Sugar Land is a southern fried novel about love, Lead Belly, and liberation. According to a starred Kirkus Review, Sugar Land "is a postcard of small-town Texas life from Prohibition through civil rights, tracing the treatment and awareness of gay people through these decades. The love child of Fannie Flagg and Rita Mae Brown... [a] ravishing debut."
It's 1923 in Midland, Texas, and Miss Dara falls in love with her best friend―who also happens to be a girl. Terrified, Miss Dara takes a job at the Imperial State Prison Farm for men. Once there, she befriends inmate and soon-to-be legendary blues singer Lead Belly, who sings his way out (true story)―but only after he makes her promise to free herself from her own prison. Sugar Land is a triumphant, beautiful novel about the heart's refusal to be denied what the heart wants.
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About the Author
tammy lynne stoner's work has been selected for more than a dozen anthologies and literary journals. She was nominated for a Million Writers Award and earned her MFA from Antioch University. Stemming from what her grandmother calls her "gypsy blood," tammy has lived in 15 cities, working as a biscuit maker, a medical experimentee, a forklift operator, a gas station attendant, and a college instructor, among other odd jobs. She is the creator of Dottie's Magic Pockets and the publisher of Gertrude Press, based in in Portland, OR, where she lives with her lady-friend, Karena, and their three kids.
Audio recording of an excerpt from Sugar Land on The Other Stories
Review in Dallas Voice
s: //www.hastybooklist.com/home/author-interview-tammy-lynne-stoner" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hasty Booklist Interview with tammy lynne stoner
Featured in Deep South Magazine's Fall/Winter 2018 Reading List.
...the story takes many delightful twists and turns, always described succinctly and colorfully by this narrator, who is irresistible even on days when she's "retaining enough water to grow rice in Arizona." By the end of it, she comes to believe "that each and every life has the number of trials it is destined to have, and if you take one away, another one fills its place....No life is easy and no life is hard; it's just what adjectives you choose to use to describe it." Dara's story is a postcard of small-town Texas life from Prohibition through civil rights, tracing the treatment and awareness of gay people through these decades.
The love child of Fannie Flagg and Rita Mae Brown, Stoner is sure to win her own devoted following with this ravishing debut.
-- STARRED Kirkus Review
Sugar Land by Tammy Lynne Stoner follows a wise and feisty lesbian woman as she frees herself from her own emotional and physical prison to a place of self-love and acceptance... Stoner has penned a novel that reads like Fried Green Tomatoes and The Secret Lives of Bees, and will touch hearts with its tale of a courageous and determined woman struggling against her own secrets, as well as of the patriarchy and intolerance of small-town, West Texas life.
Dara is a teenager in 1923 when she falls in love with her best friend, another girl, in their small town of Midland, Texas. Scared of what might happen, she takes a job at the Imperial State Prison Farm for men, where she meets the legendary Lead Belly, a real-life blues singer who eventually sings his way to freedom, and in the process, shows Dara how to achieve her own. A powerful paperback that doesn't pull any emotional punches, Sugar Land is a debut you don't want to miss.
--Sadie Trobetta, Bustle
In 1923 rural Texas, 19-year-old Dara has fallen for her best friend Rhodie. In order to hide her forbidden love, she flees to a job as a cook at the Sugar Land Prison, where she befriends the incarcerated Blues singer Lead Belly and tries to stay in the closet by marrying the prison warden. "Dara's story is a postcard of small-town Texas life from Prohibition through civil rights, tracing the treatment and awareness of gay people through these decades. The love child of Fannie Flagg and Rita Mae Brown, Stoner is sure to win her own devoted following with this ravishing debut." (Kirkus)
--Oakland Public Library, "Ten Great Reasons to Read Fiction October 2018"
[Sugar Land] is about improbable kindnesses stubbornly taking root in harsh environments; the resourcefulness of people who feel they've been cursed not just by society but their own desires; and how the toughest prisons are often the ones we create for ourselves.
It's a story that deals with heavy themes such as racism and gender and sexual discrimination and violence, but one that stoner writes with such a tender, warm lilt that readers don't get bogged down. Her characters are complex, fully drawn and utterly alive thanks to stoner's deft deployment of pitch-perfect regional dialogue.
Once you start reading, you will not be able to stop nor will you want to.
--Amos Lassen Reviews
Sugar Land follows a smart and feisty lesbian liberating herself from prisons literal and figurative in Depression-era West Texas. She meets real-life blues legend Lead Belly, marries a warden (part of both her escape and imprisonment), and becomes a stepmother -- but her life spirals downward with the deaths of the two men. Crumpling under the weight of life, she purchases a mobile home, falls in love with a local seamstress, and becomes matriarch of a family of misfits....Sugar Land is a beautiful next step -- a book that will remind you a bit of Fried Green Tomatoes and could one day be a film about a determined woman struggling against her own secrets, as well as homophobia and misogyny in small-town Texas.
--Diane Anderson-Minshall, Editorial Director of Advocate
How can you not adore a novel about love, food, and how working in a prison can help you discover who you really are? Every page has a beating heart; every character is so alive, you swear you hear them breathing. Stoner is an original and this debut is just fantastic.
--Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You
It's 1923 in Midland, Texas, and Nana Dara, newly employed by the Imperial State Prison Farm for men and newly awakened to a secret she'd rather lock up than face, has encountered the most unlikely of allies: Leadbelly. Yes, that Leadbelly. Out from this very particular pairing spools a Southern epic that spans decades. With beautiful peculiarity of detail and a perfect combination of sharpness and sensitivity, Tammy Lynne Stoner pens a gorgeous debut novel about race, class, sexuality, and the prisons we make of ourselves.
--Gigi Little, Powell's Book Seller and editor of City of Weird
With Sugar Land, Stoner creates a captivating story for the ages--a young, southern girl in the 1920's who becomes a ballsy broad in a double-wide, and on the journey learns about love the hard way. This heartbreaking and hysterical book inspires us with a brave and unusual life. Sugar Land is for anyone who still believes in love.
--Jillian Lauren, New York Times bestselling author of Some Girls: My Life in a Harem and Everything You Ever Wanted
Much of what occurs in the novel is difficult to swallow, in great part because the story takes place in a time when Dara's identity is not readily accepted, even by herself . . . Sugar Land is a raw, spiraling, and hopeful story about a woman who wishes that she didn't love as she does, and the life she leads in the wake of her self-realizations.
--Hannah Hohman, Foreword Review
Stoner has written a book that is heartfelt and tender . . . These characters linger and are quite unforgettable. It's very much a Southern book in language and with Stoner's observations that are wry and thoughtful. Sugar Land spans decades in a well-told, easy going manner and I finished the book with a satisfied smile.
Overall, Sugar Land is a precisely-told, gritty, redeeming story about second chances filled with hope and inspiration, if you look for it.
--Jennifer of Tar Heel Reader