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Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy
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Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  326 ratings  ·  99 reviews
In this inspiring biography, discover the true story of Harriet the Spy author Louise Fitzhugh -- and learn about the woman behind one of literature's most beloved heroines.

Harriet the Spy, first published in 1964, has mesmerized generations of readers and launched a million diarists. Its beloved antiheroine, Harriet, is erratic, unsentimental, and endearing-very much like
Hardcover, 335 pages
Published December 1st 2020 by Seal Press
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  326 ratings  ·  99 reviews

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Start your review of Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy
Regina White
I cannot rate the book because I worked on researching it for four years with author Leslie Brody. We uncovered details for it that are so fascinating I have to confess I haven't stopped researching this and related topics. I have fallen way down a hole, socially distancing myself to a whole different era.

I hope you enjoy it.
Laura Mazer
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The book I've been waiting for. Hello, mastermind creator of Harriet the Spy! ...more
M.  [storme reads a lot]
have never read Harriet the Spy. I just loved the 90s movie. I was so intrigued to pick up this biography, and I was not able to put it down until I was done. It’s very interesting and well done. Even someone who knew nothing about the author or the book except for the movie, I loved every moment of this.

Writing a book about a kid that’s not perfect seemed to be a landmark. People didn’t like that Harriet was nasty. However I think the way this book was done helped children to realize they could
Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)
“Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh was first published in 1964. Since then, this classic middle-grade school novel has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. However, the author's personal life remained a mystery as she never granted interviews or attended bookstore publicity events. Louise was born to a privileged family in Memphis during the 1920s and quickly accepted that she was a lesbian. She became unhappy with the local climate of racial and social segregation and left for New York City ...more
Sarah Schulman
Fun to read- part of that genre of Lesbians in the Village: Audre Lorde's Zami, and biographies of Patricia Highsmith, Bereniece Abbott and Agnes Martin. Longing for a social history that brings all this together. ...more
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Read as an Advanced Reading Copy so I do hope that there are photographs of Fitzhugh's art work in the final book but this is mediocre and that's being kind - really if you are going to write a biography about one of the great children's writers, learn something about the field and read the book with care - Brody's comments about Harriet the Spy show what a piss-poor reader she is and really are embarrassing - she clearly doesn't get Harriet - imagine seeing no change in Harriet from the opening ...more
June Schwarz
Sep 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An engaging biography of Louise Fitzhugh: well-researched, nicely balanced, and interesting. Brody does a nice job giving us a clear idea of what Fitzhugh was like as a child, a student, a person, as well as a writer and artist.
Brody’s examination of Fitzhugh’s personal relationships, her lovers and friends, is fascinating and feels fair and careful, particularly when discussing Fitzhugh’s later years and death.
I would have liked more excerpts from Fitzhugh’s letters and personal papers, as wel
Gail C.
Dec 10, 2020 rated it liked it
SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE is an in-depth look into the life and growth of Louise Fitzhugh. Her unconventional upbringing and bohemian style life say much about why Harriet, the Spy is who she is. There are also a vast number of other writing gigs and books attributed to Fitzhugh about which I knew nothing.
This is a book that will probably be most enjoyed by those who are Fitzhugh’s fans. It is filled, sometimes overly so, with information about her entire life, including her family, her rebellio
Dec 09, 2020 rated it liked it
I grew up with Harriet the Spy so I expected to like its author, Louise Fitzhugh. Her life was incredibly interesting and that’s covered — detailed, really — in this biography.

While I learned a great deal, this book could’ve used an aggressive editor. It’s one-third longer than it should be and contains some content that is neither here nor there in the profile of the author; just too much of a good thing.
Leslie aka StoreyBook Reviews
I was intrigued by this book because while I have heard of Harriet the Spy, I have never read the book. I always love learning about authors and what their life was like and how they came to create their famous works and I now want to read the book that helped girls realize that they do not have to fit into a mold of what society thinks they should do and be in life.

Louise Fitzhugh led an interesting life and I felt like she never quite figured out where she fit in, or if she fit in at all. Her
Andrew Sampson
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Harriet the Spy is queer canon confirmed
Angela Williamson
Nov 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc-for-review
Harriet the Spy is one of the books from my childhood which stuck with me always. When I saw Sometimes You Have to Lie I was excited to read more about the author. After I read Harriet, I began people watching, trying to puzzle out their lives and figuring out what makes people do the things they do. One of the things I loved was that Fitzhugh's own way of living her life, not following the rules and living her own life and there is nothing wrong with being a little different and quirky. That's ...more
Amanda Mae
Oct 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely delightful and engaging biography on the woman behind one of my favorite books, Harriet the Spy. I knew absolutely nothing about Louise Fitzhugh prior to reading this, and found her a truly wonderful artist who knew so many people and had a genuine talent that Harriet the Spy was able to exemplify... but she had so much more to offer. I highly recommend this to fans of Harriet, anyone who appreciates LGBTQ+ history, and fans of midcentury literature in general.
Jan 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Full review at: http://www.everydayiwritethebookblog....

When I was growing up, Harriet the Spy was one of my all-time favorite books. I read it so many times that the spine cracked. (I actually still have my copy of the book – scroll down for a picture of it.) It’s the story of Harriet, an irreverent, nonconformist eleven year-old girl who keeps notebooks detailing the goings-on of her Yorkville neighbors and containing unflattering comments about her classmates. One day, her notebook is confisc
Joyfully Jay
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sue
A Joyfully Jay review.

4.5 stars

Sometimes You Have To Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy offers an interesting look at a woman who refused to be pigeon-holed by the world around her. Though she grew up among the Southern elites, Louise was bucking the system from an early age, challenging social norms and rejecting the conventional roles established for women. She could write, play music, and paint and felt most at home amongst other creative and liter
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"Harriet the Spy" was a formative book for me in my youth. The heroine was a an independent-minded tomboy who had a temper -- relatable as could be. When I re-read it as an adult, I was blown away by how nearly perfect it is as a novel. The book taught me valuable life lessons, including that "there are as many ways to live as there are people in the world." But I never knew much about the author, Louise Fitzhugh, except that I owed her an immense debt both for Harriet and for helping me underst ...more
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-books
A thoroughly enjoyable biography about the author of one of my favorite (indeed, most librarian's) books. Until biographer Leslie Brody pointed it out, I didn't realize how little has ever been written or shared about Louise Fitzhugh's life. It was invigorating to learn about the robust female-centric, mostly lesbian artists' circle she was a part of, but I wonder if today's youth would read her uncompromising artistic standards as privilege, since the reason she could follow her artistic muse i ...more
Dec 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Earlier today I reviewed a biography that seemed to fail on so many levels, putting into perspective why this one, of writer and artist Louise Fitzhugh, succeeds on so many levels. It’s well-researched, just as the other one was, but – and here’s the difference – here the author has really tried to get to know her subject, and the result is an engaging, comprehensive, balanced and insightful exploration of Fitzhugh’s life and work. I’ve never read Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh’s most famous c ...more
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this fantastic memoir from the children's author for Harriet the Spy. As much as Harriett was beloved and well known, the author's life - that of Louise Fitzhugh remains to be hidden and in secret until this amazing biography written by Leslie Brody. I found that the research done was extensive and I really enjoyed reading about her life. If you like reading non-fiction biographies, memoirs or even enjoyed the children's book, Harriet the Spy, then this is a must read for you.

Feb 01, 2021 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
I've been waiting a long time for a biography of Louise Fitzhugh so I didn't much care that the prose was a bit workmanlike. Like so many other, Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret were a huge influence on me so I was eager to know more about their author and in that, I was not disappointed. So many delicious tidbits here - I wish someone would write a Women of the Left Bank style book about the lesbian scene in NYC in the 60s and 70s because I would so read it. ...more
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was ok
I loved Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret which I read as a child in the late 1960s so I was very interested to learn more about Louise Fitzhugh the author. The book is well researched and Fitzhugh is a very complex and compelling artist, but the writing was very clunky and dull. From my perspective it needed better editing. There were so many trivial details which did not add much.

And the. And then. And then.
Jan 23, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For such a fascinating subject, I found this to be plodding and sluggish. A short book that I read daily, and it still took almost two weeks to read. I understand some constraints that Louise's estate made might have made it difficult to really delve into Louise's life, but it seemed to veer far too much into other people's lives. ...more
Janilyn Kocher
Nov 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read Harriet the Spy when I was 8 or 9. I wanted a black and white composition notebook so I could jot my musings as I spied on people. I wanted to be a writer. I read Brody's biography on Fitzhugh with great interest. I knew nothing about the author and hadn't realized she wrote other books after Harriet. I did read The Long Secret as a child but it didn't leave much of an impression. I marveled that Ursula Norton was her editor. Fitzhugh was quixotic and lived life on her own terms. I read t ...more
Jan 14, 2021 rated it did not like it
Terrible. The writing was pedestrian and ungrammatical, the commentary shallow. Moreover, there was a whole lot of padding of the “would have” “might have” “may have” variety, eked out by mundane comments on the zeitgeist. I’d hoped to hold out until Louise got to New York in hope of a more interesting and better documented account, but I couldn’t do it. Abandoned a quarter of the way through. But I have only myself to blame; I see I gave two stars to the other book of the author’s I’ve read.
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
I liked all the parts that were about Louise and her group of girlfriends/wives, lovers, and friends. It was the other parts - about her parents, the backstories of fleeting characters, bits about other authors she knew - that lost my interest. I know that the information is limited by what you are able to discover and what other people are willing to tell you but I would have liked to know more about Lois and why she made the choices at the end. Or did someone else persuade her or make those ch ...more
M. K. French
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Louise Fitzhugh published Harriet the Spy in 1964, creating an antiheroine that was unsentimental yet endearing. This was based largely on her own experiences, as she left segregated Memphis for New York City, spent time in lesbian bars of Greenwich Village, and made friends with the avant-garde writers of the day. At the time of publication, Harriet was seen as “nasty” by critics because she didn’t conform to expectations, even if the children reading the book loved her. Louise was told to hide ...more
Harriet M.
Dec 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
As should be obvious from my username and avatar, I am, like many women of my generation and writerly profession, a little obsessed with Harriet the Spy. As such I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Louise Fitzhugh through Brody's biography, but it left me with as many questions as it answered. Given the tactfully worded descriptions of the privacy of the Fitzhugh estate, it can have been no small feat to write this book at all. Brody does a stellar job at conjuring up the lively world in which ...more
Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Another great biography! I read this story of Louise shortly after I read one of Louisa, and so I thought it a bit interesting to think of the two of them, Louise Fitzhugh and Louisa May Alcott, and how they were similar and so different.

Here's the first thing: so, when I was reading "Marmee and Louisa," I thought of their poverty and how that drove LMA and wondered was it necessary to create the artist?

And then I read about Louise.

This was so fascinating, to read about Louise Fitzhugh. I appre
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I read Harriet the Spy hot off the press in 1964 and, like so many other young female readers, recognized myself in Harriet. I had my own notebook in which I wrote original episodes based on Man from UNCLE, also debuting in 1964, in which I was the star spy. I know that my lifelong love affair with writing coalesced and found a home in my heart around the book, Harriet the Spy. As an adolescent, I read the trilogy, but always liked Harriet the Spy best.

I had no inkling of Louise’s life until a
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Born in the Bronx, New York, Leslie Brody left home at the age of 17 to become an underground press reporter for the Berkeley Tribe. A year later, she set off to travel around Europe. From 1971-1976, Brody lived in London and Amsterdam, sampling various hippie occupations. She returned to California in the late 70s and worked as a librarian both at the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science, an ...more

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“Louise, who at twenty-three could easily look like a sixteen-year-old boy, wore trousers, a vest, and a tie. Joan wore a chic dress with a nipped-in waist and wide skirt, her red hair in a wavy, shoulder-length pageboy. The juke box in the bar was a good one, with Ray Charles singing “Hey Now” and new records by B. B. King, whose performances on Beale Street were a Memphis sensation. The most popular song of the night, hands down, was Kitty Wells strumming “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” Wells was from Nashville, and the burgeoning country music industry in their home state was a subject of fascination for both women. Louise, intrigued by the fashion for cowboy costumes and yodeling, could do a fair imitation of Hank Williams. Louise had a new swagger that Joan hadn’t seen in her before. She was more assertive and suffered fools even less. When a pretty young woman stopped by their table to compliment Joan’s hair and flirtatiously ask, “Why don’t you cut it short?” Louise sent her on her way with a proprietary growl, saying, “Leave her alone. She’s not gay.” 0 likes
“France went to a Dr. Nancy Peters, and as part of her therapy she kept a notebook in which she grappled with her own various family dynamics. She also wrote about Louise, whom she described as “the firebrand, the disturber, the quicksilver, ranting or magnificent, at my side.” In the same entry, she wrote, “I have to learn to fight, because I want to keep Louise.” 0 likes
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