily white neighbourhood called Highlands North Patricia legally divorced Abel but continued to live with him supporting the family with her income while he drank more and more heavily as Trevor grew older he started his own business ventures eventually selling pirated and mix CDs when he finished high school he expanded his business and began DJing parties he spent more time in Alexandra.
An impoverished neighbourhood dominated by petty crime tensions between Trevor and Abel led Trevor to move into his own apartment the relationship between Patricia and Abel deteriorated and Trevor was devastated when he found out Patricia was pregnant again he spent less time with his mother and younger brothers after this meanwhile his DJing career took off the climax of the memoir occurs when Trevor as a young man received a call from his brother.
Andrew Abel had shot Trevor’s mother first he shot her in the leg and then the gun misfired several times and finally he shot her in the head at the hospital doctors were hesitant to treat Patricia because she didn’t have health insurance but Trevor promised to pay her bills miraculously.
Her injuries turned out to be minor no one could explain why the gun misfired but Patricia believed that God intervened on her behalf.
Abel received only probation never serving any jail time Trevor Noah ends his memoir reflecting on the deep love and unshakable bond he shares with his mother.