Trevor Noah

The book’s main character and sole narrator. As the child of a Black woman and a white man born during apartheid, Trevor’s very existence is illegal. He is a smart and spirited child, and he frequently misbehaves. He loves his mother very much but does not hesitate to disobey her. He cares for his father as well even though he does not see him very often. Trevor can speak many languages, and he uses this talent along with his humor to integrate himself into social groups who might otherwise be unkind to him because he is mixed-race.

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Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah

Trevor’s mother. Her Xhosa name, Nombuyiselo, means “She who gives back.” She is a stern disciplinarian, a devout Christian, and a woman who speaks many languages. Patricia teaches these languages to Trevor. She worked hard to leave her village and works hard to ensure that her son has every opportunity to succeed. She is irrepressible even during the period of time when her husband beats her. Trevor has inherited her resilience.

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Patricia’s husband and the father of her two youngest children, Andrew and Isaac. He is an auto mechanic and an abusive alcoholic. Like Patricia’s father, the rest of the community finds him charming. His Tsonga name means “Be afraid.”

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Robert (“The Swiss Man”)

Trevor’s father. He is calm, serious, and very private. He does not care for the laws of apartheid and despises racism. He agrees to father Patricia’s child as part of a practical arrangement that she proposes. He is both kind to Trevor and is proud of his son’s accomplishments. Trevor does not know what brought his father to South Africa or what he did professionally when he and his mother first met, but Trevor enjoys getting to know him as an adult.

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Frances Noah

Patricia’s mother and the matriarch of her family. Her marriage is not a happy one, and like many women in her community, she raises her children and grandchildren without help from a man. She is calm, intelligent, and a loyal member of her women’s prayer group. She behaves in a deferential way to her husband and encourages Patricia to do likewise.

Temperance Noah

Patricia’s father. The ladies in Soweto find him charming, one of the positive traits he exhibits during the upswings in mood that are part of his bipolar disorder. In lower moods, he is full of rage and suffers from bouts of depression.


Patricia’s grandmother. She is elderly, frail, and blind, but aware of everything going on around her. She lives with Patricia’s mother and has conversations with Trevor when he visits.


Patricia and Abel’s oldest son and Trevor’s younger half-brother. Patricia gives birth to him less than two years after she and Abel are married, when Trevor is nine. Andrew loves his father and is the one person who can get through to him when he is enraged.

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Patricia and Abel’s youngest son and Trevor’s younger half-brother. He is born nine years after Andrew. He and Trevor never live in the same house, and he is only four years old when Abel shoots Patricia.


Trevor’s cousin. He cannot believe that Trevor is able to avoid serious punishment for his misbehavior.


Trevor’s first crush. She is the only mixed-race girl in his primary school. She gives Trevor his first kiss.


Trevor’s second crush. She is considered very beautiful. She and Trevor spend a lot of time together in school and develop a deep friendship, but their relationship remains platonic, despite both of them secretly wanting more.


A school friend of Trevor’s. They regularly get into trouble together. Teddy is impish but ultimately very loyal to Trevor. When he is caught shoplifting, he doesn’t reveal that Trevor was with him.


Trevor’s friend from the neighborhood. He has a penchant for scheming and a creative approach to doing business.


The most beautiful girl that Trevor, or anyone else in his circle, has ever seen. She is from a poor family in a different neighborhood and does not attend Trevor’s school. She appears to be shy, but her shyness is a result of her inability to speak English.


A middleman in Trevor’s bootleg CD business. He is well regarded within his community in “the hood” and welcomes Trevor into his beloved township. He recognizes Trevor’s untapped talents and the financial potential in them. 


An older boy who sells bootleg CDs at school. After Trevor helps him collect debts from Black people who haven’t paid, Daniel gives Trevor his equipment when he graduates.


A boy from Trevor’s crew whom he hires to entertain at parties where he mixes CDs. He is the best dancer in the neighborhood and draws a big crowd when he performs.