Review: "Lies We Tell Ourselves" by Robin Talley

5 tp

~o~Goodreads Synopsis~o~

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.


Colored people aren’t the same as whites. They aren’t as smart. They haven’t accomplished the things we have. They aren’t as good as we are.”

I’ve been reading too many sad books back to back. This can’t be healthy.

This book was horrifying in the sense that everything that happens in the book no doubt had also happened to someone in real life during this time period. Lies We Tell Ourselves takes place in a Virginia city where schools were ruled to be integrated for the first time. We learn in school how chaotic this time period was, and we celebrate in class when we learn about the end of segregation. But we rarely focus on the huge emotional toll it took for those few black kids who first went to attend a former all-white school. They had to dodge taunts every minute of every day; it was physical and emotional torture. The teachers were just as racist as the students even if they were less direct about it.

This book brings to light two big issues: racism and prejudice against LGBT+ groups. As if being black wasn’t bad enough during this time, Sarah Dunbar also had very “unnatural” and “sinful” feelings for girls. Sarah’s strength is inspiring, especially her ability to keep her head high when her world is falling apart.

Linda’s story is also a heartbreaking one. She struggles with forming her own opinions of black people with an abusive father who is very set against racial integration.

I wanted to jump into the book and give both girls a big bear hug. Read it!

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