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Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves (2014)

by Robin Talley

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3312348,955 (3.82)4



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What a tremendous way to start off a reading year! Lies We Tell Ourselves is an intense read straight from page one, as it unflinchingly takes on racism, desegregation during the time period, and the institutionalized oppression systems that are still affecting our society today. Despite being a well-researched period piece and an issue book, at its core the story is a beautiful romance that puts most het romance to shame. As well as having an intense, life-or-death plot tension, the author also balanced a softer romantic tension that had my toes curling, and this balance kept the story engaging and exciting straight to the last page.

The thing that struck me first and hardest about the book was the alternative viewpoint it offered me. This story is mostly told through the eyes of a black girl, and though it's peppered with passages from Linda's very opposite point of view, they only serve to support Sarah's narrative. Secondly, the dynamic with tension was something I'd never seen before. We have a school environment, and a story of ten kids simply trying to go through an average school day, and yet it's riddled with life-and-death danger. Everywhere Sarah and her fellow black students go, they're insulted, tormented, have things thrown at them, humiliated, and downright abused at every opportunity. Normally we'd see this kind of high-stakes tension in a school environment only in something like urban fantasy, where you can support that life-or-death element with supernatural dangers. But there's nothing supernatural about the danger facing these kids. It's completely realistic and true, which helps to highlight a whole side of reality that many (including myself) can hardly imagine.

The characters themselves were beautifully crafted. They were all very real people, strong and independent but still struggling with their own insecurities and weaknesses. I especially liked the subtle approach to Sarah's character, as she in incredibly strong and courageous, but you can see the cracks that let her insecurities bleed through. Linda was a difficult character to read at times because of her blatant racism and prejudice. I was able to grit my teeth and push through her point of view passages mostly because I knew she was going to undergo a change. The change in her character was very realistic as well, occurring gradually and not without struggle, which made her transformation much more believable.

This story is a romance, and with such a bigoted character as one side of that romance, I understand why some readers might take issue with Linda. The trope of the abuser and the abused falling in love is not only all-to common, but harmful to survivors of abuse. There's no arguing that Linda is an abuser, but I also believe this book properly shows humanity's capacity for change. We are all human, we all have things in our past we regret and have learned from, and it's harmful to everyone to assume we are unable to change. The key component that makes this relationship stay healthy, is not only that Linda strives to change and shows remorse for her past, but Sarah doesn't accept any of the abuse. She calls it out and at times even rises above Linda's trolling behaviour.

This book may be difficult for some to read because of the intensity of abuse the kids undergo, but it is necessary to acknowledge it as part of our past. This book wonderfully captures the courage of kids who sacrificed their sense of safety for the promise of a more equal society. Underneath that, though, is the gentle and beautiful love story of two girls in a Romeo-and-Juliet style circumstance. This is one of those instant classic books that belongs on every reader's shelf.

All in all, 5/5 stars. A beautifully balanced period piece and romance story that makes my heart happy. ( )
1 vote KatCarson | Nov 23, 2017 |
This book ... this book is just fantastic. I had amazingly high hopes for this book when I first read the synopsis months ago and I am so grateful to report that all of them were met -- not even met, my exceptions were exceeded. I was so blown away by what Talley did here. Sadly, there's so much of what happens in this book -- racism, homophobia -- that resonates even today in our current events. But that's one of the things that made this book so great; the girls' experiences are so real and palpable and horrible. I wish there were more books out in the mainstream publishing world like this. ( )
  majesdane | Aug 8, 2017 |
What a powerful read. This book really delved deep into the southern consciousness in regards to integration. I really liked how it explored both sides of the issue and the reasons why people believed what they did. ( )
  jessicadelellis | Aug 3, 2017 |
In 1959, Sarah Dunbar is one of ten students who are chosen to integrate a high school in Virginia. She is physically and verbally abused, threatened, harassed, and intimidated on a daily basis but she presses on to do her part for a great cause. But more frightening to Sarah than the injustices that she faces daily, is the fear that one day her biggest secret will be uncovered.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of the editor of the local newspaper. She is smart, popular, and has an older boyfriend who adores her. All her life, she has embodied her father's ideologies about "separate but equal" and keeping the integrity of the south.

When these two young ladies are thrown together to work on a school project, they are forced to face some realizations about their beliefs, their families, and themselves.

This book invokes so many feelings - mostly anger and disgust- but this is a powerful and emotional story. The author's use of multiple POV's gives us a chance to look into the MC's feelings as certain events unfold throughout the story. On top of dealing with the race issues that are tearing their town apart, they are struggling to come to term with their own identities. This book is a must-read that should be on everybody's list. ( )
  DMPrice | Jun 29, 2017 |
RGG: If the story just focused on the personal experience of being two students trying to survive school integration, this would be compelling and engaging, but the added layer of the two female students dealing with their attraction to each other seems forced and even unconvincing and detracts from the other plot line. Reading Interest: 14-YA.
  rgruberexcel | May 25, 2017 |
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In 1959 Virginia, Sarah, a black student who is one of the first to attend a newly integrated school, forces Linda, a white integration opponent's daughter, to confront harsh truths when they work together on a school project.

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