Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Publication Date: September 30, 2014 
Publisher: Harlequin Teen 
Pages: 384

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.
My Thoughts
I didn't think I was going to like this book, but I gave it a shot because I've heard good reviews. I am so glad I did. This book is ... if not life-changing, then maybe the next best thing. 

The story alternates points of view, starting with Sarah, a black student attending a newly desegregated high school in Virginia. Sarah has to deal with rampant racism, harassment, abuse, and a personal challenge she's kept hidden away within herself. She gets paired up on a school assignment with our other narrator, Linda. Linda is white and the daughter of an outspoken, pro-segregation, super racist newspaper editor (owner?). The story revolves around both of our protagonists - Linda coming to terms with how freakishly horrible the world is to Sarah, and Sarah dealing with struggles and triumphs and losses.  

That story in and of itself would be phenomenal, but the thing that makes this book truly great is the subplot. This involves a major spoiler, so prepare yourself. 


The subplot revolves around Sarah and Linda both realizing that they are lesbians. Sarah seems to have known this for quite some time, but Linda is just discovering this truth about herself within the novel. I thought this part was exceptionally well done. Sarah is constantly beating herself for her same gender attraction. She's constantly trying to "repent" and even try to make herself be attracted to young men.  She feels dirty and wrong and she hates herself for being different.  Her struggle is very accurate to what I know many people have experienced, and I was so impressed with how well Talley wrote it.

Linda doesn't do quite as much soul searching, which is interesting as she's in love with Sarah, and a mixed-race relationship in 1959 Virginia was just as bad if not worse than a same-sex relationship.  So to combine both a mixed race and same sex relationship?  Dooooommmm.  And Talley treats the subject delicately but appropriately.

I just thought the author treated this topic so very well. It's clear that this book is a work of love, and also clear that the feelings that went into it were experienced by the author herself. I was so impressed by all of this. If you're a mature person and can handle that subplot (and if you can't, I don't want to hear it) I highly, highly recommend this book. It was phenomenal. I loved it. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy to have for my very own. A++ would re-read over and over again.

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