The book Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley takes place during the desegregation of schools in rural Virginia and focuses on two female students; Sarah Dunbar, who is black, and Linda Hairston, who is white. Sarah is one of the first black students to attend Jefferson High School, a formerly all white high school. Linda Hairston’s father violently opposes desegregation and is the head editor for the local newspaper. They live separate lives until Jefferson High School desegregates and the two are assigned to work on a school project together. They must face the truth about race, their lives, and how they really feel about themselves.
I have read many historical fiction books about desegregation and I can honestly say that this is probably the best one I have read to date. The book does not shy away from portraying the awful truths in Virginia’s not so distant path in their full brutality, but still manages to keep the book relatable. Nothing about the book seems overdone or manufactured; it’s all so organic that you can almost believe that it sprung from Robin Talley’s head fully formed.
The book switches back and forth from Sarah and Linda’s narration effortlessly; the changes never feel shaky or awkward, just natural. The narration switches are used to illustrate the differences between the two and how the start to fade as the book goes on. Talley never shies away from the harsh reality of how black students were treated in the 1950s but luckily she does shy away from turning this book into another heteronormative historical fiction novel. I have never been so happy with a book than when Linda breaks up with her racist fiance. Trust me, this book is an excellent read that will leave you crying and reconsidering the history of your state.
We'll be sharing an interview with the author of Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley, on Friday!