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To name the bigger lie : a memoir in two stories
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Library Journal Review
Viren (Mine) explores the nature of truth and lies. As a high school student, Viren was admitted to a magnet program where she took a class on the history of knowledge that opened her mind to philosophical concepts, but the charismatic teacher also used conspiracy theories such as Holocaust denial as a teaching method. Viren here reflects on the effects of engaging with conspiracy theories on her classmates and herself. Each person remembers their time in that class and with the instructor differently, which prompts the author to consider the nature of truth and reality. Years later, Viren's wife Marta is falsely accused of sexual misconduct at the university where they both teach; later, Viren is offered a job at another educational institution, which prompts her to think more about the ways in which lies have impacted her life. This epistolary book is the result of that introspection and indicates how the author processed her thoughts and fears. She uses philosophy--particularly Plato's allegory of the cave, which examines the link between one's senses and the ways people gain knowledge--to interrogate these concepts. VERDICT A poignant musing on the changing nature of truth.--Rebekah Kati
Publishers Weekly Review
Past and present collide in this propulsive, one-of-a-kind meditation on truth and conspiracy from Viren (Mine), based on her viral essay of the same name. "This all started after the election," Viren begins, "when the main narrative I kept hearing was that only uneducated whites believed the lies that were being told." At first, she set out to write a book about her charismatic high school philosophy teacher, whose instruction sometimes bordered on conspiracy theory, interviewing teachers and classmates from her past to pick at the ways reasonable people can be manipulated to believe far-flung fictions. Then Viren's wife received an email accusing her of sexual misconduct at the university where both worked, and Viren tapped into her background as an investigative journalist to untangle the accusations and clear her wife's name. Against the social and political instability of the last seven years, Viren seamlessly weaves her parallel narratives into a bigger picture take on the nature of truth: "One story can easily interrupt another, just as questions build one atop the next," she observes of the book's overlapping threads. The result is a mesmerizing page-turner pulled tight with psychological tension. This is breathtaking stuff. Agent: Matt McGowan, Frances Goldin Literary. (June)
Kirkus Review
An immersive look into how lies and misconstrued truths can capture the psyches of those willing to listen. In this philosophical follow-up to her essay collection, Mine, New York Times Magazine contributor and creative writing instructor Viren chronicles two instances when the ramifications of lies nearly derailed her life. The author begins with her high school years, writing about her teacher Dr. Whiles, who challenged his classes. Whiles was revered by his students, including the author, as an all-knowing figure, someone you desperately wished to make proud with your work. That is, until he began teaching known conspiracies as truths, planting toxic seeds into the minds of impressionable students. In reflecting on her time in class, Viren writes that she was bothered by "the sense that it's not just the individual facts that are wrong, it's the whole premise. Yet no one else seems to be screaming, so I feel crazy for wanting to." As the author was compiling research for this initial topic, she learned about anonymous sexual assault accusations made against her wife, Marta, a fellow professor. Now with a future job on the line and her wife's reputation in jeopardy, Viren worked to dismantle the lies. "One story can easily interrupt another, just as questions build one atop the next," she writes. "The past may mirror the present but the future also casts its shadow back on us." Ruminating on these experiences, Viren investigates the wider concept of truth. Drawing from the work of Socrates, the author aligns her memoir around the allegory of the cave and what could happen if one discovers deeper truths beyond a manufactured reality. Throughout, Viren examines a wide range of relevant questions--e.g., What is the appropriate punishment for these lies, and how can someone move forward from this state of cognitive dissonance? A compelling and propulsive memoir that interrogates the nature of truth and trust. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Part coming-of-age story, part psychological thriller, part philosophical investigation, this unforgettable memoir traces the ramifications of a series of lies that threaten to derail the author's life--exploring the line between truth and deception, fact and fiction, and reality and conspiracy.

Sarah's story begins as she's researching what she believes will be a book about her high school philosophy teacher, a charismatic instructor who taught her and her classmates to question everything--in the end, even the reality of historical atrocities. As she digs into the effects of his teachings, her life takes a turn into the fantastical when her wife, Marta, is notified that she's been investigated for sexual misconduct at the university where they both teach.

Based in part on a viral New York Times essay, To Name the Bigger Lie follows the investigation as it upends Sarah's understanding of truth. She knows the claims made against Marta must be lies, and as she uncovers the identity of the person behind them and then tries, with increasing desperation, to prove their innocence, she's drawn back into the questions that her teacher inspired all those years ago: about the nature of truth, the value of skepticism, and the stakes we all have in getting the story right.

A compelling, incisive journey into honesty and betrayal, this memoir explores the powerful pull of dangerous conspiracy theories and the pliability of personal narratives in a world dominated by hoaxes and fakes. To Name the Bigger Lie reads like the best of psychological thrillers--made all the more riveting because it's true.
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