KELLY BLEWETT: Why did you want to write about Louise Fitzhugh?
LESLIE BRODY: I am exactly the same age as Harriet the Spy — that is to say, in 1963, when Harriet was 11 years old, so was I. I was born in the Bronx, and although Harriet lived in an elite quarter of Manhattan, we still shared lots of the same cultural references around New York City in the ’50s and ’60s. When the book was published in 1964, I really wasn’t reading kids’ books anymore and missed the wave. I wouldn’t even hear about Harriet and Louise until I was working as a playwright in Minneapolis 20 years later, when I was hired to write an adaptation of Harriet the Spy for the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre company. I remember reading it through several times, stunned at how lucky I was — after all this time, and the many ways our rendezvous might have gone awry — to find her.
Read the full interview HERE.
Harriet the Spy was a YA fiction inspiration who possessed all of the ethics of a TMZ reporter. A young Upper East Side miscreant, Harriet’s curiosity and ambition leads her to spy on her friends, family and neighbors, recording copious notes about their activities in her ever-present notebooks. In this way, Harriet is something of an antihero. She’s also an early example of realism in children’s literature.
In her biography, Sometimes You Have To Lie, Harriet the Spy author Louise Fitzhugh’s life proves to be just as enthralling as her legendary protagonist.
Read the full review HERE.
A new biography, Sometimes You Have To Lie by Leslie Brody delves into Fitzhugh’s personal life, including her sexuality.
In a review of the book, the New Republic discusses how the title represents one of the most controversial moments in Harriet’s story – when her nanny, Ole Golly, tells her that sometimes it’s okay to lie. This advice comes after Harriet’s notebook is found, and she struggles to apologize to those whose feelings she has hurt, since she isn’t actually sorry.
The biography’s author speculates that his empathy for lying is likely a nod to Fitzhugh’s need to lie about her own sexuality to protect herself.
Read the full review HERE.
“Sometimes you have to lie” is one of the most stunning lines in Louise Fitzhugh’s book Harriet the Spy — but it also speaks to Fitzhugh’s own life. After a childhood in segregated Memphis, she traveled to New York and was thrilled by the diversity and potential there: lesbian bars in Greenwich Village, the postwar art scene, and avant-garde writers including Maurice Sendak and Lorraine Hansberry. Her writing for children defied everything children’s literature “should” be, resisting conformity and authority, even as she felt pressures to conceal her own life and nature. This extraordinary biography is a compelling look at Fitzhugh, her creation Harriet, and the meaning of lies, truth, and individuality.
The author’s name may not be familiar, but her most famous character is: “Harriet the Spy” has been worming her way into grade-schoolers’ hearts since her snooping adventures debuted in 1964.
In this new biography, Leslie Brody turns the tables on Harriet’s creator, Louise Fitzhugh, who never set out to be a children’s author. She refused to go on book tours and maintained a Salinger-like seclusion until her death in 1974.
Read the full review HERE.
Sometimes You Have to Lie (Seal Press) by Leslie Brody tells the fascinating and somewhat shocking story of the life and times of author Louise Fitzhugh. If the name rings a bell, it’s for a very good reason: Fitzhugh was the literary genius behind the 1964 middle-grade novel, Harriet the Spy, which has, over the course of nearly three generations, become one of the most beloved books written for kids.
With exclusive access to Fitzhugh’s papers and through interviews with those who knew her, Brody for the first time brings to life the woman behind this iconic novel. The biography uncovers Fitzhugh’s inspiration behind Harriet the Spy, as well as the her struggles as a lesbian woman and triumphs as one of the most influential authors of her time.
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.
Just in time for the holidays, it’s the Monitor’s selections for the top books of December 2020 all wrapped up and tied with a bow.
Sometimes You Have to Lie by Leslie Brody: In this lively, compassionate biography of Louise Fitzhugh, author of the children’s instant-classic “Harriet the Spy” series from the 1960s, Leslie Brody sheds light on the remarkable woman behind the books.
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.