Rating: 5/5 stars
Lie #1: I’m not afraid
Lie #2: I’m sure I’m doing the right thing
Lie #3: I don’t care what they think of me
It’s 1959. The battle for civil rights is raging. And it’s Sarah’s first day of school as one of the first black students at previously all-white Jefferson High.
No one wants Sarah there. Not the Governor. Not the teachers. And certainly not the students – especially Linda, daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist.
Sarah and Linda are supposed to despise each other. But the more time they spend together, the less their differences matter. And both girls start to feel something they’ve never felt before. Something they’re determined to ignore.
Because it’s one thing to stand up to an unjust world – but another to be terrified of what’s in your own heart.
“All my sister and I are trying to do is go to school,” she says. “We should be able to do that without having to worry about people coming at us in the halls.”
I’ve mentioned previously that historical fiction is one of my favourite genres. This is because I find history interesting, but I’m never able to really understand it or fully invest myself in it in lesson format. Reading about history, however, makes it so that historical events are regenerated into realistic happenings I an actually believe in.
It’s so much easier to understand the social impacts of integration in the late 1950s and early 1960s when such impacts are illustrated from the perspective of someone who experienced them.
The subject of segregation and eventual integration has always piqued my interest simply because I never understood how people were so bigoted, and how segregation lasted so long. Frankly, it’s baffling to read about people’s logic in the past, and it’s undeniably striking to see how their beliefs affected everyone else.
This book is told from 2 perspectives – Linda and Sarah – which is equally as unique as it is absorbing. This is because Sarah is black, and to read about segregation from her perspective is what I expected and know: she was treated poorly, and she was endlessly aware of the injustice of it all. She was, however, treated so much more poorly than I could ever have imagined, and on a much larger time scale. This was so impactful to me, as a reader, for I was able to witness the extents of racism from an honest perspective, one I – being white – would never otherwise understand.
This is not the only reason the dual-perspective approach was interesting, for Sarah’s chapters were juxtaposed by Linda’s, who just so happened to be the daughter of a white supremacist. Linda primarily followed in her father’s footsteps, holding the belief that integration was a terrible idea. However, seeing how her character evolved over the course of the novel was thoroughly inspiring; it reminded me that change is possible, and people are able to see the other side of the argument once they actually open themselves up to it.
As a character, I primarily found Linda insufferable, but it is my belief that the author – Robin Talley – meant for this to be; Linda is the antagonist for much of the novel, because she voices the views we as readers today understand to be extremely bigoted, and on the wrong side of history. However, as aforementioned, her development over time was really empowering to see: she, as a female, realised that she was also able to form her own opinions, and have an impact on the changing society.
One the other hand, Sarah was was a strong female perspective to read from, regardless of her race. Her inner monologue, though riddled with worry, had one strong theme throughout: she was able to power through whatever anyone threw at her.
She was just that kind of girl.
I think this is really important for females to read about – especially young girls – as it aids the removal of our inferiority complex against men: women are equally able to do anything a man can, and it’s great to see how much of this book was actually taken into the hands of women.
Overall, this book was really inspiring, and it was fascinating to read about such a devastating yet poignant time in history from the perspective of those directly affected. Thus I awarded this book 5/5 stars, and would recommend it to both adults, young adults, and teens – of all genders – to read, as it illustrates a very important time in history.
Lies We Tell Ourselves is the winner of the 2016 Inaugural Amnesty Honour, and so I am entering this novel for the number 35 spot on the Around the Year in 52 Books challenge: An award winning book. Yay!
He doesn’t care. None of them do. I bet they’d care if we threw things back.
School is worse than I thought it would be, but I can survive this. And I’m going to make sure Ruth survives it, too.
As long as I have my dignity, I can do anything.
People always say I’m stubborn, but that’s because they’ve never met Sarah Dunbar.
I half hope we’ll keep kissing and kissing, the way boys and girls do in the movies.
Even though she’s a girl. Even though she’s coloured. I want to keep kissing Sarah forever.
This should be the easiest, most natural thing in the world. Going out on a date with a boy. Maybe if I try hard enough, it will be.
No one is going to judge me for what I’m thinking and feeling except me and God. And I’m not sure I understand how God judges people anymore, either.