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Lies We Tell Ourselves

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  12,199 ratings  ·  1,742 reviews
It's 1959. The battle for civil rights is raging.

And it's Sarah's first day of school, as one of the first black students at the previously all-white Jefferson High.

No one wants Sarah there. Not the Governor. Not the teachers. And certainly not the students – especially Linda, daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist.

Sarah and Linda have every reason to despise
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 3rd 2014 by MIRA Ink (first published September 30th 2014)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  12,199 ratings  ·  1,742 reviews

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Maxine (Booklover Catlady)
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
** I’ve just re-read this incredible book as part of my journey of reading more about the painful differences in history and today of how black and white people are not equal. This book is very timely now in 2021. **

I will never, ever forget this book. I will ensure my teens read it. Every now and then a book comes along that is important, not just a book that is enjoyable, but significant and thought provoking. Lies We Tell Ourselves is one of these books. This powerful and emotive novel create
oh boy... first off, the author did a lot of research, as she notes in the end, so props for that. and ruth, the little sister, is a fantastic character who has her own pov chapter at the very end and i loved that.

THAT SAID. this book happily marches into the "oppressed and oppressor fall in love" trope. Linda is RACIST. she may draw the line at physically assaulting the black students, but that doesn't make her any less racist. in order to make that relationship work then, for the reader, you'v
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, arc
There are some books you read for pure entertainment, and others, like Lies We Tell Ourselves, end up being much more than that. This novel tells an important story tied to our own history. One not too far in the past. One that is still a factor in our present, just with an altered face. It's hard to read at times, but it's also full of hope, strength and courage.

Not only is this an eye opening story, but it's one narrated with the help of two wildly compelling teenage voices. The year is 1959,
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer
“Other people will try to decide things for you. They'll try to tell you who you are. Remember, no matter what they say, you're the only who really decides.”

I didn't know much about this book when I started reading, but I found title, cover and plot incredibly intruiging. Robin Talley did not disappoint:
While I wasn't always fond of the writing or the characters, I did really like it. It is not only informative, but shows the sad and bitter reality of segregation and racism. However, it touches


Writing diverse characters does not get you a cookie if your diverse characters are clearly there to educate the white person. There was no passage worth quoting, and no insight into race that hasn't already been articulated better by a black author/intellectual. Read them instead.

June 2016: Re-read this for my book club last month, forgot to update my read count. In case you were wondering, it was just as good as it was the first time I read it. Get on this shit, people.

September 2015: First, maybe don't even bother reading this review. Just go get the book somehow. Borrow it. Buy it. Get on your Kindle. Steal it. No, don't steal it. Get the book legally. Then read it. More people need to read this. I can't believe it's not more popular than it is.

No, wait. Scratch that.
bella farren
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it

“Other people will try to decide things for you, she says. They'll try to tell you who you are. Remember, no matter what they say, you're the only who really decides.”

This book hit me right in the emotions and I feel like this is a book I’ve been searching for forever. Lies We Tell Ourselves is set in Virginia, USA 1959 and largely focuses around the integration of POC into previously all-white schools.

It’s split between two polar-opposite characters—there was Sarah who was one of the t
Elle (ellexamines)
this book is problematic as hell and for some reason 2014 me loved it

What do I even say? This is one of the most compelling stories I've read in my entire life. I could not put this down. I mean, look at the read dates - I read it in three hours. It was ridiculous.

The biggest plus to this book - besides character work, as we'll discuss in a minute - was the writing. Talley uses a device where she lists lies these two leads are telling themselves every few chapters, and it works perfectly. I'm a
Apr 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There will be no spoilers in this review. This book was good in terms of writing and being powerful, but as a black person I have to say I was really uncomfortable with a white person writing about racism. It isn't that the book wasn't compelling and well-written, because it was, but no matter how well-researched this book was...every time there was a slur word used, I couldn't look past the fact that it was a white person writing and publishing them and reading it was a real painful experience ...more
enqi ☁️✨
6/7/19: when all the ignorant people are tweeting #NotMyAriel on twitter and halle bailey is getting so much hate not because she has no talent, but just because she's black and "not a redhead", i think this book is more important than ever

reading this book BROKE me

(4.5 stars) I'm about as far from being able to empathise with the characters and the plot - I'm a straight Chinese girl living in a Chinese-dominated country - but wow. This book. It hit me so hard in the feels. Even when I was SO ANGRY at everything that was happening, my heart was breaking.
Colored people aren't the same as whites. They aren't as smart. They haven't accomplished the things we have. They aren't as good as we are.
Everyone knows it. Even the colored people know. It's just not
Mónica BQ
This is a very difficult book to review.

On the one hand, I really liked it as a purely piece of fiction. The writing was really good, the story was engaging, interesting and fluid. I really loved the title and the way it is used as an intro for the chapters, that was a great idea. I liked the slightly historical feel to it, the end of the 50s and start of the 60s in the States is basically an unknown era for me. I liked Sarah a lot. On the other hand, I strongly feel that this wasn't a white aut
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-2
Buddy read with Lola 😊

Really interesting novel about the desegregation of schools in the US in Virginia in 1959, and the African-American students who endured terrible torment and racism as they integrated a previously all-white school. I found the narration of Sarah, Ruth, Ennis, and the other students raw and gripping as they had to push their way into the school while being spit on, mauled and screamed at. It made me very angry to read at times when there was no help to be found, not from tea
This book you guys.. I find that it's probably one of the most important reads I've read in all my time since I've been blogging. Dealing with such a heavy topic like racism can be hard to take. But this one really made me feel like I was right there alongside these characters and seeing everything and experiencing everything they were feeling. There was so much hate. So much anger. You can feel it leap off the pages. I found the two different viewpoints to be extremely informative. Both are exc ...more
Angélique (Angel)
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one ever. Do not read this book.
"A white woman can write this story and it will be fine."

This was the lie I told myself when I picked up this book. This was the lie I told myself through the first few chapters of the book, but the more I read the less I could ignore what I knew to be true despite the positive reviews this book received on YA blogs: this was not Robin Talley's story to tell and the longer she tried to tell it, the more egregiously she failed at it.

Sarah, the Black protagonist, starts out as a likeable albeit sl
Jx PinkLady Reviews ♡ bookwormthoughts

This month's local bookclub read and it was my pick so I hope it's good. <--- I've finished and it's more than good! Lies we tell ourselves is an important, thought provoking historical read.


Cora Tea Party Princess
5 Words: Racism, bullying, family, forbidden love.

This isn't one of those books you read for fun. It's one of those books that makes you think and strikes you right to your very core.

I hadn't read the synopsis of this book when I picked it up. I'd looked at the cover, impulse-requested on NetGalley, and started it when I was looking for something and the title appealed to me.

I stayed up well past bedtime each night reading this book, so I've been very tired for work this past week. But it was wo
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Somehow I forgot to add this to my Goodreads during the BookTubeAThon but it's never too late to say how amazing and heartbreaking this book was! I loved the relationship between Sarah and Linda and how they grew to know each other despite all the prejudice and hatred surrounding them. I feel so sad reading about LGBT+ protagonists that think what they feel is wrong, but learning to accept yourself is the most important thing.

In conclusion, Robin Talley is killing it.
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtqia-plus, f-f
fuck, this book is literally, hands down, the best I've ever fucking read. Shedding light and educating readers on the racism and abuse African Americans had to ensure and suffer + a relationship between a white and black girl in a world full of homophobia and racism, HELL YES!!!!

I literally cannot stress how AMAZING this book is like honestly fucking read it oh my god.
Mar 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-borrowed
In an effort to #flattenthecurve, I have alternated between spring cleaning my apartment and tackling the large stack of books on my bookshelves. However, I am falling way behind in my reviews. Eventually this particular bookworm will balance it all out.

Lies We Tell Ourselves is set in 1959 Virginia on the first day that a group of ten African-American students are to enter an all white school. Integration is not something the students of Jefferson High want and although these characters are
C.G. Drews
People are mean! I'm sorry, I had to get that off my chest. Whenever I read Historical Fiction (which is usually about the world wars, so cake for me for reading something out of the 30s and 40s!) I slam the book or throw my e-reader because people are just so mean. Why?! Why is it hard to be nice?!

Yes, this book made me despise humanity slightly. But it also simultaneously restored my belief that there are always nice people, even in a horrible time.

So what's the book about? Mainly: racism
I really wanted to like this book. Probs bc it was gay and I've been so starved for something where the gay girls don't die for once but.

I really liked Sarah, but Linda was a racist and there's no beating around that. Which is probably why this made me uncomfortable the entire time. She was responsible for the entire situation with Chuck and there's no?? Getting away from that??? She nearly killed a boy just from a few words???? I would have liked it more if it hadn't been Racist Girl Falls For
Maja (The Nocturnal Library)
Lies We Tell Ourselves is more than just a book; it’s a reading experience, and a painful one at that. On page 7, I started clutching the book tightly, bracing myself for the pain it would inevitably bring. On page 11, tears were already streaming down my face and I wasted no effort in trying to suppress them.

Lies We Tell Ourselves is a story about two girls, as different as they can possibly be, but both incredibly brave in their own ways. Sarah is one of the first students to set foot into a
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh this book hurt my heart! Imagine it's 1959 in Va and you are one of the first 10 black students to attend an all white school. You fear for your life, you get taunted and called horrible names every day. In the midst of this chaos Sarah and Linda develop a friendship that tests them both and makes them question everything they thought they knew. This book is fiction but what these kids went through was real. This is a YA title but I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. ...more
Tiff at Mostly YA Lit
Review originally posted at:

Lies We Tell Ourselves is an illuminating look into integration of black kids into segregated white schools in 1959 in the US. It definitely skewed towards the liberal view of things, but for the most part, the discussion is balanced because of the dual narratives of Sarah, the black girl, and Linda, the white girl.

I don't think I need to describe how awful the situation is in this book. What happens to Sarah and her trail-bla
Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries)
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! My copy was an ARC I got at BEA 2014.

The way I've pitched this novel to people ever since I saw the deal for it is "interracial lesbian couple in the midst of desegregation in 1959 Virginia." Most have been convinced by that because I have pretty awesome friends and I've gone green with envy upon seeing other reviewers get copies or talk about how good it was. So highly anticipated was it that I made it my number-one priority at BEA 2014! All that excitem
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.
Dov Zeller
Spoilers = a few.

In many ways this review is an exploration of the unresolvable and thought-provoking problems of authorial narration in "Lies We Tell Ourselves." I will begin by talking about another novel I read a week or two ago that brought me to a similar contemplative place. That book is "Lovely Green Eyes" by Arnost Lustig. I've been struggling to form an organized response to it, and maybe I should shift my approach to allow for something more unprocessed and unfiltered. Otherwise I may
Lies this book defies:

Lie #1: The best historical fiction takes place in Nazi Germany or a Downton Abbey-esque turn-of-the-century mansion.
Ever since I discovered my passion for historical fiction, it has seemed to me that these two settings surpass all other historical landmarks in terms of popularity. As much as I love reading about Hitler's plots and rich people's drama, I have an ongoing wish for more stories about lesser-known pieces of history. When I heard about Lies We Tell Ourselves, I
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: too-real
I went into this book thinking it was a thriller, (spoiler, it wasn't), but liking it more than a lot of thrillers I've read.

Segregation is seeing its final days as public schools are now required to let in [all] races. Sarah, and few select others are the first batch to be admitted to a previous all-white school.

And while racial discrimination is might be the only issue that the others have to handle, Sarah is struggling with her religion and the way her sexuality fits with it.

The beginning
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YA Buddy Readers'...: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley - GBR - Starting October 1st 2017 4 153 Nov 01, 2017 02:36PM  
racist and cliched 3 149 Jun 30, 2017 11:01AM  
Mentor Texts: Mentor Texts 1 2 May 17, 2017 04:34AM  

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I live in Washington, D.C., with my wife, our baby daughter, an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. Whenever the baby's sleeping, I'm probably busy writing young adult fiction about queer characters, reading books, and having in-depth conversations with friends and family about things like whether Jasmine's character motivation was sufficiently established in Aladdin.

My website is at http://www.

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“Other people will try to decide things for you, she says. They'll try to tell you who you are. Remember, no matter what they say, you're the only who really decides.” 91 likes
“Sarah's right. We punish ourselves so much in our own imaginations. We convince ourselves everything we do, everything we think, is wrong.

For eighteen years I've believed what other people told me about what was right and what was wrong. From now. I'm deciding.”
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