By Sola Ogunbiyi

While reading ‘Born A Crime’ by Trevor Noah, one cannot overlook Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah (PNN), the one character whose determination, strength, resilience deserves emulation. These stories shared by her son depicts a mother who is unrelenting and defiant irrespective of what her environment or current situation dictates.

Although she and Trevor were literally the center of these stories, the chapter titled “The Second girl” gives a brief insight to her life.

As I read through the chapter, I found so many lessons and takeaways that I believe as women we should try to embody:

  • Get value: even though she didn’t have clothes or shoes, or even underwear, she learnt English; an added advantage for her during the colonization of South Africa, so she could speak, read and write English and Xhosa.
  • Earn your own: due to the number of mouths to feed in her aunt’s house, she fought tooth and nail to eat, and when she was able to earn and afford a meal she took pride in the fact that she didn’t have to look to someone before she could eat.
  • Learn rather than ignore the past: living with her grandmother meant she would have to spend her income trying to fix the past “Black Tax” which would inevitably make her poor, so rather than remain the status quo; she ran away from home, and was determined to make her present and future worthwhile.
  • “Life is full of pain, let the pain sharpen you” she told Trevor; The reality is everyone will grow through pain, what differentiates us is how it shapes us.
  • Names are important: her name stood for ‘She who gives back’ and she was literally always giving.
  • Be an example, teach, inspire: PNN made sure her son learn the right tools irrespective of her earnings. She would teach, quiz and ask him thought provoking questions on what he read.
  • Stay on top of your finances: although Trevor termed her frugal, I’ll call her smart money woman because her earnings weren’t extravagant and she spent within her limits.
  • Sometimes be goofy, joke, don’t be so serious: he mentioned she used to chase him to beat him whenever he was naughty, when he got older and could outrun her, she’ll shout ‘thief’ so people could catch him for her.  She even made a joke when she got fake Adidas for him, and said he was lucky his Adidas logo came with four stripes as opposed to three.
  • Don’t let your circumstance hinder you from living: Trevor says, “I never felt poor because our lives were rich with experience. We were always out doing something, going somewhere… My mom raised me as if there were no limitations on anywhere I could go or what I could do… She raised me to believe that the world was my oyster”.

Those who have read “Born a Crime” have an insight to this character.  If you have not read it, I recommend that you grab a copy, read, learn, be entertained, and most of all be inspired by a not-so-famous heroine…