BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Governor Livingston Diversity Committee hosted a Literary Lunch virtual book discussion February 24, on the memoir “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah, a well known South African comedian.
Sponsored by the Berkeley Heights Education Foundation, the Zoom event run by Catherine Avino, the media specialist at the high school, and Yuthika Deva, was attended by over 50 participants, including students, faculty, and community members who had diverse opinions about the reading.
The memoir unpacks several stories from Noah’s unique childhood. Aptly named, the title is a nod to his controversial birth. Born to a Swiss father and a Xhosa mother during apartheid in South Africa, a time when a union such as this was unlawful, Noah was indeed “born a crime”.
The event began with a video explaining apartheid in order to help participants fully understand the topic before they engaged in the discussion. Participants were divided into breakout rooms of about five or six people, which made for a more simple and interactive discussion. Each room was prompted by a discussion leader, who had access to a series of thoughtful questions to generate conversation about the book.
Discussion leader Elizabeth Connelly said, “I think that the discussion went well. It was definitely more challenging with it being virtual because some people who were on the Zoom weren't as engaged and there wasn't really anything that I could do to get them to speak more. I would definitely attend a discussion like this in the future”.
Olivia Mazzaferro, a history teacher who attended the discussion, said “The discussion gave students the opportunity to discuss the book not only with their peers, but with teachers and other members of the community. As a result, students were able to discuss the book from various perspectives and gain insight they may not have had while reading on their own.”
Mazzaferro also encourages students to attend future discussions like this. “It is a great way to not only increase awareness on important issues, but become more involved in the larger community,” she said.
Overall, the discussion helped students understand more about the novel. Through multiple perspectives, the participants were able to gain more insight on the themes and important subject matter in the novel.
As the Diversity Committee plans more events like this one, people will gain an increased awareness about subjects that they aren’t already familiar with.
“We have events like this, we have 60 people, but all those people wanted to read this book, and they wanted to learn more because they’re ready to start having these conversations. But I think it’s not enough to just have the people who already care about the issue to talk about it. We need to talk about it with people who don’t know as much. That is a step we need to take,” junior Emily Radick said.