LISTEN to today's show with Tammy Lynne Stoner!
Tammy Lynne discusses her debut novel, SUGAR LAND and will discuss race and class, sexuality & identity, with her signature wit and style.
SUGAR LAND, a Southern-fried novel, is getting RAVE reviews (see just a few below)—please check out her site to find out more about the little-known true story of the musician Lead Belly who became the inspiration for this incredibly poignant work.
“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 is a well written book and its writing style reminds one at times of Doris Lessing. There is a beautiful flow to the narrative, and the plot is expertly crafted. This is writing at its finest, resulting in a good story that is well told.”—New York Review of Books*
“How can you not adore a novel about love, food, and how working in a prison can help you discover whom 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
"In this always surprising and exhilarating first novel, Stoner presents a memorable character. A lovely debut that addresses race and class, sexuality and identity."—BOOKLIST
"Sugar Land is a raw, spiraling, hopeful story… Stoner brings this unmistakable world to life perfectly” —Forward
Sugar Land is the southern story of Nana Dara, a prison cook in the Imperial State Prison Farm in 1923, who—with the help of the blues singer Lead Belly—discovers how to break out of her own physical and emotional prison to become the feisty, lesbian matriarch to a family of Texas misfits.
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, hoping to keep her secret attractions under lock and key. 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 debut novel about the heart’s refusal to be denied what the heart wants.
PRAISE FOR SUGAR LAND
“With Sugar Land, Stoner creates a captivating story for the ages—a young, southern girl in the 1920s 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
“Sugar Land does what a book should do: it compels you to read on. The writing is lyric and dynamic, driving the reader forward—detailing the true challenges of lesbian life in the years before gay liberation was even an idea, providing a history lesson along with open-hearted prose. But perhaps best of all, SUGAR LAND leaves you with characters that linger on the mind and heart for days. This is fiction that stacks up with some of the best Southern storytelling out there and should have a place on the bookshelf next to Fannie Flagg and Rita Mae Brown.” —Kate Carroll de Gutes, Lambda Award winning author of Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear
“His singing bothering you?”
“No more than a four leaf clover bothers an unlucky man.”
“It's 1923 in Midland, Texas, and Nana Dara, newly employed by the Imperial 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
“In Sugar Land, Tammy Lynne Stoner debuts the “Southern-fried novel about love, Leadbelly, and liberation” that she promises—and so much more. Knowing just how cruelly her deep and mutual love with college-bound Rhodie Marie would be received in 1920s Midland, Texas, Miss Dara takes a job at Imperial Prison Farm. The characters she—and we—meet there brim with color, ache with longing, sass, snipe, strike, and, as the book itself does, sing. This big-hearted story spans decades, exploring at every turn the prisons we build ourselves, the exhilaration of cracking them wide open, and the heartbreaking cost when we can’t. Readers will be torn between rushing ahead to find out where Miss Dara’s keen compassion and wry observations lead her next and slowing down to enjoy her wrenching, witty, unforgettable voice for as long as they possibly can.”
—Tracy Manaster, author of You Could be Home Now and The Done Thing
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
tammy lynne stoner’s work has been selected for more than a dozen anthologies and literary journals. 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 also the creator of Dottie’s Magic Pockets, and the publisher of Gertrude, and wrangle of the GERTIE book club, based in Portland, OR, where she lives with her lady-friend, Karena, and their three kids. You can find her at TammyLynneStoner.com.
FROM SUGAR LAND
This is how it goes in life: sometimes you’re born with a cleft palette or rickets, like my bow-legged Granddaddy, or a touch short on brains, like my Great Aunt Cal who everyone called ‘Stool.’ Me? I’m a double hitter. In addition to being what folks call “large boned,” I came into this world with homosexual tendencies—though back then I thought of it only as my strange, strong affections for some female friends, having no such notion of “homosexual tendencies” as a thing, at least not in Midland, Texas.
Notions of this nature found footing in me eight months before I ran away to work in the kitchen at Sugarland Prison, when I got a job at the egg store. The egg store was all wood. Wood floors, wood ceiling beams, wood shelves—that rugged, knotty, reddish wood. The simple kind of wood they used to bury folks in before the floods, when rotting coffins popped from the ground like splinters and dead bodies dropped out in maggoty heaps.
The egg store smelled like wood, too, which I liked. That and just the tiniest hint of smoke from Bibby’s metal pork smoker two streets over. I swear he ran that thing day and night, crazy redneck. And that’s where I fell in love for the first time, there in the egg store that smelled like wood and smoked pig fat.