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I'm Telling the Truth, but I'm Lying: Essays

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  2,461 ratings  ·  416 reviews
A deeply personal collection of essays exploring Nigerian-American author Bassey Ikpi’s experiences navigating Bipolar II and anxiety throughout the course of her life.

Bassey Ikpi was born in Nigeria in 1976. Four years later, she and her mother joined her father in Stillwater, Oklahoma —a move that would be anxiety ridden for any child, but especially for Bassey. Her earl
Paperback, Unabridged, 257 pages
Published August 20th 2019 by HarperPerennial (first published August 6th 2019)
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Jiyeon Kim That's exactly where I was confused either. I flipped back through the pages to figure out who Peter is but couldn't find any clue. …moreThat's exactly where I was confused either. I flipped back through the pages to figure out who Peter is but couldn't find any clue. (less)

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Akwaeke Emezi
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Look, I've been reading Bassey Ikpi's work for a smooth ten years, thanks to the Internet. She's been a vital voice for so many of us who live with neurodivergence, throughout our darkest moments, whispering for us to allow ourselves morning. She's even mentioned by name in Freshwater! Now, this book of hers, this collection? It blew me the entire fuck away. It's brilliant, intimate, and so vulnerable! Bassey is a storyteller to her bones and it shows. Read this book, tell everyone you know to r ...more
A powerful story about Nigerian American author Bassey Ikpi’s experiences navigating her newfound Bipolar II diagnosis, as well as the anxiety she faced throughout her life. I most enjoyed this book’s profound honesty, like Ikpi’s initial refusal to accept her diagnosis when she learned about it, how she just could not fathom having to take medication for Bipolar II for the rest of her life. As someone in the mental health field and as someone who has experienced mental illness, I found her shar ...more
Updated December 9
I loved this book so much I decided to make it a BookOfCinz book club pick. This is a truly moving collection that deserves to be read.

I was simply storing up my tears, I would need them later. Somehow I knew this.

I am speechless and in tears after reading Bassey Ikpi's I'm Telling the Truth, but I'm Lying . Reading this collection of deeply personal essays was like picking up your best friend's well written diary and getting genuine and utterly vulnerable look into thei
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've been picking up some books based on Roxane Gay's recommendations recently and damn ... that woman's got taste! I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying is a deeply personal collection of essays exploring Nigerian-American author Bassey Ikpi’s experiences navigating Bipolar II and anxiety throughout the course of her life.
“I was simply storing up my tears, I would need them later. Somehow I knew this.”
Bassey Ikpi was born in Nigeria in 1976. Four years later, she and her mother joined her fa
One of my most anticipated reads of the year, this sadly did not completely work for me. I found it very difficult to spend time in Ikpi's head - especially during the parts when her mental illness was not yet diagnosed. She unflinchingly shines a light on her behaviour without ever giving herself the benefit of filtering it through the lense of her later diagnosis. As part of her symptoms are irritability and self-hate, this made for a very difficult reading experience. I can intellectually abs ...more
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, memoir
I have never read a memoir quite like this. Such powerful prose, almost poetic in how it engaged not just my mind but also my soul. I could not put this down - it just held on to me and I ripped through in two evenings. While I haven't experienced much of what Bassey Ikpi has, she tells her story in such a raw and riveting way that I felt her journey in my being. I learned so much about mental illness, as she has experienced it, and about myself, in all the ways in which Bassey's journey speaks ...more
Tucker  (TuckerTheReader)

Many thanks to HarperCollins for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

After giving this a good chance, I’ve finally decided to permanently DNF it. It just wasn’t holding my attention. That said, I still recommend you give it a try. I think some readers will enjoy this more than I did.

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Chris MacDonald-Dennis
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What can I say about a book that touched my soul so deeply? First, Ikpi's experience with mental illness and difficult family dynamics allowed me a path to think about my own life and how my mental illness has impacted me. There were times that I literally had to put the book down because her words forced me (in a good way) to face things that I had tried to push aside. I found myself having more empathy for myself, which is something that does not come easy to me. I found myself being gentler w ...more
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Revolutionary. Thank you for telling your story. This book is a giant step towards normalizing mental illness within the Black community.
Shannon Wright
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a searing, lyrical piece of work: Bassey Ikpi started her career as a poet, and it shows as she finds music in heartbreaking moments. There are lines that will make you laugh out loud (“I still hate yoga, it’s like a game of Simon Says that no one ever wins”) and descriptions so evocative they make you freeze: a sweater is burgundy, “the color of Anne’s raspberry cordial,” and that one line captures a type of girl that, if you were also one, identifies a kindred spirit.

This book is oste
I started reading this the day I got my ARC from the publishers, and I had a hard time putting it down to do basic things like eat and sleep and breathe. This was such an incredible memoir, with Bassey Ikpi being as upfront about her lack of memories as is possible to be. I thought she did a stunning and honest job of weaving something out of the vague (possibly false?) memories of her childhood, and the stories she has heard about her life since. The second half of the book deals with her strug ...more
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was tense, often uncomfortable, and asked me to not flinch at the amount of pain displayed so vividly. I tried not to and I think I ended this novel a little more honest and kinder at myself, too. Gorgeous, drop dead beautiful prose. The reason why it's a 4 is because I feel like the conclusion was rushed and I wish we got a link between art and mental health. Maybe for the next novel though! ...more
Kécy Anosike
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ikpi writes: My family spent years looking at me and not knowing that I was not okay. When they saw how bad the “not okay” could get, they rushed to treat me like glass. Not something broken - like I felt - but something they had never noticed was in danger of breaking.

“I’m Telling The Truth But I’m Lying” is a remarkably moving book for many reasons, starting with the presence of the most important ingredient in telling a story - any story at all -: the truth. The truth is a sort of flooding th
Smileitsjoy (JoyMelody)
“only a woman so small and wise could give birth to herself so many times”
That was the last sentence in the “prologue” of Bassey Ikpi’s book (set to release this coming August). That sentence struck a chord with me and I knew that this collection of essays was going to be amazing and moving.

Ikpi is a Nigerian- American poet and mental health advocate and overall amazing human who has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. A disorder that Black and Brown folks to not talk about nor even have the
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
at the beginning, i didn’t know the journey i would go on with this book. i didn’t know the heartbreak that lay ahead. i didn’t know how full yet empty it would leave me feeling. this book is poetry, it is wound; it is the truth of living circumstance that is needed within the black community. mental health is taboo for us. it is the thing you hide and push away, that you denounce with every fiber of your being. it’s just something you live with and don’t care to ask its name. and that is what i ...more
I have dealt with depression, severe depression, for close to two decades. I am so happy that I read this book. Thank you, Bassey Ikpi.
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a poets take on her bipolar disorder life
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreakingly honest, navigating these experiences, this life of pain and yet love lingers in every memory in some way. Such a penetrating insight into her world. A necessary read. Also, it made me cry
Sandy Reilly
Bassey Ikpi takes readers deep into the desperately spiraling path her mind takes as she poetically puts into words living with bipolar II. Manic texts and emails to family and friends, comatose states of sleeplessness, a restlessness that requires laps around city blocks, negotiating periods of being repulsed by any kind of food, and a desire to no longer live while also not wanting to die -- this is Ikpi's life as she bravely shares her struggles, her scattered thought processes, and her confu ...more
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
This book gave me a panic attack. It hit a little close to home and there were so many scenes that resonated with me. I think she is strong for putting this out there. This is the true face of mental illness. This is what it feels like, what it's like to live with, what it's like to find out that all your worst fears about yourself are true, what it feels like to start fighting it, and living with the knowledge that it will never leave you.
I read an uncorrected proof (thank you Harper Perennial!
Shreya Vikram
So hard to rate memoirs as personal as this one. A three-star is hardly appropriate, considering how much I loved this book, but I also had a lot of technical problems with it—mostly regarding the writing and the structure. Okay now I'm updating it to a four, but it doesn't feel like a four. It's a 3.5 (ugh when is Goodreads going to get us half-stars?).

The writing has so much potential but there's just not much clarity in a lot of scenes (and then too much clarity in others). Like, I didn't fu
Rachel León
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, read-in-2019
This collection started off slowly, but damn, it’s worth the read. “What It Feels Like” is INCREDIBLE.
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it, favorites
Never do I encounter a book with a voice that is so freaking relatable. It says a lot about me that the most accessible passages were so, not just because the writing itself, on a granular level, is off the charts lyrical and wonderful, but also, the manic narration, full of repetition and thrumming with anxiety- I've had many similar internal monologues of such insistence, weighing heavy on a frazzled mind, exerting pressure on top of the pressure I already insist upon in order to hold myself t ...more
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to HarperCollins for providing me a copy of this book at BEA 2019 and thank you to Bassey Ikpi for signing my copy!

I thought this was a phenomenal read. Bassey Ikpi has beautifully written her story about her experiences with mixed-episode bipolar disorder. She tells a story that needs to be heard, highlighting some of the glaring problems in health care when it comes to mental health. Bassey Ikpi not only is able to tell her story eloquently, she also uses the space of the page and se
Jocelyne Kevine
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such beautiful writing and such a necessary story that needs to be told. A raw account of what it looks like to manage an illness that so many don’t understand, but which they will hopefully know more about after they read this. Bassey is a warrior and I am in awe of her strength and storytelling talent. I sobbed as I closed the book. A beautiful, beautiful story.
J Beckett
Sep 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
A shocker of a story once beyond the first several pages. Totally unexpected twists and turns as it exposes the depth and deleterious effects of mental illness. A definite page-turner that is both timely and passionately vital.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don’t know when I started following Bassey on Twitter or even why, but one day she tweeted that her book was coming out and I replied that I would buy it. She thanked me and that was that. I jotted down the title and told myself that I would order it soon. That very week my daughter text me and said that someone named Bassey was on our favorite podcast The Read and the conversation was really helpful. I hit the preorder button on my kindle and then listened to the podcast episode.

This story is
alexa (travelingreads)
“This brain feels broken sometimes.”
Afoma (Reading Middle Grade)
I received an electronic ARC of I’m Telling the Truth, But I’m Lying from Harper Perennial via Edelweiss. My review contains my unbiased opinion.

I’m Telling the Truth, But I’m Lying follows Bassey’s life from early childhood in Nigeria, moving to join her father in the States, and being an anxious child in the US. After dropping out of college due to anxiety and depression in her early twenties, Bassey becomes a spoken word artist. She’s well-known for traveling and performing with HBO’s Russell
It's been a bad day so I wept through the second half. Felt her fear, frustration, and exhaustion in the psych ward while listening with deep anxiety. Triggering if your psych ward/hospital experience(s) has/have ever been traumatic. The lead up to her suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalization was so real. Small flashes of frustration at her multiple refusals of help but that is what makes this memoir honest. I admired her independence and her ability to flourish, despite the mental illness ...more
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