Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Release Date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Rated: YA 14+
Format: eGalley
Source: NetGalley
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository
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In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept "separate but equal."

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

Lies We Tell Ourselves was a difficult book to read, and this is a difficult review to write. Wow. Honestly, that is all I can really say without sounding too incomprehensible. So many thoughts after finishing this book and all I can really say is wow.

I honestly did not expect this book to be that difficult to read. I felt like I was choking on emotions–both from the book and my own–while I was reading Lies We Tell Ourselves. I was on the constant verge of tears, every bloody time I read the horrific words spoken to the black students that attend this high school. As I’m not actually from the states, I didn’t really know much about the segregation. Just a few things here or there but I really didn’t know the whole story until I went to Boston for university. In one of my social science classes we learned about the attempts to desegregate and how that was met with a lot of resistance. However, I didn’t really get how difficult it was until I’d read this book. Obviously, it’s fictional, but the author has clearly done some research into the reactions from people of both sides and has delved deep into this period of time.

I loved Sarah’s character. She’s strong and determined, but I also loved seeing her more fragile side, the side that she hides. Honestly, if I was in the same position as she is in this book, I would have given up long ago. No joke. The way she and her friends are treated is beyond horrifying, and the way her character powers through is truly the stuff of brilliance. Linda’s character on the other hand... took a little more warming up to. At first I was like “wait, WHAT? She’s the love interest?!?!” and my confusion is totally understandable because she’s a complete racist for most of the book. It helped that when the narrative switched to her perspective, her doubt comes through quite clearly, but through Sarah’s eyes she seems absolutely awful. Obviously, she changes over time, but for the most part I didn’t like her character.

It’s interesting to see how one problem piles on top of the other–what I mean by this is racial equality is not the only challenge in the book. If you completely missed this (and you REALLY must have missed this), this book also brings in gay rights. I just wish the author had elaborated a bit more on what gay rights were like at this point. There were a few mentions here and there, about how it was sinful and wrong, and that there wasn’t much to be found about it, but I wish that the author had given a broader scope of what was actually going on in America (concerning the attitudes towards homosexuality, etc.) during this time in the 20th century.

Robin Talley’s debut shocked me from the first page–I was completely taken in by the horrific nature and resistance of white America in the late 50’s. Powerful, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a story that demands to be read, and Talley has managed to capture the frightful reality of African-Americans during the period of desegregation. I can’t wait to read more from Robin Talley because I’m sure that whatever is to come will be fierce, moving and passionate.

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  1. I agree, a tough read. But well worth it and a good one.

  2. I'm glad to see that you found this book worth reading. I've been wanting to pick it up for a while because it's very intriguing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

  3. So glad you enjoyed this! We read it a few months ago for the YA Diversity Book Club, and we all found it very worthwhile.


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