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.
In SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy (Basic Books; December 1, 2020), biographer Leslie Brody shares the lively story of the beloved children’s book author who was a progressive, anti-racist, transgressive, smoking and drinking lesbian who believed in the radical power of art.
Born in 1928, Fitzhugh was raised in segregated Memphis, a rebellious daughter of Southern socialites who fled to New York at the first opportunity. There, she discovered the lesbian bars of Greenwich Village and the art world of postwar Europe; her circle of friends included members of the avant-garde like Maurice Sendak and Lorraine Hansberry. Above all else, Fitzhugh valued creativity and honesty. Her novels, written in an era of political defiance, are full of resistance: to liars, to authority, to conformity, and even—radically, for a children’s author—to make-believe. Fitzhugh herself lived her life as a dissenter—a friend to underdogs, outsiders, and artists—and her masterpiece remains long after her death to influence and provoke new generations of readers.
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 and secrecy.