To Name the Bigger Lie

A Memoir in Two Stories

Author Sarah Viren

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.


Sarah Viren is an assistant professor in the Department of English at ASU.

Praise for this book

Past and present collide in this propulsive, one-of-a-kind meditation on truth and conspiracy from Viren… 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. The result is a mesmerizing page-turner pulled tight with psychological tension. This is breathtaking stuff.

Publishers Weekly, starred review

A personal and philosophical deep dive into the world of fake news and conspiracy theories, this book takes on the big questions about truth with in-depth research, empathy and humor.

Toni Jensen Author of "Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land"
Snake wrapped around the book title
Date published

Get this book