It’s incredibly surreal to think that this day has actually come. You spend years, probably decades, anticipating it. It’s like waiting for Christmas when you were a kid. The day itself always seemed so impossibly far away that your whole life was just anticipation.

But the anticipation is over ― and my first book, LIES WE TELL OURSELVES, is here. It’s in stores! It’s got an actual “Order” button on websites! (Preordering is so yesterday.)

Lies We Tell Ourselves


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.

Advance praise for LIES WE TELL OURSELVES:

“A beautifully written and compelling read.” – School Library Journal

“A well-handled debut.” – Booklist

“A piercing look at the courage it takes to endure…forms of extreme hatred, violence, racism and sexism.” – Kirkus Reviews

“The big issues of school desegregation in the 1950s, interracial dating, and same-sex couples have the potential to be too much for one novel, but the author handles all with aplomb. What makes it even better is that both Linda’s and Sarah’s points of view are revealed as the novel unfolds, giving meaning to their indoctrinated views. Educators looking for materials to support the civil rights movement will find a gem in this novel, and librarians seeking titles for their LGBT displays should have this novel on hand…. This is a meaningful tale about integration.” – VOYA

Lies We Tell Ourselves is a phenomenal story of two high-school seniors experiencing desegregation for the first time in their Virginia school. The story provides no easy solutions; instead, it offers a solid and responsible ending that leaves hope for both girls to find a better future, while indicating that there is still much left for us to do.” – Sara Hines, Eight Cousins Books

Launch event:

This Saturday, I’m having a joint launch party with Caroline Richmond (whose debut THE ONLY THING TO FEAR comes out today too ― hurrah!) in Arlington, Va., right outside of Washington, D.C. You should come! Here are the details.


IndieBound | One More Page Books | AmazonBarnes & Noble | Harlequin

Robin Talley lives in Washington, D.C., with her ornery cat, goofy hound dog, and very patient wife. Robin’s debut novel, LIES WE TELL OURSELVES (Harlequin Teen, September 2014), follows a black girl in 1959 Virginia who’s the first to desegregate an all-white high school, and winds up falling in love with a white girl in the process. Robin tweets at @robin_talley.


We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. One author, four questions. Today we’re talking to Robin Talley, YA author of LIES WE TELL OURSELVES.

What’s your debut book about?

Here’s a summary:

It’s 1959, and 17-year-old Sarah Dunbar is the first black student to integrate the all-white Jefferson High School in Davisburg, Virginia. No one wants her there. Hundreds of white students line the school halls, screaming, spitting, and throwing rocks at Sarah and her friends.

When Sarah meets Linda Hairston, the two girls have every reason to hate each other. Linda’s not only white ― she’s the daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist. But the world is changing fast. And whether they like it or not, Sarah and Linda are changing too. Both of them are beginning to feel something they’ve never felt before. And they’re both determined to ignore it.

Because it’s one thing to be frightened by the world around you ― and another thing altogether when you’re terrified of what you feel inside.

Did you do a lot of research for your book?

Quite a bit! I spent months researching the history of school desegregation and life in the 1950s before I wrote the first word of LIES WE TELL OURSELVES. This included a lot of listening to oral histories, reading newspaper archives, and pouring through vintage high school yearbooks.

For a taste of it, here are some of my favorite photos from 1950s yearbooks:

(If you love this sort of thing as much as I do, I posted some more vintage yearbook photos here.)

Where did you get the idea for this story?

I was first inspired to write LIES WE TELL OURSELVES during a road trip with my parents. We were talking about their school days back in the 1950s and 60s, and the conversation turned to their fears that the schools would be closed due to the state government’s efforts to resist school desegregation.

Both of my parents were students in all-white Virginia high schools during integration. They both saw first-hand the torment that the few black students in their schools were subjected to. These were stories I’d never been taught in history classes, even though I grew up in Virginia too.

I did some research and discovered just how well-organized opposition to the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board desegregation ruling had been throughout the South, especially in Virginia. In the city of Norfolk, 10,000 students missed out on half a year of their educations ― because the governor closed down the white schools rather than let 17 black students into their classrooms.

I wondered what it would’ve been like to be one of those 17 black students. And what would happen if you were dealing with that ― and if you were gay, too. In 1959, being gay wasn’t something you could tell anyone about. Not unless you wanted to risk everything.

By that point, I was sucked in. I had no choice but to write Sarah’s story.

Do you have any tips for beginning writers?

Figure out what works for you, and do that. There are a million writing guides out there ― books, articles, podcasts, videos, conferences, crit groups, you name it. None of it is useful unless it works for you. Try different tricks and techniques until you find what works, and then stick with that. Don’t second-guess your own instincts.

Robin Talley lives in Washington, D.C., with her ornery cat and her opposite-of-ornery fiancée. Robin’s debut novel, LIES WE TELL OURSELVES (Harlequin Teen, September 2014), follows a black girl in 1959 Virginia who’s the first to desegregate an all-white high school, and winds up falling in love with a white girl in the process. Robin tweets at @robin_talley.