Monday, September 15, 2014

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release: September 30, 2014
Source: PLA
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 this book defies:

Lie #1: The best historical fiction takes place in Nazi Germany or a Downton Abbey-esque turn-of-the-century mansion.
Ever since I discovered my passion for historical fiction, it has seemed to me that these two settings surpass all other historical landmarks in terms of popularity. As much as I love reading about Hitler's plots and rich people's drama, I have an ongoing wish for more stories about lesser-known pieces of history. When I heard about Lies We Tell Ourselves, I knew I had to read it, and Robin Talley did not disappoint. Meticulously researched and fully thought-out, this debut contains a wealth of fascinating historical details as well as a vivid, emotional portrayal of the prejudices of the times. The atmosphere of oppression in this book made me feel a spectrum of emotions—vicarious triumph, empathetic pain and embarrassment, and biting fury—and left me longing for more novels set in the segregation-saturated South.

Lie #2: You can only tell a story from the point of view of the obvious protagonist.
Talley tells portions of Lies We Tell Ourselves from Linda's viewpoint, providing a fascinating insight into the minds of anti-integrationists. The frustrating ignorance that thrives in this story illustrates the depth of society's brainwashing. I loved looking into Linda's mind, battling rage against those who cultivate the lies that thrive there, and watching her grow as she gets to know Sarah.

Lie #3: Issue books can only talk about one topic
Most issue books I read only focus on one problem or multiple problems that fall under a common umbrella. Lies We Tell Ourselves, however, tackles two huge topics—race-based prejudices and sexual orientation-based prejudices—without ever seeming like it is trying to cram too much subject matter between its bindings. The synopsis barely touches upon the latter plotline, but a large portion of this book follows Sarah and Linda as they fight their romantic feelings toward each other, trying their best to push unwanted emotions aside for fear of ruined reputations. The close-minded setting of a small town in the 50s provides the perfect backdrop for this conflict, squeezing every bit of outrage out of readers. Thanks to the beliefs their society has instilled in them, both girls truly believe the devil has infiltrated their lives, which, to continue with a reoccurring theme in this review, filled me with rage. And that brings me to my final point.

Lie #4: It is bad thing when a book makes you angry.
Lies We Tell Ourselves will make readers so angry they will feel like red-faced cartoon characters with steam pouring out of their ears. Talley does not shy away from the uncomfortable truths about 50s stereotypes, and her novel is far from the typical feel-good tale. However, that is precisely why I loved it. Each cruel word and physical attack that Sarah and her friends endure pulled me further into her story and made me consider issues that shaped the past and are still pertinent today. This story evokes animosity to remind readers how ridiculous prejudices make a society look, hoping to help end discrimination and stereotypes that still exist. Racism and other prejudices may not infect the country now as fatally as they did 60 years ago, but they still run rampant today. In the right hands, though, novels like Lies We Tell Ourselves have to power to change that. Read this book, then pass it along to someone else, and everyone will be a bit better off.


  1. I love that this is also an LGBT novel, as well as focusing on race. I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but I DO really like books about're right! It's nice to find other historical fiction novels though.

  2. Amazing review~
    My hands are now itching to open this book, oh my gosh. Lately I've been exploring historical fiction, and while my current two favorites (Code Name Verity and The Book Thief) are both set in WWII times, I'm definitely on the lookout for novels set in other time periods and settings.
    I love that this book is narrated by Linda as well! Societal brainwashing is such a fascinating topic, in my opinion. Combine this with a turbulent time in US history and LGBTQ elements, and this book sounds like it could be a new favorte of mine.

  3. I've never really been into historical fiction outside the fantasy (with exceptions such as Book Thief), but this seems like a thought-provoking novel and I love that. Everyone needs a bit of reality every once in a while. The LGBT element and the fact that it's set in WWII makes it seem like an interesting read!

  4. CAN I JUST SAY HOW MUCH I <3 THIS REVIEW? So, so beautifully written Emily. :D If the blurb itself didn't convince me to give this a try, your review certainly did!

    "As much as I love reading about Hitler's plots and rich people's drama, I have an ongoing wish for more stories about lesser-known pieces of history."

    I completely agree. Most historical fiction being published is set during WWII or the Edwardian era, which is great and all, but it's always nice to get something unique, and that's where this one really intrigues me.

    I think it's so important that these stereotypes are addressed as well because, even though they're not quite as bad as in the 60s, they still exist, and I find that so sad.

    Definitely giving this a try. Your review has hit all the right spots Emily. Wonderfully done! <3

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

  5. Great review Emily! :) I also love the theme of your blog :)

    I'm nominating your for a Liebster Award! Yay! *throws confetti* Check out my blog for more detials :)

    - IZZY @ The Reading Izzy

  6. I love historical fiction and this seems like an awesome book. You're review is amazing !! It totally convinced me to add this book to my tbr pile immediately !! :)

  7. Ohh I've been dying to read this! And thank you for this beautifully written review - I'm a writer myself but can't write a review to save my life haha xx

    Emily | Lynde Avenue


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