Summary The Other Side
By: Jacqueline Woodson
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson is a narrative told from the perspective of a young African American girl named Clover. In the story, the existence of a fence that extends across town remains a focus throughout the entire story. The fence is indicative of an unseen boundary that is not to be crossed – according to her mother, that is, because it isn’t safe. As the story progresses, Clover’s curiosity is sparked by a young girl named Annie, who is seen sitting on the fence. Annie’s first interaction with Clover and her friends is marked by rejection as she finds herself unwelcomed to join in a game of jump rope. Clover questions her mother as to why people and things on the other side of the fence seemed distant. To this she replies that things have always been this way. One day, Clover gathers up the courage to speak to Annie – courage that is accompanied by a feeling of freedom. Clover and Annie’s interaction is rather pleasant as they spend the summer sitting on the fence. As their friendship continues to build, Annie breaks the barrier and climbs over to Clover’s side, and soon even Clover’s friends welcome her in.
The issues touched upon in The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson are segregation, racial discrimination, and friendships. With regards to segregation, the story of Clover and Annie bring to light the impact of segregation in society as it trickles down to young children who have yet to grasp a complete understanding of the situation. This book would be appropriate to use in a unit on the Civil Rights Movement. Additionally, students can use the example of Clover and Annie’s experience to discuss and explore symbolism – the symbol behind the fence and any ‘fences’ that they have built around themselves as well as ‘fences’ that have been by society that still stand today.
♦ Exploring Issues of Social Injustice – The town in which Clover and Annie live is separated by a fence. Clover and Annie’s parents do not acknowledge one another even while passing in the streets and the girls are reminded to stay on their side of the fence. The fence represents the existence of segregation and racial discrimination.
♦ Social Movements and Social Change – In the story, Clover’s brave act of approaching Annie is met with a feeling of freedom. Change for Clover and Annie start small. Both girls go against their parents’ wishes and their curiosity leads them to interact with each other. Gradually, their encounter develops into a friendship, which eventually develops into multiple friendships with the rest of Clover’s friends.
♦ Taking Social Action – Using Clover and Annie’s friendship as an example, students may examine their own relationships/interactions with different people around them. Social action can be taken within the classroom, starting small, by creating a positive community. Explore personal fences they may have put up.