Review of Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

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Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Publication Date: September 30, 2014.

Publisher: Harlequin Teen.

Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, and LGBT.

Rating: 587264602.png

Selling points: Girls loving girls, it deals with racism, faith and gives you hope for the characters and the future.

Purchase here: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis: 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.

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Update 30/12 – 2016: Since I first read Lies We Tell Ourselves in April I have learned that this book is very problematic. I learned this from listening to multiple people pointing it out on Twitter, and I will in the future not recommend or promote this book in any way knowing it has hurt and/or offended people. I will keep my original review for transparency, but I no longer stand by what I thought before. If you’ve read this book because of my recommendation, I’m truly sorry. If you, like me, want to know more about what good representation in books is, I urge you to follow marginalized writers and reviewers on all social media platforms because they are constantly doing amazing, invaluable work, and deserve all the love and praise in the world.

You can read what the author had to say when she addressed the problematic aspects of her book, here.


“The police aren’t here to help us. Their shiny badges are all that’s stopping them from yelling with the other white people. For all we know they trade in those badges for white sheets at night.”

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley is an important and amazing story. A story that shows racism and the struggles black people faced during the late 50s, especially when they started integrating schools. It’s also a story about finding out who you are, standing up for yourself and deciding that you’re the only one who defines who and what you are. Even though this story took place over 50 years ago it’s still as relevant today as it was then.

There is so much racism, hate, and ignorance in our world today both towards colored people and against people in the LGBT+ community. It’s as easy as turning on the news to see that this is true. Lies We Tell Ourselves is a book that teenagers and adults alike have a lot to learn from. It’s about acceptance, standing up for what is right and learning to love yourself for who you are.

“We have just as much right to this world as they have and we are not going to wait around for them to give us permission.”

I love Sarah Dunbar, how brave and strong she is. How she struggled with her time in school, with integrating it and the violence and hate she was met with every single day. Every day was a threat to her safety yet every day she went back. Sarah wanted to do everything she could to make sure her sister Ruth was okay, all this while struggling on her own as well. That’s where Linda comes in. Linda is against integration as much as every other white student in their high school, but when Linda and Sarah are forced to work on a group assignment together they come to learn each other more than what they first thought possible. Both Sarah and Linda are faced with their feelings for each other, with their faith and what other people have told them is right and wrong. Both about integration, race, right, wrong and love. However, they’ll soon learn that what is right is what is in their hearts. Nobody else decides but them.

“We punish ourselves so much in our own imaginations. We convince ourselves everything we do, everything we think, is wrong. For eighteen years I’ve believed what other people told me about what was right and what was wrong. From now on, I’m deciding.”

Lies We Tell Ourselves brought up a lot of emotions in me. It made me angry because of all of the hate that people can have towards each other but in the end, this book also gave me hope. Hope that we can fight against injustice. Hope that we can decide what is right for us. Hope for the fact that we have gotten this far but also hope for the fact that we can continue fighting for people’s basic rights. But lastly Lies We Tell Ourselves gives me hope that I am the one who decides what is right and I can do whatever I want with that.

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