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Sugar Land

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  408 ratings  ·  80 reviews
A southern fried novel about love, Lead Belly, and liberation that's been called a "ravishing debut" in a starred Kirkus Review and "writing at its finest" by the NY Journal of Books.

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 Imperial State Prison Farm for men. Once there,
Paperback, first, 334 pages
Published October 23rd 2018 by Red Hen Press
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Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  408 ratings  ·  80 reviews

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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sugar Land has received a starred review from Kirkus, and I can definitely understand why. I instantly fell right into Miss Dara’s story and Stoner’s storytelling. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

In 1920s Texas, Miss Dara has fallen in love with her best friend. This terrifies her, so she seeks a job at the Imperial State Prison for men. There she meets Lead Belly, who later becomes a star blues singer. They form a true friendship, and he makes her promise to live her best, true life. Then, he sings his way out of
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

“No life is easy, and no life is hard; it’s just what adjectives you choose to describe it.”

I would have never even heard of this book if it weren’t for my friend SUSAN putting it on my radar. Her 4 Star rating was all I needed in order to request this from the library. And the cover meant I didn’t bother reading the synopsis because trailer parks? Yes please. Those are where my type of people live . . . .

Imagine my surprise w
lark benobi
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, red-hen
Early in this novel the teen-aged Dara kisses the first great love of her life, Rhodie, and in a burst of insight and joy she realizes she is a lesbian. The very next day Dara overhears her uncle, the town sheriff, laughing with another officer about how the two of them had cured four women of their ‘perversion’ by raping them the night before, and in second burst of insight Dara realizes she will never be safe in her home town, and runs away.

If this sort of abrupt, let’s-not-waste-any-time stor
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've seen this compared to Fannie Flagg and while the mood is a bit darker, there are similar themes of strong female characters and unspoken secrets against the backdrop of a small southern town that's resistant to change. More than Flagg, this book reminded me of Springsteen's Nebraska album. Acoustic, gritty, bleak and sparse.

At first I thought that the characters needed to be better developed but then realized that I was mistaking their personal loneliness and emptiness for lack of developm
Alison Hardtmann
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
In a small town in Texas in the summer of 1923, Miss Dara falls in love with a girl. Terrified of what that means and what her family and community would think, she flees to the safety of the kitchen of the farm prison at Sugarland, which isn't a safe place for a young woman, but she makes a place for herself nonetheless.

Sugar Land follows the life of Miss Dara from a young woman falling in love, to a cook in a difficult environment who makes a few friends; an inmate with immense musical talent
Carmel Hanes
I really wanted to like this book, but had mixed reactions to it. I enjoyed the first half and would have given that part 4 stars. But somewhere towards the 50-60% point my interest began to wane, and I'd give the rest of the book two and a half to three stars. I've tried to figure out why.

I enjoyed getting to know young Miss Dara. I was touched and drawn into the angst of realizing you are a woman who loves another woman in a time when that was not only completely unacceptable, but dangerous. I
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Gotta love an author who publishes her first novel at age 50. Stoner takes us deep into Fannie Flagg territory in this novel that follows a young lesbian from the 1920s up through the 1960s. It's hokey at times, but the characters are memorable if a bit broadly drawn, and the humor and sweetness make it an enjoyable read. 3.5 stars rounding up to 4.
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sugar Land is a great Southern fiction debut! Reminiscent of Fannie Flagg, this story made me sad and made me laugh. I love the resilience of the main character, Dara, throughout all the ups and downs of her life. Tammy Lynne Stoner has written a solid debut novel! I can’t wait for her next book!
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure - the author is a very dear childhood friend. Being a supporter of friends and all things women entrepreneur, I bought the book and read it to be supportive. And I LOVED it. No, really...I absolutely loved it. If I didn't love it, I would never take the time to write a review. I sit here now with a feeling of contentment having just finished this sweet, beautiful story and a little sad that it's over. Tammy's writing is extraordinary. She creates a vivid and clear picture of each ...more
Stoner's debut story of a young woman trying to find her way in the world is both light and profound. Dara falls in love with her best friend, and the bliss she feels is like nothing ever before. Events occur which derail her future plans, so Dara regroups and tiptoes her way into a different kind of life. Sweet and serious, Sugar Land is a great coming-of-age story that looks at both the euphoria and the despair of first and all-consuming love. Fans of Fannie Flagg will be thrilled with Sugar L ...more
SUSAN   *Nevertheless,she persisted*
Loved this book. Would recommend.
Oct 13, 2018 added it
I liked a lot of things about this book. I thought that the voice was done quite well, and just in general I think I’ve had a pull toward period stories lately. It’s a story about self-acceptance and sexuality, following the main character from her young adulthood in the 1920’s in South Texas through late middle age in the 1960’s, as she learns to be both independent and to come to understand and accept herself as a lesbian. I think one of the valuable things about taking on sexuality and things ...more
Elizabeth Marshea
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sugar Land is difficult to pin down as it spans years and follows a characters as she discovers the many iterations of herself. From fleeing forbidden love to finding friendship in prison to ultimately discovering that being true to yourself is what sets us all free, Nana Dara is a one of a kind character.

She is at times forceful and at other time hesitant, confident and insecure, reflecting the dualities in all our personalities. It's true she is a lesbian, but she is no token character, she's
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was unsure whether I was going to continue reading this book at first, given some of the heavy subject matter (take this as a trigger warning for sexual assault), but I'm so glad I kept reading! This book follows the life Dara, as she wrestles with her sexuality while living and working in Midland, Texas. The book explores what it might have been like to grow up queer in a conservative part of the world during a conservative moment in time (sadly the prejudices portrayed in this story are stil ...more
"New shoes?" he asked.
"Well this is my wedding day!"

3.5 stars
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written. Sugar Land is the story of a Texas woman who attempts to sequester herself away from the world by going to work in a prison for men. It’s a heartbreaking start to a rich life of love and joy. There are so many great characters in this novel, and the setting is rich with historical detail and gritty Southern charm.
Hilary Zaid
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Stoner is a brilliant writer. Her life of a Southern woman from the 20s through the 1970s is painful, moving, and, above all, funny. Netflix, Hulu and/or Amazon would be fools not to option the film rights to this warm, big-hearted, tender and humane story, whose language is gorgeous on the page and whose characters and drama cry out for the screen. Women with an affinity for lady friends will find this work an especially satisfying read.
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure I was going to like this book all that much at first. The main character, Miss Dara, came across as incredibly simple and impossible to really fathom, even though the narration is first person from her view point. But as the story continued and grew deeper, I was completely entranced. There were parts that left me absolutely breathless with emotions. This was a very powerful read, especially for a debut novel. My biggest complaint is it wasn't very closely edited, which I generally ...more
Erin Cataldi
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
A southern coming of age story about learning to come to terms with life and what makes your heart ring true. Set in the twenties, a young woman named Dara escapes from Midland, Texas only to run straight into a prison. Dara works in the kitchen and tries to put her past and her great romance to bed. She fell hard for her best friend but is too concerned with what the consequences could be if anyone ever discovered her attraction to girls. Safely ensconced in a prison filled with men, Dara soon ...more
Dec 04, 2018 added it
DNF at page 32. The story synopsis sounded great, maybe if I had given it more time and reached the part where Dara evolved into (as one positive blurb put it) "a ballsy broad in a double-wide" I would have liked it as much as some of my GoodReads friends. But I was not in the mood for the cornpone of the first 32 pages, and even the promise of Leadbelly couldn't keep me going. I should beware comparisons to Fannie Flagg.
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the first books in a long time that kept me up all night reading. I loved this book, and I'm sure I'll read it again and again, rediscovering the world of a 1920s southern lesbian.
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sugar Land published in 2018, is set in the 1920s starting in Midland and ending in Sugar Land. Having grown up in the Houston/Galveston area, as a small child we often drove through Sugar Land and by the prison there. Convicts were often out on roadcrews and the area was beautiful. The prison is gone now, the land sold off to developers, and Sugarland was for a while, one of the fastest-growing areas in the state.

This novel is a historical fiction about the Texas Prison System, or not really A
Siel Ju
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
“I came to understand that life isn’t moments of going from black to white; It’s letting the dawn come up as slowly as it needs, until you realize it’s a new day.”
Sugar Land tells the story of Dara, a Southern girl in the 1920s who has a brief love affair with her girlfriend Rhodie — then decides to hide her lesbianism by exiling herself as a cook in a men’s prison. The beginning’s pretty grim but overall the novel tells a funny and exuberant tale of a woman’s long coming of age story.
Monica Caupp
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A truly great read that gave an interesting insight (albeit fictional) into how far we've come.

I really enjoyed Dara's voice throughout the novel and being able to grow with her.
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
I absolutely adored this book!!! It follows a lesbian’s life from the 1920s to 1981. It was phenomenal! Warning though, there are several sexual assault scenes that could be triggering.
Aug 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Four stars for “Sugar Land” being an entertaining read. It’s set in 1920’s Texas during a time where gender roles are strict and racism rampant. Dara’s acceptance of herself comes with the passing of so much time— literally, it is only until she’s in her 60’s where she accepts herself as a lesbian. Also, another reason behind the four stars. You won’t see many novels today where the author waits until that age for the character to reach an epiphany. You will however see many novels try to call i ...more
Lisa N
Jan 20, 2019 rated it liked it
A coming of age story about gender identity and social norms in the 1920’s. Endearing, humorous and at times heartbreaking, this books follows the brave and unusual life of Miss Dara as she learns to accept herself. Realizing she is a lesbian at a time when that is dangerous, she accepts a job as a cook in a men’s prison to keep herself away from temptation. Well written and filled with a good cast of supporting characters. Might not be a book for everyone, but I enjoyed it.
Jean Baxendale
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book... very thought provoking...
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
2018 All most historical fiction..1920 jumps to present day. Midland Texas 1923 Dora(19 yr old large girl falls in love with a girl. She runs away and works in a state men's prison, many years. Makes friends with a black prisoner who happens years later to be a famous singer, befriended by the progressive Warden. Yet forever dreams of her first love. A story that happened to fit with something that was happening with a grandchild present day. At least in 2018 she won't be arrested for her feelin ...more
David Morgan
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sugar Land is the story of Discovery, rejection, fear, denial, acceptance and completion. The life long story of Nana Dora encompasses all of these feelings and then some. I thoroughly enjoyed this journey with its timely story of self Discovery. I can highly recommend this book to anyone questioning their lot in life and to those curious about other people's life experiences.
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Goodreads Librari...: 9781597096270 2 25 Jul 02, 2018 12:08PM  

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tammy was born in Midland, Texas, where some of her debut novel SUGAR LAND (which the New York Journal of Books calls "writing at its finest") is set.

She's also the Publisher of Gertrude and wrangler of GERTIE, a queer book club.

Stemming from what her grandmother calls her "gypsy blood," tammy has lived in 16 cities in 3 countries, working as a gas station attendant, biscuit maker, medical experim

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“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.”
“The thing my eyes settled on was the line in that letter that said: That this baby came from me has to be kept a secret.

A secret. I knew even then that secrets have a way of working themselves out of tight spots, of springing up somewhere else where the dirt is softer. Maybe since my secret didn’t see the light of day all those years ago, I passed it along to this child. I should have been honest and told people that once, back in 1923, I loved a girl who loved me back and it changed everything. I should have told her that, despite preferring the company of woman, I didn't live a false life with her Daddy—it was just like having hamburger when you want steak.

I should have said something.”
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