Cover of Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

These reviews have been copied from the New York Public Library’s Website – http://www.nypl.org

Publishers Weekly

PW Reviews 2014 September #5

Talley’s first novel takes a close, honest look at school integration and sexual identity in a small fictional Virginia town in 1959. The story unfolds through the alternating narratives of two high school seniors: Linda Hairston, the white daughter of a journalist who writes editorials opposing integration, and Sarah Dunbar, one of 10 new black students at their recently integrated high school, where racial tensions are running high. When Linda and Sarah are forced to work together on a class project, they are immediately drawn toward one another and mutually terrified of their attraction. Linda, as a result of her abusive father’s influence, views integration as an irritating disruption, while Sarah eloquently debates Linda’s negative perceptions. Chapters begin with lies that Sarah and Linda disprove, such as “I’m not brave enough for this” and “None of this has anything to do with me.” Talley details the girls’ growth as they learn to form their own moral codes, while steeping readers in a pivotal moment of history. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Oct.)

Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

School Library Journal

SLJ Reviews 2014 July

Gr 9 Up—As seniors in Jefferson High School’s class of 1959, Sarah Dunbar and Linda Hairston have much in common. Both are strong-willed and smart. Both love to sing. Both are desperate to break out of the mold society prescribes for young ladies. Yet despite their similarities, the teens stand on opposite sides of the school integration debate. Sarah is one of eight black students selected to integrate the all-white high school. Linda hates the turmoil these students have caused in her community and truly believes the pro-segregation editorials her father writes for the local newspaper. But when they are forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda slowly learn to respect each other and—eventually—become friends, and then something more. Set in Virginia, this well-paced, engrossing story features strong female characters living in the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Each chapter title is a “lie” that either Sarah or Linda tells herself as a defense mechanism against intense racial tension and strict gender roles. This format, along with alternating viewpoints, work well with the story. It’s a beautifully written and compelling read; however, Lies takes on so many topics—racism, sexism, gender roles, homosexuality, child abuse—that the issues overwhelm an otherwise strong plot. There is frequent use of racial slurs and the “n-word,” but it is true to the period. For another school integration story of female friendship for younger readers, recommend Kristin Levine’s The Lions of Little Rock (Putnam, 2012).—Leigh Collazo, Ed Willkie Middle School, Fort Worth, TX[Page 112]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist Reviews 2014 July #1

“The white people are waiting for us.” So opens Talley’s tense, dramatic, alternating-perspective historical drama. Starting a new high school is tough enough, but entering senior year during the Virginia school desegregation of 1959 ranks as even tougher. For Sarah and a handful of other black students, it proves to be an almost insurmountable challenge. The forceful and disturbing opening, complete with insults and slurs hurled like missiles as the black students parse a crushing crowd blocking their entry, gives way to a thorough exploration of more subtle forms of institutionalized and microaggressive bigotry from the viewpoints of both Sarah and Linda, a white student on the other side of the issue. Linda and her family believe in “separate but equal,” and she defends the idea in her editorials for the school paper. Yet her pairing with Sarah on a project begins to shake her conviction, a transformation Talley handles without ever making Linda seem overly radical or indulgent. A well-handled debut.Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

The Horn Book

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2015 Spring

In 1959 Virginia, an African American star student, Sarah, and her peers navigate racism and bigotry in the white high school they are desegregating. Amid battles for respect, Sarah befriends Linda, daughter of a vocal racist, and the two learn that their families are actually more alike than different. A plot twist regarding their friendship adds greater depth to the well-written historical story.

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

VOYA Reviews 2014 August

Sarah Dunbar, a black high school senior in the graduating class of 1959, is nervous about entering the formerly all-white Jefferson High School with nine of her black classmates. These new students are taunted, bullied, and physically harmed, but day in and day out, Sarah keeps her head high and mouth shut, just the way she has been coached by the NAACP—that is, until she is paired up in class with Linda Hairston, the daughter of a fierce opponent to desegregation, who gets under her skin in more ways than one. Sarah has feelings for Linda that she never felt for any boy, and Linda may feel the same way. With the colors of their skin a constant reminder of why even their friendship may be threatened, Sarah and Linda wonder if there will ever be a world in which they can be together. The big issues of school desegregation in the 1950s, interracial dating, and same-sex couples have the potential to be too much for one novel, but the author handles all with aplomb. What makes it even better is that both Linda’s and Sarah’s points of view are revealed as the novel unfolds, giving meaning to their indoctrinated views. Educators looking for materials to support the civil rights movement will find a gem in this novel, and librarians seeking titles for their LGBT displays should have this novel on hand.—Deena VivianiIt is 1959 and the fight for integration in a small Virginia town is heating up. Fighting on opposite sides of the fire are Sarah Dunbar and Linda Hairston. Sarah, one of the first black students to attend Lincoln High School, believes in equal rights. Linda, the daughter of a vocal segregationist, does not. When the girls are forced to work together on a school project, they must face the cold truths about race, rights, and their feelings for each other. This is a meaningful tale about integration and will appeal to fans of Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Beals (Simon Pulse, 2001/VOYA August 1995). 5Q, 4P.—Maia Raynor, Teen Reviewer 5Q 4P J S

Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews


One thought on “Lies We Tell Ourselves

  1. Pingback: Lies We Tell Ourselves | Queer Young Adult Literature

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