By Chloe Bransom
The Lies We Tell Ourselves is a novel by Robin Talley set in the 1950’s about when coloured children first attempted to join all-white schools to fight for their rights. The story is about 18-year-old Sarah, who along with her siblings and friends are the first small group of coloured children to bravely enter Jefferson, an all-white school, and face momentous amounts of abuse for doing so. Talley gives us an accurate insight as to how much suffering the children who did this in the 50’s would have endured simply for fighting for their human rights. Many events in the book sadly are still what coloured people face today and is haunting to recognise.
As well as this being a novel about race, Talley also interprets sexuality into the story, and does so WITHOUT making a big deal out of it, and makes the protagonist seem even stronger towards the end.
Sarah is struggling to adjust to the new school and the abuse she and her friends face every day, even causing one of them to drop out and go back their old school, and another to get so badly beaten up he ends up in hospital in a coma he may not wake up from. During this journey of Sarah’s, she realises that there is also something else she is struggling with within herself.
Making a mortal enemy of white poster child Linda, the two girls are constantly thrown together in different ways, disgusting yet pleasing both of them. It’s not long before both Sarah and Linda realise why they like arguing with each other so much, and why they feel so repulsed against each other.
Talley has excellently portrayed the characters in this book and the struggles of coloured people’s rights during the 1950’s as well as addressing the additional sexuality issues there were during that time also. Anybody who wants to read a book with a strong female lead, relevant history and a lot of good humour, I would suggest reading this book in one whole sitting, just as I did.