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‘Sugar Land’ by Tammy Lynne Stoner

‘Sugar Land’ by Tammy Lynne Stoner

Author: July Westhale

July 18, 2019

It is common to hear queer origin stories: without representation, we wither and die. Mythos, birth, coming into being—these are all invaluable totems of being truly alive for those forced into the margins. Coming out stories are radical and necessary, especially in the current political landscape, for they make space for others to find their own voices, their own stories. They clear a little patch in the grass and say, Come sit a spell.

However, what’s less common is an origin story rooted in what someone did in order to not come out. And that is the story of Dara, a self-identified non-practicing lesbian from the middle of Texas. After falling in love with a girl named Rhodie, Dara escapes into the drudgery of work. She takes a job at Sugar Land Prison, where she works for ten years before marrying the Warden and starting a new life. Dara does a pretty passable job escaping the terrors of out-queerness until the sudden death of her husband upends her life again.

This novel is a fun and quick read, and a quirky change from the usual, rural coming out story. The characters are humorous and self-effacing, and their wit holds up even more starkly against the harsh landscape of the Texas politics they find themselves enmeshed in. What’s more is that Dara is an excellent reminder that not all lives go in one direction: coming into oneself can happen at 15, or it can happen at 65.


Sugar Land
Tammy Lynne Stoner
Red Hen Press
Paperback, 9781597096263, 320 pp.
October 2018

July Westhale photo

About: July Westhale

July Westhale is the award-winning author of Via Negativa,Trailer Trash (selected for the 2016 Kore Press Book Prize), The Cavalcade, and Occasionally Accurate Science. Her most recent poetry can be found in The National Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, CALYX, Rappahannock Review, Tupelo Quarterly, RHINO, Lunch Ticket, and Quarterly West. Her essays have been nominated for Best American Essays and have appeared in McSweeney’sAutostraddle, and The Huffington Post. She is the 2018 University of Arizona Poetry Center Fellow.

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