...When we first meet Dara, she is a 19-year-old Texan who has fallen in love with her best female friend, Rhodie. Given that this takes place in 1923, decades before the gay-liberation movement, to say that this presents a problem is an understatement ... so despite being a lesbian, Dara agrees to marry a kindly prison warden ... A lovely debut that addresses race and class, sexuality and identity.
As a lesbian in the 1920s, Miss Dara knows a thing or two about being an outcast. When she falls in love with her best friend, Dara runs from her hometown and everything she knows to work as a kitchen girl at the Imperial State Prison Farm in Sugar Land, Texas ... Then one day, she receives a marriage proposal from the warden. She decides to settle down with him, despite her heart’s true urgings ... With a lively sense of humor and a great sense of place, tammy lynne stoner’s debut is a Southern novel from a voice that rings true ... A novel of exploration, bravery and redemption, with keen insight into race, class, gender identity and social norms, Sugar Land is the story of a woman learning to come home to herself.
... Sugar Land is not so much fixated on factual accuracy as emotional resonance anyhow. The story Stoner wants to tell 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 ... Stoner can turn a clever phrase... and her characters have unforeseen depths even they’re not always aware of.
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.
...When we meet Miss Dara, she has traveled from her home in West Texas all the way to a prison on the outskirts of a steamy, smelly little town called Sugar Land, near Houston. She is hoping to escape the fallout of her passionate love affair with a girl named Rhodie ... At the prison, Dara meets several characters who will greatly influence her life ... From these beginnings, the story takes many delightful twists and turns, always described succinctly and colorfully by this narrator ... 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.