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Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy

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In this inspiring biography, discover the true story of Harriet the Spy author Louise Fitzhugh -- and learn about the woman behind one of literature's most beloved heroines. Harriet the Spy, first published in 1964, has mesmerized generations of readers and launched a million diarists. Its beloved antiheroine, Harriet, is erratic, unsentimental, and endearing-very much like In this inspiring biography, discover the true story of Harriet the Spy author Louise Fitzhugh -- and learn about the woman behind one of literature's most beloved heroines. Harriet the Spy, first published in 1964, has mesmerized generations of readers and launched a million diarists. Its beloved antiheroine, Harriet, is erratic, unsentimental, and endearing-very much like the woman who created her, Louise Fitzhugh. Born in 1928, Fitzhugh was raised in segregated Memphis, but she soon escaped her cloistered world and headed for New York, where her expanded milieu stretched from the lesbian bars of Greenwich Village to the art world of postwar Europe, and her circle of friends included members of the avant-garde like Maurice Sendak and Lorraine Hansberry. Fitzhugh's novels, written in an era of political defiance, are full of resistance: to authority, to conformity, and even -- radically, for a children's author -- to make-believe. As a children's author and a lesbian, Fitzhugh was often pressured to disguise her true nature. Sometimes You Have to Lie tells the story of her hidden life and of the creation of her masterpiece, which remains long after her death as a testament to the complicated relationship between truth, secrecy, and individualism.


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In this inspiring biography, discover the true story of Harriet the Spy author Louise Fitzhugh -- and learn about the woman behind one of literature's most beloved heroines. Harriet the Spy, first published in 1964, has mesmerized generations of readers and launched a million diarists. Its beloved antiheroine, Harriet, is erratic, unsentimental, and endearing-very much like In this inspiring biography, discover the true story of Harriet the Spy author Louise Fitzhugh -- and learn about the woman behind one of literature's most beloved heroines. Harriet the Spy, first published in 1964, has mesmerized generations of readers and launched a million diarists. Its beloved antiheroine, Harriet, is erratic, unsentimental, and endearing-very much like the woman who created her, Louise Fitzhugh. Born in 1928, Fitzhugh was raised in segregated Memphis, but she soon escaped her cloistered world and headed for New York, where her expanded milieu stretched from the lesbian bars of Greenwich Village to the art world of postwar Europe, and her circle of friends included members of the avant-garde like Maurice Sendak and Lorraine Hansberry. Fitzhugh's novels, written in an era of political defiance, are full of resistance: to authority, to conformity, and even -- radically, for a children's author -- to make-believe. As a children's author and a lesbian, Fitzhugh was often pressured to disguise her true nature. Sometimes You Have to Lie tells the story of her hidden life and of the creation of her masterpiece, which remains long after her death as a testament to the complicated relationship between truth, secrecy, and individualism.

30 review for Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Regina White

    I cannot rate the book because I worked on researching it for four years with author Leslie Brody. We uncovered details for it that are so fascinating I have to confess I haven't stopped researching this and related topics. I have fallen way down a hole, socially distancing myself to a whole different era. I hope you enjoy it. I cannot rate the book because I worked on researching it for four years with author Leslie Brody. We uncovered details for it that are so fascinating I have to confess I haven't stopped researching this and related topics. I have fallen way down a hole, socially distancing myself to a whole different era. I hope you enjoy it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Laura Mazer

    The book I've been waiting for. Hello, mastermind creator of Harriet the Spy! The book I've been waiting for. Hello, mastermind creator of Harriet the Spy!

  3. 5 out of 5

    M. [storme reads a lot]

    have never read Harriet the Spy. I just loved the 90s movie. I was so intrigued to pick up this biography, and I was not able to put it down until I was done. It’s very interesting and well done. Even someone who knew nothing about the author or the book except for the movie, I loved every moment of this. Writing a book about a kid that’s not perfect seemed to be a landmark. People didn’t like that Harriet was nasty. However I think the way this book was done helped children to realize they could have never read Harriet the Spy. I just loved the 90s movie. I was so intrigued to pick up this biography, and I was not able to put it down until I was done. It’s very interesting and well done. Even someone who knew nothing about the author or the book except for the movie, I loved every moment of this. Writing a book about a kid that’s not perfect seemed to be a landmark. People didn’t like that Harriet was nasty. However I think the way this book was done helped children to realize they could be human and it’s okay. I remember I wanted to have a notebook and be like Harriet too. She’s seriously the coolest. Learning about the author and the influence for the book was fantastic. This book is also great because it’s an incredible piece of LGBTQ history. I had no idea about the author being a lesbian and she was living her life this way. I know the time period was about do not ask do not tell, but it’s awesome she was being her true self. I think this was one of the best parts of the book, seeing how she was accepting of herself and living her own life. I hope we will continue to get more stories of LGBT authors and their lives. I think this book would be great for new and old fans. Learn about an interesting author, have a new reason to read or reread Harriet the Spy and other works by this author. Just a really well done biography. A huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)

    “Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh was first published in 1964. Since then, this classic middle-grade school novel has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. However, the author's personal life remained a mystery as she never granted interviews or attended bookstore publicity events. Louise was born to a privileged family in Memphis during the 1920s and quickly accepted that she was a lesbian. She became unhappy with the local climate of racial and social segregation and left for New York City “Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh was first published in 1964. Since then, this classic middle-grade school novel has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. However, the author's personal life remained a mystery as she never granted interviews or attended bookstore publicity events. Louise was born to a privileged family in Memphis during the 1920s and quickly accepted that she was a lesbian. She became unhappy with the local climate of racial and social segregation and left for New York City to study art and poetry. In her short life, she cultivated a life filled with rich experiences and a community of deep friendships. “Sometimes You Have To Lie” by Leslie Brody is a well-crafted biography of the complicated and interesting life of a pioneering woman. I found this book fascinating as it depicts someone who stayed true to herself while creating realistic books for young adults. One of my earliest memories of “Harriet the Spy” was seeing it propped up in my school library as a recommended book. I was intrigued to learn more about the author.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Schulman

    Fun to read- part of that genre of Lesbians in the Village: Audre Lorde's Zami, and biographies of Patricia Highsmith, Bereniece Abbott and Agnes Martin. Longing for a social history that brings all this together. Fun to read- part of that genre of Lesbians in the Village: Audre Lorde's Zami, and biographies of Patricia Highsmith, Bereniece Abbott and Agnes Martin. Longing for a social history that brings all this together.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    Read as an Advanced Reading Copy so I do hope that there are photographs of Fitzhugh's art work in the final book but this is mediocre and that's being kind - really if you are going to write a biography about one of the great children's writers, learn something about the field and read the book with care - Brody's comments about Harriet the Spy show what a piss-poor reader she is and really are embarrassing - she clearly doesn't get Harriet - imagine seeing no change in Harriet from the opening Read as an Advanced Reading Copy so I do hope that there are photographs of Fitzhugh's art work in the final book but this is mediocre and that's being kind - really if you are going to write a biography about one of the great children's writers, learn something about the field and read the book with care - Brody's comments about Harriet the Spy show what a piss-poor reader she is and really are embarrassing - she clearly doesn't get Harriet - imagine seeing no change in Harriet from the opening the book in comparison to its ending. This is a trite book by a writer who clearly has no real interest in Children's Literature - if she did she'd know that To Kill a Mockingbird isn't and has never been a work of Children's Literature and believe you me - Louise Fitzhugh wouldn't want Harriet to be compared to Scout - not ever. Not just disappointed - Leslie Brody wasted my time!

  7. 5 out of 5

    June Schwarz

    An engaging biography of Louise Fitzhugh: well-researched, nicely balanced, and interesting. Brody does a nice job giving us a clear idea of what Fitzhugh was like as a child, a student, a person, as well as a writer and artist. Brody’s examination of Fitzhugh’s personal relationships, her lovers and friends, is fascinating and feels fair and careful, particularly when discussing Fitzhugh’s later years and death. I would have liked more excerpts from Fitzhugh’s letters and personal papers, as wel An engaging biography of Louise Fitzhugh: well-researched, nicely balanced, and interesting. Brody does a nice job giving us a clear idea of what Fitzhugh was like as a child, a student, a person, as well as a writer and artist. Brody’s examination of Fitzhugh’s personal relationships, her lovers and friends, is fascinating and feels fair and careful, particularly when discussing Fitzhugh’s later years and death. I would have liked more excerpts from Fitzhugh’s letters and personal papers, as well as her art. This would have provided a more textured reckoning with the way Fitzhugh balanced her art, her writing, and her life, and for those who are unfamiliar with the art beyond the line drawings in Harriet the Spy, it might give access to a range of Fitzhugh’s work that isn’t easily available elsewhere. However, based on Brody’s elucidation on the last years of Fitzhugh’s life, it seems a fair assumption that those materials may be unavailable to scholars. I highly recommend Sometimes You Have to Lie to anyone who loved Harriet the Spy and grew up wondering about her creator. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gail C.

    SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE is an in-depth look into the life and growth of Louise Fitzhugh. Her unconventional upbringing and bohemian style life say much about why Harriet, the Spy is who she is. There are also a vast number of other writing gigs and books attributed to Fitzhugh about which I knew nothing. This is a book that will probably be most enjoyed by those who are Fitzhugh’s fans. It is filled, sometimes overly so, with information about her entire life, including her family, her rebellio SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE is an in-depth look into the life and growth of Louise Fitzhugh. Her unconventional upbringing and bohemian style life say much about why Harriet, the Spy is who she is. There are also a vast number of other writing gigs and books attributed to Fitzhugh about which I knew nothing. This is a book that will probably be most enjoyed by those who are Fitzhugh’s fans. It is filled, sometimes overly so, with information about her entire life, including her family, her rebelliousness, and her considerable quest for new adventures and experiences. Fitzhugh lived a life many people might expect of an artist, although it might be less expected when one considers the author to be one of children’s books. While this book didn’t excite me, I think it probably will be captivating for anyone who is a fan of Fitzhugh’s work. I would recommend it to anyone who likes both biographies and Louise Fitzhugh. My thanks to Perseus Books for an advanced copy for this review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leslie aka StoreyBook Reviews

    I was intrigued by this book because while I have heard of Harriet the Spy, I have never read the book. I always love learning about authors and what their life was like and how they came to create their famous works and I now want to read the book that helped girls realize that they do not have to fit into a mold of what society thinks they should do and be in life. Louise Fitzhugh led an interesting life and I felt like she never quite figured out where she fit in, or if she fit in at all. Her I was intrigued by this book because while I have heard of Harriet the Spy, I have never read the book. I always love learning about authors and what their life was like and how they came to create their famous works and I now want to read the book that helped girls realize that they do not have to fit into a mold of what society thinks they should do and be in life. Louise Fitzhugh led an interesting life and I felt like she never quite figured out where she fit in, or if she fit in at all. Her family appeared to be dysfunctional, but then what family isn't today? Louise liked to have fun and didn't let anyone bring her down, or at least that is my impression. She had dreams of what she wanted for her life, and it wasn't to live in Tennessee. Rather, New York and Paris were two locations that called to her. This book is very detailed about Louise, her writing, her art, and her family. There is a section that shares how her parents met and their relationship, however brief, and how that impacted Louise growing up. I felt that the book was well researched with all of the footnotes. Most of the information came from family and friends since Louise rarely gave interviews, but I felt like the details gave us an insight into her travels through life and love. This is not a quick read and sometimes I felt like there was too much information, but I can imagine it was hard to know what to keep and what to leave out. Overall we give it 3 paws up.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Sampson

    Harriet the Spy is queer canon confirmed

  11. 5 out of 5

    Angela Williamson

    Harriet the Spy is one of the books from my childhood which stuck with me always. When I saw Sometimes You Have to Lie I was excited to read more about the author. After I read Harriet, I began people watching, trying to puzzle out their lives and figuring out what makes people do the things they do. One of the things I loved was that Fitzhugh's own way of living her life, not following the rules and living her own life and there is nothing wrong with being a little different and quirky. That's Harriet the Spy is one of the books from my childhood which stuck with me always. When I saw Sometimes You Have to Lie I was excited to read more about the author. After I read Harriet, I began people watching, trying to puzzle out their lives and figuring out what makes people do the things they do. One of the things I loved was that Fitzhugh's own way of living her life, not following the rules and living her own life and there is nothing wrong with being a little different and quirky. That's what I took form Harriet and love that the author taught me that. This interesting, well written biography made me pull out my old copy and read again for nostalgia. Thanks NetGalley and Leslie Brody for a chance to read this book for a review and reclaim some of my childhood!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I grew up with Harriet the Spy so I expected to like its author, Louise Fitzhugh. Her life was incredibly interesting and that’s covered — detailed, really — in this biography. While I learned a great deal, this book could’ve used an aggressive editor. It’s one-third longer than it should be and contains some content that is neither here nor there in the profile of the author; just too much of a good thing.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Mae

    An absolutely delightful and engaging biography on the woman behind one of my favorite books, Harriet the Spy. I knew absolutely nothing about Louise Fitzhugh prior to reading this, and found her a truly wonderful artist who knew so many people and had a genuine talent that Harriet the Spy was able to exemplify... but she had so much more to offer. I highly recommend this to fans of Harriet, anyone who appreciates LGBTQ+ history, and fans of midcentury literature in general.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gayle

    Full review at: http://www.everydayiwritethebookblog.... When I was growing up, Harriet the Spy was one of my all-time favorite books. I read it so many times that the spine cracked. (I actually still have my copy of the book – scroll down for a picture of it.) It’s the story of Harriet, an irreverent, nonconformist eleven year-old girl who keeps notebooks detailing the goings-on of her Yorkville neighbors and containing unflattering comments about her classmates. One day, her notebook is confisc Full review at: http://www.everydayiwritethebookblog.... When I was growing up, Harriet the Spy was one of my all-time favorite books. I read it so many times that the spine cracked. (I actually still have my copy of the book – scroll down for a picture of it.) It’s the story of Harriet, an irreverent, nonconformist eleven year-old girl who keeps notebooks detailing the goings-on of her Yorkville neighbors and containing unflattering comments about her classmates. One day, her notebook is confiscated and read, and Harriet must suffer the fallout from this unfortunate discovery. In the end, she learns the value of tact, compromise and the well-placed apology, as she tries to get back into her friends’ good graces. But who was the creative genius behind Harriet The Spy and its classic illustrations? She was Louise Fitzhugh, the subject of Leslie Brody’s biography, Sometimes You Have To Lie. Louise Fitzhugh was a complicated woman. Born in Tennessee in 1920s to a mismatched couple who divorced soon after, she was raised by her father’s wealthy family and kept from seeing her mother until she was basically an adult. She never felt comfortable in segregated Memphis and moved during college to New York, where she eventually settled in Greenwich Village. Fitzhugh was an artist, dabbling in everything from painting to murals to book illustrations and, eventually, fiction. Harriet The Spy came out in the mid-60s and reflected Fitzhugh’s generally iconoclastic view of the world. She disliked artifice, convention and predictability. She never hid her lesbianism and had several long, committed relationships with women. She dazzled and entertained her friends with her passion, humor and talent, but she could also be impetuous and flighty. Brody’s memoir, compiled from a wide range of interviews with Fitzhugh’s family and contemporaries, explains how Fitzhugh’s roots turned her into the person she became. Her father, in particular, was a smart but insecure man whose insistence on control and propriety was soundly rejected by his daughter (and would have been by Harriet, too). His mother, Fitzhugh’s grandmother, was kind but eccentric, and she too found a place in Fitzhugh’s writing over the years. Harriet’s beloved nanny, Ole Golly, was an amalgamation of caregivers who had shown Fitzhugh kindness and affection in her childhood – something she had lacked from her own parents. Brody was clearly taken with her subject, and her writing is lively and detailed – sometimes overly so, as there is a fair amount of information in Sometimes You Have To Lie that could have been pared back or eliminated. And because Fitzhugh was reclusive and rarely gave interviews, Brody was often left to guess about Fitzhugh’s innermost thoughts. But for diehard Harriet fans – of which there are surely millions – Sometimes I Have To Lie is a rewarding look at the woman who conjured up such a compelling heroine.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joyfully Jay

    A Joyfully Jay review. 4.5 stars Sometimes You Have To Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy offers an interesting look at a woman who refused to be pigeon-holed by the world around her. Though she grew up among the Southern elites, Louise was bucking the system from an early age, challenging social norms and rejecting the conventional roles established for women. She could write, play music, and paint and felt most at home amongst other creative and liter A Joyfully Jay review. 4.5 stars Sometimes You Have To Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy offers an interesting look at a woman who refused to be pigeon-holed by the world around her. Though she grew up among the Southern elites, Louise was bucking the system from an early age, challenging social norms and rejecting the conventional roles established for women. She could write, play music, and paint and felt most at home amongst other creative and literary giants of her time. She wasn’t shy about her sexuality and, in age when many others had to hide, Louise lived her life relatively “out” for the time. When she wrote Harriet the Spy, she joined a then fairly small group of authors who understood that preteens were uniquely different than other ages and that childhood is a far more complicated business than most adults care to remember. Read Sue’s review in its entirety here.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ida

    "Harriet the Spy" was a formative book for me in my youth. The heroine was a an independent-minded tomboy who had a temper -- relatable as could be. When I re-read it as an adult, I was blown away by how nearly perfect it is as a novel. The book taught me valuable life lessons, including that "there are as many ways to live as there are people in the world." But I never knew much about the author, Louise Fitzhugh, except that I owed her an immense debt both for Harriet and for helping me underst "Harriet the Spy" was a formative book for me in my youth. The heroine was a an independent-minded tomboy who had a temper -- relatable as could be. When I re-read it as an adult, I was blown away by how nearly perfect it is as a novel. The book taught me valuable life lessons, including that "there are as many ways to live as there are people in the world." But I never knew much about the author, Louise Fitzhugh, except that I owed her an immense debt both for Harriet and for helping me understand what was actually happening with my newly menstruating body when I read "The Long Secret." Brody presents a satisfying portrait of Harriet's creator, a person as real and messy and passionate and complicated as the iconic character she brought to life. Fitzhugh was also an accomplished artist, outspoken against racism, and a person who strove to live a life true to herself, openly gay in an era when that took guts. I chose well for my first read of the year.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    A thoroughly enjoyable biography about the author of one of my favorite (indeed, most librarian's) books. Until biographer Leslie Brody pointed it out, I didn't realize how little has ever been written or shared about Louise Fitzhugh's life. It was invigorating to learn about the robust female-centric, mostly lesbian artists' circle she was a part of, but I wonder if today's youth would read her uncompromising artistic standards as privilege, since the reason she could follow her artistic muse i A thoroughly enjoyable biography about the author of one of my favorite (indeed, most librarian's) books. Until biographer Leslie Brody pointed it out, I didn't realize how little has ever been written or shared about Louise Fitzhugh's life. It was invigorating to learn about the robust female-centric, mostly lesbian artists' circle she was a part of, but I wonder if today's youth would read her uncompromising artistic standards as privilege, since the reason she could follow her artistic muse in NYC was due to the generous allowance supplied to her by her wealthy Southern family. Still, it was a very satisfying writer's biography and has inspired me to go back and re-read her novels and look up her picture books.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    Earlier today I reviewed a biography that seemed to fail on so many levels, putting into perspective why this one, of writer and artist Louise Fitzhugh, succeeds on so many levels. It’s well-researched, just as the other one was, but – and here’s the difference – here the author has really tried to get to know her subject, and the result is an engaging, comprehensive, balanced and insightful exploration of Fitzhugh’s life and work. I’ve never read Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh’s most famous c Earlier today I reviewed a biography that seemed to fail on so many levels, putting into perspective why this one, of writer and artist Louise Fitzhugh, succeeds on so many levels. It’s well-researched, just as the other one was, but – and here’s the difference – here the author has really tried to get to know her subject, and the result is an engaging, comprehensive, balanced and insightful exploration of Fitzhugh’s life and work. I’ve never read Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh’s most famous creation, but I was intrigued and entertained throughout by this biography, and really felt that I got to know its subject. A great read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    I really enjoyed this fantastic memoir from the children's author for Harriet the Spy. As much as Harriett was beloved and well known, the author's life - that of Louise Fitzhugh remains to be hidden and in secret until this amazing biography written by Leslie Brody. I found that the research done was extensive and I really enjoyed reading about her life. If you like reading non-fiction biographies, memoirs or even enjoyed the children's book, Harriet the Spy, then this is a must read for you. Wo I really enjoyed this fantastic memoir from the children's author for Harriet the Spy. As much as Harriett was beloved and well known, the author's life - that of Louise Fitzhugh remains to be hidden and in secret until this amazing biography written by Leslie Brody. I found that the research done was extensive and I really enjoyed reading about her life. If you like reading non-fiction biographies, memoirs or even enjoyed the children's book, Harriet the Spy, then this is a must read for you. Wonderfully written and full of heart, I highly recommend.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    I read Harriet the Spy when I was 8 or 9. I wanted a black and white composition notebook so I could jot my musings as I spied on people. I wanted to be a writer. I read Brody's biography on Fitzhugh with great interest. I knew nothing about the author and hadn't realized she wrote other books after Harriet. I did read The Long Secret as a child but it didn't leave much of an impression. I marveled that Ursula Norton was her editor. Fitzhugh was quixotic and lived life on her own terms. I read t I read Harriet the Spy when I was 8 or 9. I wanted a black and white composition notebook so I could jot my musings as I spied on people. I wanted to be a writer. I read Brody's biography on Fitzhugh with great interest. I knew nothing about the author and hadn't realized she wrote other books after Harriet. I did read The Long Secret as a child but it didn't leave much of an impression. I marveled that Ursula Norton was her editor. Fitzhugh was quixotic and lived life on her own terms. I read this book with much interest and I have the urge to break out that old notebook and takes notes on people once again. Thanks to NetGalley and Seal Press for the advance copy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    LeAnn

    I liked all the parts that were about Louise and her group of girlfriends/wives, lovers, and friends. It was the other parts - about her parents, the backstories of fleeting characters, bits about other authors she knew - that lost my interest. I know that the information is limited by what you are able to discover and what other people are willing to tell you but I would have liked to know more about Lois and why she made the choices at the end. Or did someone else persuade her or make those ch I liked all the parts that were about Louise and her group of girlfriends/wives, lovers, and friends. It was the other parts - about her parents, the backstories of fleeting characters, bits about other authors she knew - that lost my interest. I know that the information is limited by what you are able to discover and what other people are willing to tell you but I would have liked to know more about Lois and why she made the choices at the end. Or did someone else persuade her or make those choices for her.

  22. 4 out of 5

    M. K. French

    Louise Fitzhugh published Harriet the Spy in 1964, creating an antiheroine that was unsentimental yet endearing. This was based largely on her own experiences, as she left segregated Memphis for New York City, spent time in lesbian bars of Greenwich Village, and made friends with the avant-garde writers of the day. At the time of publication, Harriet was seen as “nasty” by critics because she didn’t conform to expectations, even if the children reading the book loved her. Louise was told to hide Louise Fitzhugh published Harriet the Spy in 1964, creating an antiheroine that was unsentimental yet endearing. This was based largely on her own experiences, as she left segregated Memphis for New York City, spent time in lesbian bars of Greenwich Village, and made friends with the avant-garde writers of the day. At the time of publication, Harriet was seen as “nasty” by critics because she didn’t conform to expectations, even if the children reading the book loved her. Louise was told to hide who she really was in order to further her career. Sometimes You Have to Lie seeks to tell Louise’s genuine story. Louise was a tiny woman, standing four feet eleven inches, and like her heroine had undergone therapy for years. Both were underestimated, and even being part of the counterculture of the 1950’s postwar era wouldn’t have helped her career if her sexuality was known. In that time period, being anything other than straight meant that people were hounded, their associates boycotted, and humiliating personal attacks on anyone and everyone around them was a common occurrence. Careers were actively ruined, and it was already bad enough that she didn’t like the Jim Crow violence of her early society upbringing. Because of this, friends were fiercely protective of her reputation even after she died in 1974, and her biography in any of her books, plays, or art shows was very short and poorly detailed. As with many biographies, we actually get a little background on Louise’s parents first. Partly because they helped shape the woman that she became, and partly to show the reader the time period when she came of age. Her parents were the Jazz Age generation, and forward-thinking for their time: her father was a lawyer from a wealthy and genteel family, and her mother was a dance teacher hoping to support her mother and siblings. Their whirlwind courtship led to a volatile relationship ending in divorce, a scandal for the time, which resulted in Louise’s mother being psychiatrically hospitalized and custody given to her short-tempered father. He told Louise that his mother was dead, and the topic was never openly discussed after the lie was exposed. Louise had many other influences in her life while growing up, leading to a more liberal view of women’s abilities, racial injustice, and the social gaps between rich and poor. Louise pushed against what was expected of her, hating the whitewashing of her girls’ school, dating a girl as a senior in high school, and having a sexual relationship with a young woman. She also briefly married a male friend in 1947, though it was more to assert her independence from her family than out of a genuine desire to be with a man. Over the years she had several lovers and was a confirmed lesbian, proud of being a groundbreaking artist in the Beatnik era, which was predominantly heterosexual male. She enjoyed friendships with many leading writers, poets, and artists, and chose to start psychotherapy to understand her shifting moods and capricious impulses. That helped stabilize her professional life and work relationship. I found it fascinating to see how Louise’s life was not only influenced by people she knew, but by the times themselves. The 1950s and 1960s were decades of change and upheaval, and it influenced her art and view of the world. It was a tumultuous era, and Louise’s relationships with lovers, friends, and her mother could mirror that as well. This was not only reflected in her famous novel but in the ways she tried to improve her own knowledge and the relationships she had with her closest friends. It’s also fascinating to see the behind the scenes look at publishing back then, and the struggle over Louise’s literary legacy after she died. An incredible amount of research went into Sometimes You Have to Lie, not only for Louise but for all the major players in her life. We learn about her parents, her stepmother, the great loves of her life, her friends, her editors, her publishers, and all of the influences she had in the literary and art world of the period. Louise was a believer in using art to reflect the truth of the world at large and make it a better place. Some of the same struggles in race and sexuality still occur, so her struggles to stay true to her art as well as herself still resonates. Because her novel Harriet the Spy is still being discovered by children even now, her biography is a welcome lens to look at the book and how it was influenced, as well as how it reflected on her life and times.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Harriet M.

    As should be obvious from my username and avatar, I am, like many women of my generation and writerly profession, a little obsessed with Harriet the Spy. As such I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Louise Fitzhugh through Brody's biography, but it left me with as many questions as it answered. Given the tactfully worded descriptions of the privacy of the Fitzhugh estate, it can have been no small feat to write this book at all. Brody does a stellar job at conjuring up the lively world in which As should be obvious from my username and avatar, I am, like many women of my generation and writerly profession, a little obsessed with Harriet the Spy. As such I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Louise Fitzhugh through Brody's biography, but it left me with as many questions as it answered. Given the tactfully worded descriptions of the privacy of the Fitzhugh estate, it can have been no small feat to write this book at all. Brody does a stellar job at conjuring up the lively world in which Louise lived, connecting Fitzhugh's life and work with broader social movements and events. She made some connections between contemporary artists and work that I found insightful and interesting. I was particularly glad to see the Harriet Vane connection spoken about -- I've wondered about it for years). But Brody's biography never really gets beyond the mythology ring-fenced by her staunch coterie of friends. Everything feels a bit cleaned up for company and rather than knowing Fitzhugh, I feel like I've seen a mosaic where each tile has been manufactured by a different acquaintance. The result is an image that looks different from different angles. This succeeds at capturing some of the complexities of Fitzhugh's life, but you come away still feeling like you don't really know her. And some things give me pause about the depth of the portrait, in which Fitzhugh seems a little too good to be true. For someone who sounds as if she was difficult to live with in a number of respects, does everyone really love her forever? Even after relationships have broken up? Everyone? I adored the descriptions of Fitzhugh's paintings, but there were no photos of them. I assume all this is an issue with the estate. I found it frustrating and can only assume the author found it even more so. But these things aside, I found new things to consider about Fitzhugh. In places where there was more material, as with the description of Fitzhugh's memorial service, Brody is meticulous and insightful. I was she had had more freedom with the materials. I also wish the editor had made one more pass to get rid of some of the repetition across chapters, but that is a minor quibble. This is still a great read and I recommend it to Harriet lovers everywhere.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    I read Harriet the Spy hot off the press in 1964 and, like so many other young female readers, recognized myself in Harriet. I had my own notebook in which I wrote original episodes based on Man from UNCLE, also debuting in 1964, in which I was the star spy. I know that my lifelong love affair with writing coalesced and found a home in my heart around the book, Harriet the Spy. As an adolescent, I read the trilogy, but always liked Harriet the Spy best. I had no inkling of Louise’s life until a I read Harriet the Spy hot off the press in 1964 and, like so many other young female readers, recognized myself in Harriet. I had my own notebook in which I wrote original episodes based on Man from UNCLE, also debuting in 1964, in which I was the star spy. I know that my lifelong love affair with writing coalesced and found a home in my heart around the book, Harriet the Spy. As an adolescent, I read the trilogy, but always liked Harriet the Spy best. I had no inkling of Louise’s life until a friend sent me this book after we bonded over high praise for tomato sandwiches. Louise Fitzhugh’s life was purposely kept undercover to the general public because her partner, Lois, preferred the world see Louise in a certain light. Leslie Brody, author of Sometimes You Have to Lie, has deftly written a comprehensive and captivating biography of Fitzhugh, well-researched with permission from Louise’s many friends. The book reads well, documenting Louise’s energy and pain, the price of seeing clearly and without reservation.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    Harriet the Spy was written when I was a toddler, and I read it when I was nine or ten. It is the kind of book that makes an impression on a kid, and I made sure my own children read it, too. I knew nothing of the author, though, and this book remedied that. Born into a loveless marriage, Louise Fitzhugh spent the first years of her life thinking her mother was dead, a lie which resulted in a long-term hatred for her father. Of course it was more complicated than that - he raised her, competed w Harriet the Spy was written when I was a toddler, and I read it when I was nine or ten. It is the kind of book that makes an impression on a kid, and I made sure my own children read it, too. I knew nothing of the author, though, and this book remedied that. Born into a loveless marriage, Louise Fitzhugh spent the first years of her life thinking her mother was dead, a lie which resulted in a long-term hatred for her father. Of course it was more complicated than that - he raised her, competed with her, demanded things of her, but also supported her financially and gave her a life of privilege. She grew up in Memphis in the '30s and '40s and hated the racism she saw there. She was a lesbian who refused to hide the fact from her parents and friends, but the book also shows how she had to disguise it in certain instances. Her troubled youth led to a troubled adulthood. Much of her writing was autobiographical, and it was a commentary on American society of the '60s, for kids. She changed how grown-ups wrote for children, respecting them both as people and as individuals.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    A fantastic biography of a woman I've always wanted to know more about since Harriet the Spy made a huge impact on me. In fact, in 1974 at 11 years old (Harriet's age), I wrote a letter in Fitzhugh, and her publisher wrote to me that she'd recently died. I tried to research more about her life but hadn't been very successful. So, I ate up this book. Brody powerfully explores the ups and downs of the creative process (in addition to being a writer, Fitzhugh was an illustrator and a painter), and w A fantastic biography of a woman I've always wanted to know more about since Harriet the Spy made a huge impact on me. In fact, in 1974 at 11 years old (Harriet's age), I wrote a letter in Fitzhugh, and her publisher wrote to me that she'd recently died. I tried to research more about her life but hadn't been very successful. So, I ate up this book. Brody powerfully explores the ups and downs of the creative process (in addition to being a writer, Fitzhugh was an illustrator and a painter), and weaves in details about Fitzhugh's upbringing the zeitgeist of the times she lived to paint a multi-dimensional portrait of a complex woman. I was especially gripped by the way Fitzhugh, in her writing and her life, grappled with issues of sexuality, gender (fluidity), feminism, race, class--and children's emancipation. She saw children as full humans, not to be condescended to, and portrayed them as such. No wonder generations of young people love her work. Thank you NetGalley for the advanced review copy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    This book filled a hunger in me that I've had since I read Harriet the Spy at around the age of the fictional Harriet - who was Louise Fitzhugh? How did she create this smart, bratty, inquisitive, brazen child? What influenced her, who were her friends, how did she live? Many surprises in these pages - that Fitzhugh came from a privileged Southern family; that she considered herself an artist first; that she lived openly as a lesbian, and never expected to be a children's author. Leslie Brody di This book filled a hunger in me that I've had since I read Harriet the Spy at around the age of the fictional Harriet - who was Louise Fitzhugh? How did she create this smart, bratty, inquisitive, brazen child? What influenced her, who were her friends, how did she live? Many surprises in these pages - that Fitzhugh came from a privileged Southern family; that she considered herself an artist first; that she lived openly as a lesbian, and never expected to be a children's author. Leslie Brody dives into all available sources to fill out her portrait of Fitzhugh, and answers most questions while raising others. Most satisfying of all, she links Fitzhugh's life to Harriet's character, and makes both come alive. Now I want to re-read Harriet the Spy, The Long Secret, and Nobody's Family is Going to Change - and I hope Brody's work continues to shine a light on Fitzhugh's creations.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Did you read Harriet the Spy when you were a kid? Or like me, encountered this delightful tale as an adult? I was a school librarian when I encountered Harriet the Spy in the early seventies. This book broke the mold for certain standards in children's literature. It was a mold that needed to be shattered so that children could finally read about real kids doing the things that often get them into trouble and the problem solving they need in order to save themselves. Who better to do this than a Did you read Harriet the Spy when you were a kid? Or like me, encountered this delightful tale as an adult? I was a school librarian when I encountered Harriet the Spy in the early seventies. This book broke the mold for certain standards in children's literature. It was a mold that needed to be shattered so that children could finally read about real kids doing the things that often get them into trouble and the problem solving they need in order to save themselves. Who better to do this than author Louise Fitzhugh and through her biography, you will discover just what inspired her to break new ground in realism for children. I agree that Louise joined the ranks of Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Montgomery, and Harper Lee in setting a welcoming stage for the antics of strong, willful female characters. Hallelujah! A great read about a complex, controversial and inspiring author.

  29. 5 out of 5

    BookTrib.com

    Because of her role as a children’s author, much of Fitzhugh’s life was kept secret from her readers. The nature of her relationships with other women wasn’t disclosed. Her rebellious nature was suppressed in an effort to avoid bad publicity. Thus she used Harriet as an outlet to express herself in ways she otherwise could not. Brody’s book peeks behind the curtain at Fitzhugh’s hidden life, her writing, and her struggle to express her individuality during a time of turbulent social and cultural Because of her role as a children’s author, much of Fitzhugh’s life was kept secret from her readers. The nature of her relationships with other women wasn’t disclosed. Her rebellious nature was suppressed in an effort to avoid bad publicity. Thus she used Harriet as an outlet to express herself in ways she otherwise could not. Brody’s book peeks behind the curtain at Fitzhugh’s hidden life, her writing, and her struggle to express her individuality during a time of turbulent social and cultural change. Read our full review here: https://booktrib.com/2020/12/01/somet...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    I was eight years old when Harriet the Spy was first published and when I read it shortly thereafter as a middle-schooler I remember being captivated by it. Perhaps it was because of Harriet's penchant for keeping a notebook, something I've done ever since. I was too young to recognize the iconoclastic nature of Fitzhugh's title character or know much about the author, which I'm glad I know now. They were both true originals for their time. I was eight years old when Harriet the Spy was first published and when I read it shortly thereafter as a middle-schooler I remember being captivated by it. Perhaps it was because of Harriet's penchant for keeping a notebook, something I've done ever since. I was too young to recognize the iconoclastic nature of Fitzhugh's title character or know much about the author, which I'm glad I know now. They were both true originals for their time.

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