The Other Side of Truth
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2000 edition with award seal
|Pages||227 pp (first edition)|
|LC Class||PZ7.N1384 Ot 2000|
|Followed by||Web of Lies|
The Other Side of Truth is a children's novel about Nigerian political refugees, written by Beverley Naidoo and published by Puffin in 2000. It is set in the autumn of 1995 during the reign in Nigeria of the despot General Abacha, who is waging a campaign of suppression against journalists. A Nigerian girl and her younger brother must leave suddenly after their mother is killed in a failed assassination of their outspoken father. They are smuggled to London but abandoned and they must cope with the police, social services and school bullies. Naidoo won the annual Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject. It has also won the NESTLE SMARTIES SILVER AWARD 2000.
Although this novel is written in the third person, it presents the perspective of a 12-year-old girl, Sade Solaja. Her father, Folarin Solaja, is a journalist, one of the most critical of the corrupt regime. The book opens with her memory of hearing the two shots which ended her mother's life, a memory which recurs throughout the novel in her thoughts and dreams. Her memories of Nigeria are often set in contrast to her experiences of an alien England, while her mother's remembered words of wisdom give her comfort and strength. The concentration on Sade's point of view makes many events seem obscure and confusing, just as she experiences them.
After the shooting, Sade's Uncle Tunde urges her father to send her and her 10-year-old brother Femi to safety in England. They are forced to pack and leave suddenly and secretly. They fly to London posing as the children of a stranger, Mrs Bankole, so they can travel on her passport. When their Uncle Dele fails to collect them at the airport, Mrs Bankole abandons them at a coffee shop near Victoria Station. Money less and friendless, they wander the streets looking for the art college where their uncle works. They find refuge in a video store, but the owner calls the police, believing them to be vandals. Thus they come to the attention of the authorities. Worried to tell the truth in case it endangers their father, Sade takes refuge in silence and later in half-truths. The children are fostered first by Mrs Graham and her rude and mean son Kevin and later by the Kings, a Jamaican couple whose children have grown up and left. They are sent to different schools. Sade is sent to Avon School where she meets a girl from Somalia, called Mariam whose story is similar to Sade's. Marcia and Donna the Bullies from school treat Sade very badly, putting pressure on her to steal a turquoise lighter from Mariam's uncle's store. Femi goes to Greenslades Primary School. They become reticent with each other.
It later emerges that her worried father has entered England illegally to look for them but has been arrested. There is a chance that he will be deported to face certain death in Nigeria, especially as the Nigerian police claim he is wanted for his wife's murder. Although Iyawo Jenny and Mr Nathan try their hardest to help Sade's father but things are not working out. Sade braves the freezing night to speak to "Mr. Seven O'Clock", the newscaster whom she has seen on television, to bring her father's story to the attention of the British public. The story ends with her father's release for Christmas, though asylum has yet to be granted. They hope one day they can return safely to Nigeria. Sade misses her grandmother and her former life.
The foreword is written by Jon Snow, a real-life "Mr Seven O'Clock", who describes the book as "a fast and vivid account of a family's escape from threat and murder.... Not only a marvellous read, but one that refuels the desire for justice and freedom within and beyond our shores". Then say by quoting that a line has been taken out of one of Donne's poems that is "on a huge hill,cragged and steep,truth stands, and he that will reach her, about must, and about must go"
A sequel, "Web of Lies," was published by Amistad Press in 2006. This story deals with the problems faced by Femi while the family is waiting to hear if asylum is to be granted. It was nominated for an Angus Book Award.
The book consists of several themes. The most important and recognisable are:
- Clash of cultures (adaptation and tolerance)
- Freedom of speech vs. censorship
- Democracy vs. dictatorship
- Discrimination and prejudice
- Human rights
- The truth
- Coming of age
The Other Side of Truth won a UK Arts Council Award for work in progress. After publication it won the British librarians (CILIP) Carnegie Medal as the year's best children's book. A retrospective citation by CILIP says that it "skilfully blends fact and fiction to leave a lasting impression of real issues at work" and describes it as: "An important book which challenges the notion of 'truth' itself." It further describes the writing as "gripping, powerful and evocative".
The Other Side of Truth was silver runner up for the 2000 Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, was named an International Board on Books for Young People Honour Book in 2002, and won the 2002 Jane Addams Children's Book Award.
Allusions to historical events
The novel refers to the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other journalists, which caused an international outcry in 1995. It is set in the immediate aftermath of those executions. Although in the early twenty-first century the military regime no longer controls the country, media rights body Reporters Without Borders says Nigeria is still a violent place for the press, with journalists often suffering beatings, unfair arrests and police raids.
Also referred to in the novel is the civil war in Somalia, which Sade's school friend Mariam experienced as a young child.
- "The other side of truth" (first edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2012-07-30.
"The other side of truth" (first U.S. edition). LCC record. Retrieved 2012-07-30.
- (Carnegie Winner 2000). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
- The Other Side of Truth. Author. Beverley Naidoo. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
- "Daily Abuses suffered by Nigeria's journalists", Reporters without Borders, 7 May 2012
Nestle Smarties Silver Award Winner 
- The Other Side of Truth in libraries (WorldCat catalog) —immediately, first US edition
- "The Other Side of Truth" —Carnegie Medal acceptance speech by the author
- Writing The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo
- Dossier – The Other Side of Truth (Beverley Naidoo) —Resources at La Clé des langues
- Author's comments at British Council
- Teaching resource sheets
Postcards from No Man's Land
|Carnegie Medal recipient
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents