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ZED — The Zoomer Book Club

The Big Read: The Secret Life of Harriet the Spy’s Creator

“Harriet M. Welsch has a fondness for egg creams, tomato sandwiches, and obsessively observing the actions of classmates and neighbours in a notebook, going so far as to hide in a dumbwaiter to eavesdrop. The 11-year-old protagonist of Harriet the Spy is curious to the point of nosy, unsentimental to the point of rude, and a refreshing, honestly realized character with a rich inner life. Her dominion never took her through the looking glass or past a phantom tollbooth, but rather confined her to an Upper East Side neighbourhood in Manhattan, where the daily lives of its inhabitants provided the budding writer with rich material.”…READ MORE

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BUSTLE

Book Roundup: The Most Anticipated Books of Winter

Much of Louise Fitzhugh’s life remains a mystery, but one author is determined to shed some light on the beloved author of Harriet the Spy. In Sometimes You Have to Lie, Leslie Brody uncovers the details of Fitzhugh’s Tennessee childhood, her relationships with modernist and postmodern literary greats in New York City, and how she navigated life in the mid-century United States as a lesbian.

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WALL STREET JOURNAL

Book Review: ‘Sometimes You Have to Lie’: Louise Fitzhugh’s Rebellion

The editorial meeting with Nordstrom and Zolotow, a pivot point in Fitzhugh’s professional life, occurs midway through “Sometimes You Have to Lie,” a highly enjoyable biography by Leslie Brody, a professor at the University of Redlands in California and the author of a 2010 biography of Jessica Mitford. The book’s title comes from a crucial piece of advice that Harriet the Spy receives from her brusque former nanny, Ole Golly. As generations of readers will remember, Harriet gets in bad odor with her sixth-grade classmates after they find and read a journal she has filled with her pitiless observations of their weaknesses and propensities. Ole Golly, who is given to high-minded quotation, recites Keats’s dictum about truth and beauty but also reminds Harriet of the restorative power of the white lie. “Remember that writing is to put love in the world, not to use against your friends,” she counsels. “But to yourself you must always tell the truth.”  Read the full review HERE.

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NEW REPUBLIC

Book review: Why Harriet the Spy had to lie

“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.” Read more…

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BOSTON GLOBE

Book Review: In Search of Harriet the Spy‘s Creator in SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE

Adult readers of children’s books are often surprised by the grownup lives of their creators. But after all, artists who choose the medium of children’s books to express their creativity are not children themselves. 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. What’s more, she establishes that Fitzhugh was a writer and artist who had an indelible impact on generations of young readers and adult writers as disparate as Jonathan Franzen and Alison Bechdel. Read more…

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WASHINGTON POST

Book Review: Inside the mind, life and friendships that created Harriet the Spy

“In her new biography of Fitzhugh, “Sometimes You Have to Lie,” Leslie Brody identifies parallels between the author’s life and art, delightful details for fans of Fitzhugh’s creations. Ole Golly, the beloved nanny whose departure from the Welsches’ Manhattan home is the organizing trauma of “Harriet the Spy,” is probably an amalgamation of the nannies Fitzhugh knew growing up in a Memphis mansion during the Great Depression, pampered in isolation. The therapist who helps Harriet through that loss may draw from Bertram Slaff, a psychiatrist whom Fitzhugh saw during her years living in New York City, where she pursued love and ambition as a gay artist enmeshed in a network of “successful, creative, pleasure loving, ambitious, knowledgeable lesbians,” as one friend described her circle. And Harrison Withers, the bird cage designer with a skylight big enough for Harriet to spy through, cares for 26 cats whose names include not just Fitzhugh’s preferred literary luminaries (Thomas Wolfe, Dostoevsky, Faulkner) but also some of her close friends (Alex, Sandra, Marijane).” Read more…

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NEW YORK TIMES

Book Review: Leslie Brody’s expansive and revealing new biography of Fitzhugh, “Sometimes You Have to Lie,” assembles the clues to the personal history that shaped her conscience and creative convictions.

“in an expansive and revealing new biography, “Sometimes You Have to Lie,” 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.” Read more…

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PARIS REVIEW

Article: The Politics of Louise Fitzhugh

In the autumn of 1974, one month shy of the publication of her new novel, Nobody’s Family Is Going to Change, Louise Fitzhugh pulled the emergency brake. Authors rarely invoke such a costly and disruptive eleventh-hour freeze, but Fitzhugh persuaded her publishers at Farrar, Straus and Giroux that her book about a Black family in New York City was incomplete. Read more…

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VOX

Book Roundup: The 15 best books our book critic read this year, including SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE.

“In Sometimes You Have to Lie, Leslie Brody paints a portrait of Fitzhugh that’s almost as indelible as Harriet herself. Fitzhugh apparently lived a life of whirlwind glamour, beginning from her birth as the daughter of a Southern aristocrat and a jazz dancer; continuing through her days traveling Europe to learn how to paint Italian frescoes and smoke in Parisian gay bars; and into her time as an out lesbian artist living in New York’s West Village, learning how to write from a pulp novelist who was also Patricia Highsmith’s lover. In Brody’s hands, even Fitzhugh’s clothes (Brooks Brothers menswear, combat boots, and a cape) are over-the-top marvelous. Sometimes You Have to Lie is a deeply endearing introduction to the woman who gave the American canon one of its icons.” Read more…

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WASHINGTON BLADE

Book Review: Harriet the Spy creator was fabulously queer

“I love reading biographies – especially, of queer artists and writers. But some bios put you to sleep. 

Happily, “Sometimes You Have to Lie” by Leslie Brody, the new, intriguing biography of queer artist and writer Louise Fitzhugh, author and illustrator of the beloved children’s book “Harriet the Spy,” won’t give you any shut-eye.” Read more…