Wednesday 5 October 2016

Review Time! - Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves title image

Title: Lies We Tell Ourselves

Author: Robin Talley

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ+ (F/F)

Amazon: UK - USA

A few starting notes:

Robin Talley is fast becoming one of my faves.

After reading As I Descended in September, I kind of... wanted more. So I found one of Talley's earlier books, Lies We Tell Ourselves - and dove right on in there!

That said, I was conscious of the fact that I'm a white woman, writing a review of a book by a white woman, with one of the two points-of-view being that of a black woman, and the major theme being race and desegregation.

So I put out a call on Twitter for any black people who had previously reviewed this book; it felt only right to get a black person's opinion if possible, otherwise it's just us white women talking about a book which has race at its heart.

The lovely Dee Dee @ Will Read For Food answered, and I am uber-pleased to be able to link to her review here :)

Her review is fab, so check it out! I'll also be quoting Dee Dee in the course of my review :)


The late 1950s. Virginia.

Sarah is one of the first black students to ever go to the local, previously all-white, high-school.

She and a small contingent from the local black high-school take that first step towards integration; they thought it would be difficult... but did they think it would be this difficult?

black girl pic

To make things even more complicated, Sarah's eye has inexplicably wandered to Linda Hairston - the daughter of the local voice of pro-segregation, and herself an advocate against integrated schools.

Sarah and Linda are on opposite sides of the integration battle - so why, more than anything, do they want to spend time together?

Best bits:

Hrjgtnepthmmkgyrhnlke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DUDES, THIS BOOK!!!!!!

We have complex characters, deep themes, and an F/F love story that doesn't feel as if it was shoehorned in at the last minute.

All that is awesome enough - but Robin Talley can also write, and it's to her credit that she balances all of the different aspects of this book.

Talley does exceptionally well in showing the realities of desegregation, and the general prejudice Sarah's family and friends face.

She doesn't sugar-coat the process of black and white students going to the same school, but neither does she lose sight of integration being the greater good.

This is what Dee Dee thought on this point:

'This is one of those books that I’ll recommend to anyone that says to me that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is doing more harm than good. Once upon a time it was thought that desegregation would do more harm than good as well.'

white girl pic

I loved Sarah and Linda.

But wait, Cee, how can you like a bigoted character?

Because she has a rocking story arc! Because the change in Linda is... I think Dee Dee says it better:

'Linda's character growth was beautiful to witness. She moved from a closed-minded status quo POV to someone who finally thought for herself.' 

Sarah is strong - she struggles a lot with what she's going through: both the attitudes of the white students/teachers, and the fact that she is attracted to girls.

But throughout it all she is strong - and is my new book-girlfriend, because - wow! She rules.

Not so great bits:

Look, this book is heavy (metaphorically - I read the e-book so it was not, in fact, heavy.)

It deals with the harsh realities of this period of history, and doesn't shy away from the sh*t that black people had to deal with just to go to the same school as white people.

As such, it gets violent in places, it gets shocking often, and there's lots of racist slurs - including repeated use of the 'n' word. You've been warned.

Personally, my only problem with this book is the perennial problem with a good book - you can't leave it there! What happened next?!?!


The book! Guys, the book!

Or, as Dee Dee said far more eloquently (seriously, check out her review):

'This book leaves you feeling raw.'

UPDATE 27th November:

Recent discussion of this book has brought up issues with the racial representation in this book - especially the use of the 'n' word, and issues with Linda's early perspective.

While I still love this book, these are valid criticisms that I hadn't caught in my reading - and this is Robin Talley's response to them.

If you have any posts/reviews sharing your concerns with the racial rep. in this book, I'd be more than happy to share/link to them.

UPDATE 27th Jan 2017:

Here's a review from Sammie @ Bookshelves and Biros, discussing problems with the racial representation in this book.

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  1. Historical fiction AND LGBTQA?! What the hell?! That sounds so awesome! I'm definitely adding this to my tbr now :D

    1. YESSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! XD It's so awesome! You'll really enjoy it! :)

  2. YES. I completely agree! This was such an amazing book and I'm so glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

  3. I love that you also shared other people's reviews in order to give a more rounded view of this book. How kind of you to do so. And I am glad this author is doing so well with writing wonderful books you can enjoy. It seems like this one is about an incredibly meaningful topic and that the author manages to handle that so well!

    1. Thanks, but it really seemed only fair to get a black reviewer's perspective (plus Dee Dee's review is great!)

      And yes! Robin Talley writes so well, and I've really enjoyed the 2 books of hers I've read! :)


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