Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Love in a Time of Hate Robin Talley's Debut Novel Examines the Many Levels of Bigotry

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Love in a Time of Hate Robin Talley's Debut Novel Examines the Many Levels of Bigotry

Article excerpt

"LIES WE TELL OURSELVES"

By Robin Talley

Harlequin Teen ($17.99).

A stirring portrayal of the fight for integration in the late 1950s, and the toll it took on the high school students responsible for taking the first steps, Robin Talley's debut novel, "Lies We Tell Ourselves," tackles the hard topics: the civil rights movement, newly integrated schools in the Deep South, and teens coming to terms with their sexuality in an era when that was not even discussed in the open.

Told in an alternating dual narrative, the novel follows two high school senior girls on opposite sides of the integration battle. One girl, Sarah, is among the first 10 black students encouraged by her parents to enroll in the local white high school.

The other, Linda, is a white girl, daughter of the town's most outspoken opponent of racial integration. As Sarah struggles to deal with ever-increasing hostility, slurs, threats and humiliation at school, popular and privileged Linda must slowly come to recognize the bigotry of her father, and the lies her whole town upholds.

But when they're forced to work together on a school project, the girls have to confront more than just that ? they also need to confront the strange new emotions they feel when they're together.

Ms. Talley's debut hits a sensitive spot in a country that is still, half a century after integration, struggling to overcome racism, but it also reflects the ongoing LGBT rights movement of today. The parallels are subtle, but it's easy to see how the overt racism of the '60s so easily translates into today's fight for marriage equality.

Both are touchy subjects, yet Ms. Talley navigates them with grace. She concentrates on her characters, developing their personalities, their conflicting interests, and showing how their experiences affect them.

In the author questionnaire at the back, Ms. Talley states that when drafting the book, she was frequently asked whether integration was really "that bad." Considering the shocking depth to which students at the fictional school sink in order to fight having black classmates, it's not surprising she gets that question a lot. …

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