Trevor Noah’s ‘Born a Crime’ chosen as Shared Read book

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
For the 2017-18 academic year, students and the broader Rider community will participate in the annual Shared Read program by reading and discussing Born a Crime, Trevor Noah’s compelling memoir about growing up under apartheid in South Africa during the 1980s and '90s. 

The book, which was a New York Times bestseller, earned rave reviews for exposing the absurdities and contradictions of apartheid through a personal story of survival. Noah, who succeeded Jon Stewart to become the host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central in 2015, balances humor and seriousness while depicting his unusual childhood. 

The book's title refers to Noah’s birth — a criminal act under apartheid because his South African mother was black and his Swiss-German father was white. Noah tells of his struggles as a multiracial child where, at times, his parents had to pretend he wasn’t their child. 

Born a Crime creates a portrait of the hardships he and his family endured and how Noah was able to develop into his own under dark and occasionally bizarre circumstances. As a boy, Noah navigated dangerous scenarios with the help of his humor and intellect, but equally important, his story highlights his mother’s efforts and love for him.  

“The Shared Read allows students and the entire Rider community to learn about social issues like those raised in Noah’s incisive memoir,” says Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs DonnaJean A. Fredeen. “Beyond starting an important conversation, our hope is that students will build upon what they have learned by taking action in their communities.”

Poverty, criminal justice and immigration are all topics covered by previous books chosen for the Shared Read, a program that encourages students to look deeply into important issues — both in the classroom and out (a full program of events will support the Shared Read program during the fall semester).

"Noah’s account of South Africa under apartheid is both alarming and fascinating — and a wonderful vehicle for students to grapple with issues of race and class that might shock them," says Associate Dean of Student Affairs Ira Mayo.

All first-year students attending summer orientation will receive a free copy of the book, which faculty use in the Rider classroom experience, a key component of orientation that introduces incoming first-year students to the expectations of college faculty and the importance of time management as independent students. Additional copies of the book are made available to the Rider community on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The process of selecting the Shared Read book includes a committee of faculty, staff and students who carefully read and consider the issues a range of books, as well as how they could be applied to courses across the curriculum and additional programs. 

Last year’s Shared Read was Enrique’s Journey by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Sonia Nazario. Through investigative reporting, Nazario documented the story of how South American children emigrate to the U.S. by riding on top of freight trains. Immigration was a timely topic issue during the 2016 presidential election; the combination of the Shared Read and the election inspired thoughtful conversations across the University. 

A successful comedian, Noah debut his ninth comedy special, Afraid of the Dark, this year on Netflix. His sold-out shows have spanned five continents. In 2015, he won “Personality of the Year” at the MTV Africa Music Awards. Noah’s performance on the Born a Crime audiobook was Audible’s highest rated audiobook of 2016.