Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Summary: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.
There’s no need to be afraid.
Typically, three-star ratings have two purposes: either they embody a mediocre book, or they are awarded to books you have absolutely no idea how to rate. In the case of Lies We Tell Ourselves, the reasoning for my rating is the latter. While this is indeed a stunning book and an even better journey into the world of 1960s America, I felt something was…missing; but I can’t quite figure out what.
It’s 1959 in Virgina; seven years after the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools. Yet Jefferson High School remains segregated. Until today…
Our story follows two characters: Sarah Dunbar, one of the first African-American students to attend Jefferson High; and Linda Harrison, the daughter of one of the biggest supporters of school segregation. At first glance, the two are obvious adversaries – and yet when they are partnered up for a French project, they realize that they’re more alike than they could have ever imagined.
Talley’s writing is crisp, fresh, and well-executed. I am always nervous about books with more than one point of view in them as, in the hands of an unskilled author, those points of view are indistinguishable from one another end up sounding the same. If anything, the opposite happens in Lies We Tell Ourselves. Linda and Sarah have wonderful, personable POVs that are easily distinguishable from one another; something that made the story brisk along.
The characters here are absolutely fantastic. There is no black or white when it comes to these characters; only gray, and I loved that.
Sarah is a character that instantly captures your heart. She’s thrown into this school with people who do nothing but torture her because of her race; and all you want is to give her a hug. The things she endures are unimaginable, and it truly speaks of what a strong character she has that she’s able to brave through it all.
Linda, however, is a character that at first doesn’t seem quite appealing. She’s been taught her whole life that African-Americans aren’t as smart, intelligent or successful as whites; and, in the beginning, she lays a lot of this prejudice on Sarah. However, as the story goes on, she makes a complete character transformation for the better; and I ended up adoring her as well.
Without a doubt, one of the best qualities of Talley’s debut was the historical aspect.
The research on this time period is continually evident throughout every single page of the story, and you can’t help but admire that. Talley recreates the atmosphere of the 1960s in a way that is both extremely authentic and well-detailed.
It’s rare to find a historical fiction novel set in the 1960s – especially in the young adult genre – but Lies We Tell Ourselves is one of those few; and it does so wonderfully.