The Honest Bookclub is on tour! No, we're not in a band, it's a different kind of tour - we're teaming up with Robin Talley and Harlequin UK to spread the word about the recently released Lies We Tell Ourselves - a tremendously important read which centers around a black girl and a white girl who fall in love in 1959 Virginia while their school is being desegregated for the first time.
We have already expressed our belief that Lies We Tell Ourselves is doing for the issues of race and homosexuality what The Fault In Our Stars has done for cancer and terminal illnesses in YA literature. Profound, clever and infinitely relatable, the story of Sarah Dunbar and Linda Marshall's struggle to find a voice amid the noise of the shouting crowds has failed to leave many indifferent to the implications. Far from being historical fiction, Lies We Tell Ourselves raises the same issues we're still facing today, and - uniquely - targets teens as the primary demographic, thus seeking not only to remind those who have lived the battle for civil rights, but also to educate those who never did - and all through a story that just about everyone could relate to.
We were privileged and honored to get an ARC of Lies We Tell Ourselves from Harlequin UK ahead of time,
and also to move it to the front of the shelf on its release date. We are yet to come up with words to impart just how many reflections it has left us with.
As part of this blog tour, we've had the opportunity to do a Q&A with Robin Talley, and we asked her about the inspiration for the book, the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, and her stance on equality and human rights.
- Where did the inspiration for "Lies We Tell Ourselves" come from?
My parents were both in high school when their Virginia schools were integrated in the 1960s. I was talking with them about their memories of that time, and I wondered what it would’ve been like for those first black students entering the previously all-white schools, fully aware of the extensive battles the authorities had conducted to try to keep them out. I thought it would be really interesting to explore that period in a story.
- How did the decision come about to gear this story towards the young adult crowd?
From the beginning, I envisioned the story as focusing on high schools students who were part of the school integration movement. So making it a YA novel was a no-brainer!
- Do you feel the issue of racism and LGBT-related topics get enough prominence in today's literature? Have you noticed improvement from the way it used to be when you were younger?
There are definitely more books now featuring diverse characters than there were ten years ago, or twenty years ago, or fifty years ago. I was in college by the time I first read a book with a gay character ― even though reading about gay characters would’ve meant the world to me when I was younger. When I was first thinking about all these identity questions, I was desperate for reflections out there of other people who were like me.
But even though we’ve made some progress, we’ve still got a long way to go. That’s part of why I’m so excited about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement. There are still far too few books out there, especially books for kids and teenagers, that reflect the great diversity of the world around us. We’ve got to up the number of books getting written, getting published, getting read that have protagonists who are outside the white, straight, cisgender, Christian, non-disabled majority.
- Equality and social justice are issues you feel passionately about. The zest with which you write about them demonstrates as much. What organizations, charities and events would you recommend to your readers to look up, join and contribute to?
Thank you! And wow, there are so many great ones. I’m in the U.S., so most of the organizations I’m familiar with are here, but some good international organizations I recommend checking out are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Médecins Sans Frontières, and Heifer International. I also recommend doing research to find organizations that are working in your local community to make a difference. Many local charities don’t have the infrastructure needed to solicit support the way the big organizations do, so they often need your donations and volunteer contributions most of all.
- Are any of the characters in the book inspired by real-life people?
No, the characters in Lies We Tell Ourselves are entirely fictional. I do reference a few real historical figures in the book, though. For example, the former governor of Virginia, Lindsay Almond, who led the school closings that shut thousands of students out of their schools for several months in 1958 to prevent the schools from being integrated, was very, very real.
- If you had to draw a parallel between "Lies We Tell Ourselves" and other books, which do you feel would fit the bill?
I love, love, love Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Like Lies We Tell Ourselves, it centers on the experiences of and relationship between two brave young women who are thrown right into the middle of terrible events during a horrible time in history.
- Who are some of the authors who inspired you to become one? What do you enjoy reading the most?
There are too many to list! But going back to the very beginning, it was reading Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club series in elementary school that first made me want to become a writer.
My favorite YA writer today is E. Lockhart. I love her strong, brilliant teen girl protagonists and deceptively clever writing style. The Boyfriend List is my all-time favorite YA series.
- And who are some of your real-life inspirations?
Hillary Clinton is pretty dang amazing. She’s spent her entire career working to help people, especially people in underserved populations ― whether it’s by working with NGOs, by serving in elected office, or through her recent work with the U.S. State Department. I don’t know how she’s managed to keep doing it for so long and so well, but I wish I had one-one hundredth of her stamina, brilliance, and drive.
- What are some of the lies you tell yourself?
That the next book will be easier to write than the book I wrote before. You’d think you’d get better at writing books the more you do it, but somehow, each book always winds up being harder than the last!
- In the end, we wish to thank you for the interview and for including us in your blog tour, but far more importantly, we wish to thank you for teaching us valuable lessons (and reminding us of some we've already learned but temporarily forgot), and for writing "Lies We Tell Ourselves" in such an honest, relatable way.
Thank you so much! So excited to be here, and so glad you liked Lies We Tell Ourselves!
Robin Talley grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, writing terrible teen poetry and riding a desegregation bus to the school across town. A Lambda Literary Fellow, Robin lives in Washington, D.C., with her wife, plus an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. When Robin’s not writing, she’s often planning communication strategies at organizations fighting for equal rights and social justice. You can find her on the web at www.robintalley.com or on Twitter at @robin_talley.
Robin's first novel, Lies We Tell Ourselves, was released Sept. 30, 2014, by Harlequin Teen. Her next book, Unbreakable, follows a high school couple — Gretchen, who identifies as a lesbian, and Toni, who identifies as genderqueer — whose relationship is tested when they’re separated for their first year of college.
Q&A WITH AUTHOR ROBIN TALLEY
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