Ashley's Reviews > Lies We Tell Ourselves

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
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it was amazing
bookshelves: americana, bildungsroman, class-gender-race, fiction, historical-fiction, not-quite-five-stars-but-sooo-close, romantical, young-adult, read-for-book-club, lgbtqia
Read 2 times. Last read September 3, 2015.

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. I can believe it. I can believe it because this book isn't one that lets you get away with your shit. It confronts you, makes you uncomfortable, and asks you to be okay with rethinking the world around you. People don't like to be challenged. People don't like to reevaluate. Changing the way you see the world also means changing how you see yourself.

This book gets pretty much everything right, and more about all that later, but the thing it gets the MOST right, I think, is the way that Sarah and Linda perfectly portray what it's like to realize for the first time that you have your own mind, that things you've believed your whole life might be foundationally wrong, and what it's like to set yourself free from the way other people have told you the way the world is supposed to work.

I was really sheltered as a child. My family was by no means rich, but we were upper middle class, and I experienced no poverty, no economic hardship whatsoever. I was also raised Roman Catholic by a very devout mother, who taught me to be kind, to forgive and to treat everyone as I would want to be treated. Of course, I was a kid, and kids are little shits, so it's not like I'm saying I always did what my parents told me, but it's the foundation everything I am was built upon. So when I left that sheltered environment and began encountering people and ideas that challenged the way I'd been taught to view the world, I experienced a very real mental crisis that I think is common for people going to college for the first time. I began to realize there was a huge disconnect between the things my mother taught me about how to be a good person, and some of the things I was told by my parents, my culture and everything around me about the world. This is one of the reasons conservative parents (mine included) are convinced that college brainwashes you to be liberal. What it actually does, if you do it right, is UN-brainwash you. True education isn't supposed to indoctrinate you into any belief, liberal or conservative or anything else. It's supposed to teach you how to see and understand the world so you can form your own beliefs, to think for yourself.

And that's what happens in this book for Sarah and Linda, when ten black high school students become the first to enter a white high school in 1959 Virginia, four years after the passing of "Brown vs. the Board of Education."

Look, this book is emotionally brutal. But it's important. I've read about Desegregation before and learned the facts in a 'This is What Happened' sort of way, but I never before thought about what any of it meant for the actual people experiencing it, or what it meant about the people tormenting them. The very first chapter of this book features the black students entering the school for the first time, and immediately Talley writes it so that you feel what they feel, as they are mobbed by angry white people, screaming at them, throwing things, calling them horrible names and chanting, and generally acting like they aren't even human. It made me sick. And so angry. And ashamed for the human race that people could act so full of ignorance, stupidity, violence and hatred. And it only got worse from there. We are terrible and we deserve nothing.

But in the midst of this is brave Sarah, a high school senior determined to stick it out and do her part for the cause, because her parents have asked her to. And in the midst of this is Linda, the daughter of a prominent segregationist, whose world is completely shaken at its core by the experience of knowing a black person first as a human being and not as a piece of propaganda.

And then of course, the thing the marketing of this book sort of goes out of its way to hide, that this is a love story between two girls living in a place where it's not okay for them to even be friends, let alone in love with one another. And they are both sooooo confused. About everything. The emotional journey of this book is just lovely.

And of course it's great as a piece of historical fiction as well. The way that Talley integrates (pun initially unintended, but I'm totally going with it now) talk about identity and desegregation and rethinking the things you know, it just all *works*. The only complaint I really have about the whole thing is that Linda's initial change of heart felt a little too fast for me in the beginning, but I think even that complaint is irrelevant at the end, because Talley certainly spends enough time letting her sort things through for it to be believable by the end.

Anyway, long story short, you should read this book. Even if you "don't like YA." If this book teaches anything, it's that labels are shit. Read the book and think for yourself. I'm being overly aggressive in this last paragraph, perhaps, but when I see a book that should be more widely read, I feel like I need to do my part and share the love.

[4.5 stars, rounded up]
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 1, 2014 – Shelved
July 1, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
Started Reading
September 3, 2015 –
4.0% "Right out of the gate, POW, punched in the feels from this book.\n \n You know, I've read and learned about desegregation before in the context of history, but it's reeeeeaaaaallllly different reading about it from the perspective of an actual person, fictional or not."
September 3, 2015 –
15.0% "What the fuck is wrong with the human race."
September 3, 2015 –
47.0% "Sorry too busy reading for updates."
September 3, 2015 –
72.0% "I very badly want to stay up and finish the last hundred pages, but I will regret it in the morning if I do, so off to bed, and will finish in the morning."
September 3, 2015 – Finished Reading
September 4, 2015 – Shelved as: americana
September 4, 2015 – Shelved as: bildungsroman
September 4, 2015 – Shelved as: class-gender-race
September 4, 2015 – Shelved as: fiction
September 4, 2015 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
September 4, 2015 – Shelved as: not-quite-five-stars-but-sooo-close
September 4, 2015 – Shelved as: romantical
September 4, 2015 – Shelved as: young-adult
July 5, 2016 – Shelved as: read-for-book-club
January 24, 2017 – Shelved as: lgbtqia

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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Heatherblakely YES. Yes. I'm so glad you liked it.

Jen (NerdifiedJen) I hadn't heard of this book yet, but you gave it 5 stars and a review like this. That's enough for me.

Ashley Yay!

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