Fenixbird SandS's Reviews > The Other Side of Truth

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo
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** spoiler alert ** 2000 Carnegie Medal winner "Don't judge a village by the thief. If a dog steals, will you punish the goat? Nigerian sayings.Book Selection: Naidoo, Beverley, The Other Side of Truth, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000, 249 pages.

Type of Book: Multicultural fiction.

Grade level: The Other Side of Truth is most suited for 6th - 8th grade readers or older (Deep issues: Fate, death, political oppression, refugees)
Plot Summary: A very intimate look at the struggles faced by Sade, a 12-year-old Nigerian girl, and Femi, her 10-year-old brother, who are quickly flown out of Nigeria for their safety by airplane to London to stay with their Uncle Dele Jagele, a Professor at the College of Art. Struggles, heartbreak at the loss of their mother’s death by shooting, and their resulting placement in the U.K. Foster Care System shortly after their upon arrival in London and abandonment by their smuggler. When their Uncle Professor Dele cannot be found they are thrown at the mercy of fate!

Book Thesis: Sade and her brother, Femi, learn the hard way the painful truth that reporting the truth (as their journalist father has done) may in some instances be politically incorrect and have tragic consequences. The meaning of death and life-altering consequences include for them: (1) the shooting death of their mother, (2) the imprisonment of their father upon his arrival in London to find them, whereupon a long time elapses before they learn this news (3) their own frightening experiences in the aftermath, including repairing the damage to their trust their smuggler (Mrs. Bangole’s) abandonment has created; and (4) entering the refugee status system to integrate into British society.

(1) How does Femi cope?
(2) What are the roots of hatred? Why had the students at Sade’s new high school taken such an instant dislike to her??
(3) Why does their former foster care Mother’s son Kevin laugh and ridicule Sade and Femi? Why didn’t Kevin show more compassion first when they stayed in his house and later when Sade enrolls at his school/classroom?
(4) Imagine any one or two of these experiences happening to you! How would you handle your circumstances? Could you survive without your family if left on your own??
(5) What was the reason Uncle Dele could not be found?

Supporting details:
(1) Sade and Femi are forced to accept that their mother has been shot and killed because of their father’s journalistic reporting, an act of political oppression and retaliation because of an article Papa has written.

“…to no longer come home to her welcoming smile…” Sade is thinking yet the next day after she has died, as changes begin to come at her rapidly!
***SPOILER ALERT***
(2) Sade and Femi suffer frightening experiences in the aftermath:
(a) Right at first after their arrival being taken NOT directly to their Uncle Dele but instead their “smuggler” insists first on going to meet her “husband,” then immediately realizing that Mrs. Bangole has left them in the café alone.
(b) While searching for a safer, warmer place to get through the night encountering a bully and thief who steals their clothes;
(c) Being held accountable to answer to the police by the owner of the video store where they have spent a few minutes. This is because while they were there a young black gang comes in and vandalizes the store. The video store owner is convinced that Sade and Femi were the gang’s decoys, something the police do not agree on.

(d) Ending up in the British foster care system because of being taken by the police for questioning in the video store vandalization incident.
(e) Suffering ridicule, hostility, and discrimination as Nigerians in foster care living in London and immediately upon entering new schools in London as refugees;
(3) The imprisonment of their father upon his arrival in London. It is not until they hear a news report about their father that they are aware he successfully fled Nigeria! Weeks have already elapsed before the news is heard on the media.
Major concepts of the book: 1. Loved one’s (mother’s) death; 2 Further shock over being sent away to London then learning they are abandoned and their Uncle cannot be found; 3 Learning about the process of dying/experiencing the inevitable stages of grieving over a loved one’s death(s) 4 The damage to their trust from the circumstances of becoming first smuggled into a foreign country and then having to decide just how much truth they can safely share with the British government and protect themselves from Nigerian retaliation as well as their father who will try to follow them to London; Strong sense of honor, family, responsibility, sense of fair play. 5 Loss of contact with any family, and incredible resultant implications of change in their life, fate, even survival; 6 Learning the process of becoming a legal refugee in a foreign country; 7 Handling the bullying even from Kevin, the son of their first foster placement; 8 Sade must assume responsibility for both her and her brother’s fate; 8 Discovery of the process of reintegration and the nature of bullying from hateful classmates; and 9 Truths/parables from her upbringing, her homeland of Nigeria.
Evaluation of how these major concepts are met (examples from the book):
(1) The children draw strength from their memories of their mother following her sudden shooting death. The reader is, in particular, shown Sade’s memories of times together with her parents and her mother in particular are included in flash backs. Her memories are definitely something left for Sade to hang onto amidst the constant flux of her early days, weeks, and months after arriving in London. Sade’s recollections about her mother’s words are interwoven as they occur within the storyline and bring real comfort to Sade in her hour of crises.
(2) Further shock over being sent away to London then learning they are abandoned and separated from their father, whose fate/safety remains uncertain. Mrs. Peacock (aka smuggler’s actual name Mrs. Bangole) cautions them just prior to abandoning them: abandoned and separated from their father, whose fate/safety remains uncertain their fate –from their mother’s death, abandonment by the woman (Mrs. Bangole) who flew them to London disguised as “her children.” The children accept this admonition as truth.
“You must tell no one your real names. If you do, then we will not be able to help your father get out of Nigeria…”


..A very intimate look at the struggles faced by Sade, a 12-year-old Nigerian girl, and her 10-year-old brother when for their safety their father sends them by plane out of Nigeria, fleeing to London to stay with their uncle in London, but whom they are unable to locate. Struggles, heartbreak at the loss of their mother’s death by shooting, and their resulting placement in the U.K. Foster Care System are depicted.
Book Thesis: Sade and her brother learn the hard way the painful truth that reporting the truth (as their father has done) can have tragic consequences. The meaning of death and life-altering consequences include for them: (1) the shooting death of their mother, (2) the imprisonment of their father upon his arrival in London to find them, and (3) their own frightening experiences in the aftermath, including the additional life-altering experience of foster care, bullying, discrimination.

(3) Learning about the process of grieving/experiencing the inevitable stages of grieving over a loved one’s death(s) includes: shock, denial, anger, acceptance.
Coping with and accepting their fate. Mother’s words often ring in Sade’s head and give her direction while she is confronting obstacle and new experience after obstacle, . The advice of her mother kept coming to Sade’s mind. Admonitions like “Don’t let them see you’re afraid. Don’t show people why you are frightened. Don’t let them see it!” (pages 117-118, 124)
Slowly Sade comes to feel acceptance of the loss of her mother. She takes comfort in memories of her mother and her mother’s advice, which give her something to draw upon as she faces challenge after challenge. The childrens’ rapidly changing circumstances cause Sade to seek refuge in her thoughts, her recollections of “safety” and “home.” This continues to be a theme throughout Sade’s continuing ordeals as we see Sade feeling the responsibility that her mother often had placed upon her to care for her brother. Femi, however, withdraws and comforts himself in television, video games, and comic books.
(4) There is much damage caused to their trust from the circumstances of becoming first smuggled into a foreign country and then having to decide just how much truth they can safely share with the British government yet still protect their father who will try to follow them to London. They are now at the mercy of fate –now that their mother has died and they were abandoned at Victoria Station by the woman (Mrs. Bangole) who flew them to London disguised as “her children;”
Desperate to regain Femi’s confidence after she has attempted for a second time with Aunt Gracie (her second foster parent) to contact someone in Nigeria, Sade gains the courage to attempt to telephone her home in Nigeria, saying she is trying to reach her Uncle Tunde. When their foster father asks Sade, “Do you know where he works in Lagos?” Sadie informs her foster parents that he was a lawyer and had an office, but that she had no idea where.
(5) The loss of contact with any family mixed with their incredible changes keep the children in a state of frustration, panic, and mistrust of their new and former governments. They have begun to feel the implications of telling the truth. Their focus remains hopeful, and they are resolute upon continuing to offer any protection within their power to protect Papa Folarin Solaja until he is able to leave Nigeria and travel to London to meet up with them.
“But with each passing day without news of her father, Sade began to feel even more fearful whenever she thought of Papa.”
The foster care social workers and immigration attorney, “Mr. Nathan,” had been extremely patient with Sade and Femi. When the children were faced with more questions during fingerprinting where they had been brought to apply for temporary refugee status, Mr. Nathan had stepped in and indicated how fearful the children had originally been. Midway through the book, on page 138, Mama Appiah, their Afrikan social worker, again gently nudges Sade for more information.

AUTHOR'S TONE, POINT OF VIEW, AND MOOD
TONE: From chapter titles, to the names invented by the children for the amazing array of individuals they encounter as they are exiled from Nigeria to London make for a bit of insight or even humor, a detached psychological technique for diffusing the foreignness and ludicrousness the children experience while reintegrating as refugees. This tone is helpful allowing the young reader to experience vicariously at least some of the myriad of emotions which these characters feel while still in the wake of such tragedy. Among these made up names are Cool Gaze, Eyes, Mr. Big Speech, Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Seven O’Clock, Brush Head (for his spiky hairdo), Hawk Man, and Hawk Woman.

Sand Dunes Lady was the name given by Sade to a woman at the Immigration office who was cradling her baby. When Sade is provided a fellow student to help her during her adjustment to her new high school, Sade’s daydreams and wandering thoughts show her distraction while beginning her studies at this uniform-wearing school.

“Miss Harcourt was trying to make her [Sade] feel at ease, but the more she said that she was sure, the less sure Sade felt about anything. Miss Harcourt signaled her to stay outside, while she opened 8M’s [her tutor classroom] door. . . .

“A girl with a blue headscarf, sweater and trousers came out of the room. Her face reminded Sade of the Sand Dunes Lady….”

Miss Harcourt introduces Sade to Mariam, “This is Mariam, one of my best students. Mariam came from Somalia less than a year ago. So, East and West Africa! I’m sure you’ll become good friends.” (Pages116-118)

POINT OF VIEW: The book is written from a child, Sade’s, perspective. Sade and Femi are two average siblings who experience this disaster somewhat differently. Sade had always been admonished by her late mother to “take care of Femi.” She takes courage in remembering the lessons from her Nigerian heritage, which I found myself moved by. These are some of the deepest, most heartfelt of moments Sade has to draw comfort, courage, and solace from. The more heartwarming of all of the writing, too, these small glimpses at Sade and Femi’s healthy and strong primary and secondary Nigerian socialization seem to help to regulate Sade’s moods and to aid her in keeping a level head. With so much change to deal with, her family’s endearing lessons are exactly the well of history with which Sade identifies herself. She will later have to “answer to Papa” for her actions, Naidoo writes. What would Mama say or do? Papa emphatically has described bullies as cowards. How Sade wished Papa were here to ask how she could thwart the bullies, since she encounters so many.

In her role as Femi’s protector as well as his older sibling, Sade naturally assumes the lead on most occasions. Perhaps this allows her to shift her concentration more on problem solving than overreaction or hysteria--as they face one after another challenge.
These are some sayings used in her Grandmother’s village which come to Sade’s thoughts: "Don't judge a village by the thief. If a dog steals, will you punish the goat?" “A lie has seven winding paths, the truth one straight road.”
Amidst their turmoil, they can still rely on each other. They each handle their misfortune in different ways, however. Femi holds his emotions tightly inside but explodes when they are required to be fingerprinted at Immigration. After waiting a very long time, when at last it was their turn to go into the fingerprint room, Femi refused to move. “They won’t give us our papers, Femi! We have to do it,” Sadie whispered. She was aware of people looking at them.
Mr. Harris, their immigration attorney, accompanies the pair to the Immigration Department where they must among other things be fingerprinted. Femi’s reaction to even the idea of being fingerprinted is,
‘ “You think we’re thieves?” he muttered fiercely.
“Many people say that children should not be fingerprinted,” said Mr. Nathan quietly. “But I’m afraid the rules allow it.”
‘Hawk Man now began with Femi. “You must relax,” he ordered.
‘But Femi held his arm so stiffly that the man had to struggle to raise her brother’s hand up to the pad. “This isn’t going to work unless you can relax,” he repeated. He appealed to Mama Appiah. “Can you tell him in his own language that I’m not going to hurt him?” ‘ (p. 101).

MOOD: This book is shocking and makes no attempt to either hide the truth of political oppression or the consequences in very real terms which necessitated the children being sent into exile—to prevent their murder! The Other Side of Truth becomes somewhat of a study of the idea of truth due to the circumstances these children encounter, which even arise from their journalist father’s courage to “write the truth” in their own country of Nigeria. The bond of family, the strength of the ties of family, and the incredibly deep primary socialization Sade has experienced sees her through her shocking and nightmarish experiences.

It is no surprise as to why author Beverley Naidoo’s fictional novel won the 2000 Carnegie Award. Her characterizations are rich and detailed. She has courageously presented many current and life-changing topics in a palatable form for young readers. The reader certainly can “feel” the struggle and heartache experienced by Sade and Femi, as well as her whole family undoubtedly. Torn from their loving, devoted family these two shine as excellent examples of the truth from their primary socialization remaining evident in their decision making as they tackle the hardest choices of their lifetimes. Surprisingly compassionate foster care parents are among the happier experiences of this brother and sister pair. All these carefully silhouetted and placed functions convey to the reader the experiences these children survive!
Many possible uses of The Other Side of Truth in the classroom: (9 pts)
1. Intermediate ELL students – This book brings up so many of the struggles English Language Learners face or have faced, whether they are immigrants by choice or refugees. The Other Side of Truth fits into the multi-cultural fiction category and would benefit all immigrants with their self-identity, and, in particular, Afrikan immigrants and refugees. This book is a wealth of rich characters to pick from to study, from their homeland of Nigerian of the two main characters Sade and Femi, but also Mariam who is a refugee from Somalia. Other countries such as Ghana are mentioned. The lovely “Mama Appriah” herself emigrated from Ghana. Aunt Gracie and her husband, the children’s foster parents, were selected by their social worker due to their Afrikan heritage.
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Reading Progress

04/13/2011 page 81
30.0%
04/17/2011 page 249
92.0% "Wonderful fiction book which incorporates some current events during the year 1995. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Othe... ia.org."
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