Author Interview & Giveaway: Robin Talley

We're excited to welcome the author of Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley, to Reading Lark today. 

Andrea @ Reading Lark: What sort of research went into the creation of this novel? 

Robin: Quite a lot. Lies We Tell Ourselves is set at the height of the school desegregation crisis in 1959 Virginia, so I read everything I could get my hands on about that period ― news articles, nonfiction accounts, and most importantly, memoirs and oral histories from the students who lived through it. I also poured over old yearbooks to get a feel for what day-to-day teen life was like in the late 1950s. 

Andrea @ Reading Lark: Integration was a difficult time period, but I cannot imagine how much more dangerous things would have been for someone like Sarah. Was it daunting to try to tackle two huge social justice issues in one novel? 

Robin: I didn’t realize quite how major a project I’d taken on until I was already deep into the research and planning for Lies We Tell Ourselves. It was a huge undertaking ― by far the most difficult book I’ve ever written. It wasn’t so much the issues, though, as the circumstances in which my characters were living. Sarah and Linda’s lives are impossibly hard, and writing from their perspectives was exhausting. Sometimes writing it felt like an insurmountable challenge. So I’m pleased and sometimes I still can’t quite believe that I actually made it through. 

Andrea @ Reading Lark: I love reading novels that contain characters who haven't been given a voice in the past. Do you plan to do more historical fiction that gives a different perspective of history? 

Robin: Hopefully! I love historical fiction. I’m working now on a short story for a historical anthology that Jessica Spotswood is putting together called Petticoats & Pistols. My story is set during the massive anti-war protests at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention. 

Andrea @ Reading Lark: There were some moments in your novel that were difficult to read. How did you cope with writing some of the darker and more violent sections? 

Robin: I had to just immerse myself in the story ― think about how a scene would look, sound, feel ― and try to write as if I was there. It was really, really hard. Afterward I’d need to do some major decompressing. Come home from the coffee shop where I wrote, try to put the story out of my mind, and spend some serious time petting my cat and watching “Four Weddings” or whatever. 

Andrea @ Reading Lark: It's a tradition for us at Reading Lark to ask, what is your favorite bird? 

Robin: My wife suggested that I say robins, since that’s the bird I’m named after! :)

About the Author

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 or on Twitter at @robin_talley.
About the Novel

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

We have one copy of Lies We Tell Ourselves to give to one of our lucky readers. This giveaway is open to US residents who are 14+ years of age. If you are under 18, you must have parental permission to enter. Reading Lark is not responsible for prize delivery.

The giveaway runs from October 22-29. Winner will be notified via email on October 30.


  1. It's strange that this topic is still so important today, but it is. We have to keep fighting those same old battles, it's worth it. Thanks

  2. It sounds good, probably a little frustrating though. Is "separate but equal" possible? Of course not. I think it might be a good read for my book club, especially since we share similar views on this sort of thing. Thanks!

  3. The author's ambitious choice of themes to write about is one that immediately commands my respect and increases my interest in reading her work. Moreover,I think the issues at the heart of this story are those upon which the future of society depends at this moment in time. Thanks for this opportunity and your enlightening discussion of this prospective read. Cheers, Kara S

  4. I like historical novels and as an activist I think it would be an interesting read.


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