Sometimes You Have to Lie

The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy

The true story of trailblazing author Louise Fitzhugh, whose beloved antiheroine in Harriet The Spy, inspired generations of readers and launched a million journal-keepers. 

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“Brody’s project is to rescue Fitzhugh from the morass of kid lit and memorialize her as an unsung queer, feminist exemplar—a significant figure of the second wave.”

—The New Yorker

Expansive and revealing… Leslie Brody assembles the clues to the personal history that shaped Fitzhugh’s conscience and creative convictions. Brody, a biographer and playwright who adapted Harriet the Spy for the stage in 1988, has pored through correspondence, memoirs and court documents, and conducted dozens of interviews to reveal the trail that Fitzhugh left unmarked.”

The New York Times

In SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE, an engrossing and carefully researched biography of Louise Fitzhugh, Leslie Brody vibrantly tells the story of the complicated and ultimately triumphant life of the author of Harriet the Spy. She presents a full portrait of Fitzhugh, previously a shadowy figure at best, and places her firmly in the top rank of children’s book creators.”

Boston Globe

A fun, gossipy biography.” 

— Sarah Blackwood, New York Review of Books

A “game-changing biography”

— Robin M. Bernstein, Cultural historian and Dillon Professor at Harvard University

Leslie Brody identifies parallels between the author’s life and art, delightful details for fans of Fitzhugh’s creations….Yet Fitzhugh’s own life, removed from her Harriet the Spy fame or the constraints of the literature she created, is more than fascinating enough for this compelling and wistful biography.”

The Washington Post

In SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE, Brody explores these hidden corners of the celebrated author’s life, crafting a personal and political biography of Fitzhugh that situates her popular children’s novel in the context of the homophobia and conformity of the postwar era. The result is a study that reveals the quiet subversiveness of Harriet the Spy and adds sharp political potency to the book’s seemingly innocent play with questions of secrecy and surveillance.”

The New Republic

Highly enjoyable… Ms. Brody’s engaging biography reminds us how fragile and serendipitous artistic beginnings can be, yet how mighty and enduring their endings.”

The Wall Street Journal

a portrait of a complicated, messy, brilliant artist — who would have thrilled Harriet herself. As she wrote in her notebook: ‘I’M GLAD I’M NOT PERFECT—I’D BE BORED TO DEATH.’”

New York Post

In this fast read of a biography, Leslie Brody brings to life the spirited, ambitious and deeply independent Fitzhugh, whose early life was straight out of a Southern melodrama and whose later life was straight out of — well, Suzuki Bean, perhaps, the novel she wrote with Sandra Scoppettone about the “baby beatnik” who lived in Greenwich Village.”

Star Tribune

I’ve never been more intensely curious about a writer’s life, nor more thwarted in finding anything out about that life, than I have been in the case of Louise Fitzhugh. At some point I deduced that the very lack of information likely answered my most burning question—was she a lesbian? But that was little preparation for the true story. What a lesbian! And what a life! Leslie Brody serves up an almost unbearably gratifying tale in her much-anticipated biography, SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE. Southern Gothic childhood. Escape to Greenwich Village and Europe. Famous friends. String of lovers. Cross-dressing. Publishing gossip. Even a lost manuscript. I was especially pleased to learn so much about the painting career of this groundbreaking writer who considered herself just as much a visual artist. I only wish Brody’s book, and Fitzhugh’s life, had been much, much longer.”

—Alison Bechdel, cartoonist and author of Fun Home

It has taken a really good spy, in Leslie Brody, to come up with the story we’ve been waiting to get our hands on for all our reading lifetimes. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE does the greatest honor to Louise Fitzhugh and her brilliant avatar, Harriet the Spy: It tells the truth.”

Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked

Harriet the Spy, the creation of Louise Fitzhugh, was a tough, smart, vulnerable, funny, unsentimental, and deeply observant little kid who was a born writer, much like her creator, the wonderful Louise Fitzhugh. She was a heroine unlike any children’s book heroine who preceded her. If you loved Harriet, if you still think about her from time to time, you will love this book.”

—Roz Chast, author and staff cartoonist for The New Yorker

When you read SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE, you become like Harriet, spying on Louise Fitzhugh. This wonderfully written biography lets readers walk in Louise’s footsteps, as if taking notes on countless details of her complicated, rich life.”

—Jack Gantos, illustrator and author of the Newberry Medal Award-winning Dead End in Norvelt

With clear-eyed compassion, Leslie Brody pulls back the curtain to reveal the complex, delicate, fierce woman whose imagination created our beloved Harriet the Spy, and so much more. I was fascinated and moved by Fitzhugh’s struggles to be and do and have all she desired, and I feel richer for the experience of getting to know her.”

—Therese Fowler, author of Z: A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

What a role model Harriet the Spy was for a kid: whip-smart, curious, and bold. It turns out her creator, Louise Fitzhugh, was just as daring. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE is a rollicking and insightful biography about a modern literary heroine.”

—Anne Zimmerman, author of An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of MFK Fisher

In dazzling detail, [Leslie Brody] brings Fitzhugh’s intersecting circles of literary, artistic and theatrical friends to life, and spotlights the many gay authors and illustrators whose combined talents created a golden age of children’s literature.”

Suzy Staubach, former President of NEBA, VP of the ABA, and Manager of the UConn Co-op

About Leslie Brody

Leslie Brody is a playwright, journalist and biographer known for telling the stories of complicated feminists in modern history.

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