‘Lies We Tell Ourselves’ – Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves


Sometimes a book comes along that makes you want to grab strangers in the street, thrust it under their noses and urge them to read it. This was one of those books.

‘Lies We Tell Ourselves’ is featured on the Carnegie 2016 Short-list, and deservedly so. It tells the story of Sarah, one of the first black students to be enrolled in the all-white Jefferson High. While the details are fictionalised, they are heavily rooted in fact and this, for me, was what gave the book its main impact. Reading about the traumas faced by the students enrolled on a daily basis was deeply disturbing – and it really makes the reader question their beliefs and attitudes.

Upon first finishing the book I was awash with emotion. My initial thoughts veered between disgust, frustration, anger, respect and outrage. Talley highlighted just how amazing what some people go through to experience a basic human right is. As I read I felt more than little ashamed to be part of a cultural group that could ever think this kind of behaviour is acceptable.

Alongside the issue of racism, the story also focuses on the emotional impact on both female characters of coming to terms with their sexuality in a deeply religious context. Sarah was, for me, the stronger of the two main female characters. From the first time we see her trying to get into school to the day she leaves she shows compassion, intelligence and bravery. However, Linda was the character who seemed to grow and develop as she is challenged to question everything she has believed to be the truth.
Such an important book, in so many ways. I feel honoured to have read it.