Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley


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.

Why I Chose This Book: With the tension going on in our country, it’s more important than ever to listen to perspectives other than our own and really examine our prejudices.

First Impressions: I love this cover so much. It’s sharp, clean, and shows almost literally what a target Sarah became in the school. In a sea of white faces, Sarah stands out, which could not be more relevant to the content.

What I Liked: Almost everything! The stories told in this book are different than mine both in race and sexual orientation, and it helped me see how terrifying it must have been to be alive in this time period when you vary from what is accepted.

You know how everyone says if they were in pivotal moments of history, they would have done the right thing, but there’s no way to really know. Today, similar things are happening. Not to the same degree, but it looks like we’re on that path. There was a moment, when Sarah describes how there are no white people helping them, standing up for them, or supporting them. And I saw that I would be on the right side of history. That felt like such a relief, and I’ll be grateful to this book for that.

One of the most surprising things about this book was the romantic story line. It doesn’t really mention it in the online synopsis, which is what I’d read before ordering the book. But the description on the back cover talks about it more explicitly, which I love. I really loved this perspective, and seeing a queer WOC as a lead character who is also incredibly smart, loving, kind, and strong was amazing. This book has great representation.

It was also incredibly well written. I made several notes in the margins and underlined quotes all over it.

What I Didn’t Like: The worst thing about this book was how easy it was to slip into Linda’s racist mindset while reading her perspective. When I went back to reality after reading for a while, I would randomly have racist thoughts. Thoughts I have never believed in the slightest! I had never understood how people who say, think, and do racist things can think they are correct, but this book showed me how effortless it is to subscribe to that way of thinking. I hated that realization, and I hate that now I can understand even a fraction of that mindset.

I also didn’t realize that Robin Talley is a white woman, and I’m not sure how I feel about a white woman writing the black perspective here. I’m an advocate of lifting up the voices of those who belong to the culture instead of telling them how it is, so I’m iffy on this. It’s something I need to discuss so I can figure out how I feel.

Ratings and Recommendations: Good for fans of historical fiction, current events, issue books, and diverse books.

2. Loved It

Final Thoughts: This is a book that everyone should read right now. We need to see what our future will be if we don’t get off this path of hate and ignorance. I cannot stress enough how doomed we are to repeat history if we don’t learn our lesson.

Sound off in the comments: What did you think of this book? Have you read something similar? What is your stance on Talley being white and writing such a huge part of black history? Let me know!




Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Want to Read With a Book Club

As always, Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the brilliant bookworms over at The Broke and The Bookish.

For a semester at my old school, I was in a book club. It was amazing! I loved getting to discuss books and it really made me think harder about what I read. I wish my reviews had the depth of our discussions, but it can be really hard to analyze that thoroughly on your own. When a book is finished and still feels uncertain in my brain, I really wish I had a group of people to discuss it with. Typically, I read through some goodreads reviews to see other sides and find out if they can help me figure out how I feel. Here are some books I really needed help processing or can see as being fun to talk about.

1. Tease by Amanda Maciel


This book was filled with conflicting emotions for me. It really shows the power of perspective in life. Throughout a lot of the book, I could see why the narrator, Sara, was so angry with Emma. She stole her boyfriend! She flirted around! She was too pretty for it to be fair! In high school, these are all things that make people mad, especially when you don’t have to experience to know that questioning all sides is important. I would love to discuss this with people and get their take.

2. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley


This books sounds SO GOOD. Everything about it draws me in, and I need to get it ASAP. Anything with differing perspectives tends to be right up my alley, and I would love to see how others feel about the students and changes that take place in this book.

3. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins


I really liked this book, and was shocked to see so many disappointed reviews on goodreads! There was one review that talked about how terrible the love interest is, and I realized I didn’t look at the scene they mentioned at all in the same way! Suddenly, I felt much more of a grasp on the characters in this book and I need to read more reviews and then reread it so I can get a better idea of who they actually are. I’m pretty sure it would have been a totally different book had I read with a group.

4. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh 


THIS BOOK IS AMAZING. I get the urge to reread it every spring because it’s the time of blooms and floral everything and you’d be hard pressed to find a better book than this for that season. This book is so so good and I just want everyone in the world to read it and become as obsessed with the meanings of flowers as I did post-reading.

5. My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody


This book was so cute, y’all. It’s about a girl that can’t make any good choices and decides to put her life in the hands of the internet via polls. It’s adorable! I would love to discuss this with a group, see if we would have voted for the same things, who we wanted her to end up with, etc. I think it would be a great light read with friends.

6. Melt by Selene Castrovilla


This was a book I got from Netgalley a while ago and finished at the start of the year. It was good, y’all. It’s told in alternating perspectives AND writing styles! The troubled Joey that thinks in verse and sheltered Dorothy that uses prose. I was really expecting Oz to take more of a presence in the book, but I’m not too miffed by it. It was a really interesting book that drew me in and kept me worried about these characters. It also shows how easy it can be to try and ‘fix’ someone or to let someone be your escape from problems. It would be a great discussion book.

7. Impulse by Ellen Hopkins


IMPULSE. UGH. Probably my favorite Ellen Hopkins book. I love it so much. I want to read it with a group and see if anyone else felt as conflicted as I did while reading. This book, like all of hers, definitely do not romanticize their topics. But while reading, I remember wanting to be the girl, wanting to be a source of hope for someone at rock bottom. While part of me still struggles with that, it can be so unhealthy to see someone as a beacon of light and cling to them, as well as to let someone think that and encourage it. It keeps you from being strong on your own, and this book really shows that. I highly suggest any of her books for book clubs or people wanting to challenge themselves.

8. Perfect by Ellen Hopkins


Perfect is a companion to Impulse, as one of the characters in this book is a sister to Conner from Impulse. It’s probably the Hopkins book I relate to the most (though still not much), because it focuses on the different way people try to reach perfection. This book probably hits closest to home for most readers as it has the more common situations, such as eating disorders and overbearing parents. Her other books look at the more extremes of every day situations: kids in a suicide prevention center, kids turning tricks, kids addicted to drugs, etc. She shows us the terror of life in the worst way: by only giving situations we know are just around the corner.

9. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick


ANOTHER SUPER CUTE BOOK. I love love LOVED this book and knew Huntley was going to be like Rainbow Rowell: I will get anything they write, no matter what it is. I think this would be such a fun book to discuss because it has such differing lives, and I would like to see a variety of perspectives on each side.

10. Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern


This is a book I just read a few days ago, and it was so good. But just like Isla, reading reviews totally changed my view on a few things. I definitely need to look around and think on it more because I write the review for it, and I think having a book club would help me out SO much.

Sound off in the comments: Have you read any of these? What did you think? Do you want to discuss any of these? Wanna start an e-book club with me?