Watch CBS News

Trevor Noah on the power of the spoken word

Trevor Noah on turning memoir into audiobook
Trevor Noah on taking "Born a Crime" from the page to students' ears 07:24

Trevor Noah's bestselling audiobook about being born in apartheid-era South Africa to a black mother and white father was chosen for Newark, New Jersey's first citywide high school listening club. The club is part of Audible's Project Listen Up, a program that provides free Audible memberships and tablets to all Newark high school students and teachers.

"We had met so many kids who said to me, 'Hey, I love stories, but I'm not a great reader.' Or there's one kid who came up to me and said to me straight, 'Yo, as a young, black man, some of my friends are gonna laugh at me if they find me reading the book, but I love your story,'" Noah told "CBS This Morning" on Tuesday.


It was those stories, in part, that inspired the idea to bring Noah's memoir "Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood" to Newark students. It also reflected a deeper part of "The Daily Show" host's own history.

"What I loved seeing how different people connect with the story when it is spoken to them. I've always been a storyteller. I come from a culture of storytellers. And so to have my book as part of the curriculum but as an audiobook is a completely different way for learners to learn not just about my story but also about South Africa's story. A story of belonging, a story of segregation, a story of overcoming a lot of those obstacles," Noah said.

An important message of Noah's story is about what it takes to become a man. A man is made, not born, and Noah credits his mother for that.  

"I realize every day that I'm a product of a person who was greater than myself, who brought me here. And one of the biggest gifts my mother gave me was an opportunity to become a man. You know, you want to be a man, but you have to be created, you know. You have to be taught. You have to be nurtured. And I was really lucky in telling the story that I discovered that my mother was really the hero of my story. I always thought it was me, but I was just her punk-ass sidekick," Noah said.

"CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King noted that Noah doesn't simply read his memoir, he performs it. It's a performance that he said forced him to look at his past in ways he hadn't before.  

"It forced me to visualize everything. When you're writing a book, you're in the words. You see the words, and you think through in a different way. When you're performing the audio book, I think the reason this became the biggest selling audio book on Audible was because I poured my heart and soul in it.... I spent hours and hours going back (to the studio) for weeks," he said. "I remembered each person in such a vivid way because I had to embody them for the story."

To hear what Noah has to say about President Trump's summit Tuesday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, watch the video in the player above.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.