Tar Hollow Trans: Essays

University Press of Kentucky. June 2023

Read an excerpt in Belt Magazine

“I’ve lived a completely ordinary life, so much that I don’t know how to write a transgender or queer or Appalachian story, because I don’t feel like I’ve lived one…. Though, in searching for ways to write myself in my stories, maybe I can find power in this ordinariness.”
Raised in southeast Ohio, Stacy Jane Grover would not describe her upbringing as “Appalachian.” Appalachia existed farther afield—more rural, more country than the landscape of her hometown.
Grover returned to the places of her childhood to reconcile her identity and experience with the culture and the people who had raised her. She began to reflect on her memories and discovered that group identities like Appalachian and transgender are linked by more than just the stinging brand of social otherness.
In Tar Hollow Trans, Grover explores her transgender experience through common Appalachian cultural traditions. In “Dead Furrows,” a death vigil and funeral leads to an investigation of Appalachian funerary rituals and their failure to help Grover cope with the grief of being denied her transness. “Homeplace” threads family interactions with farm animals and Grover’s coming out journey, illuminating the disturbing parallels between the American Veterinary Association’s guidelines for ethical euthanasia and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s guidelines for transgender care.
Together, her essays write transgender experience into broader cultural narratives beyond transition and interrogate the failures of concepts such as memory, metaphor, heritage, and tradition. Tar Hollow Trans investigates the ways the labels of transgender and Appalachian have been created and understood and reckons with the ways the ever-becoming transgender self, like a stigmatized region, can find new spaces of growth.
Praise for Tar Hollow Trans
“A unique, fascinating collection” Publisher’s Weekly
Book Riot “Most Anticipated Books of 2023
LGBTQ Reads “Most Anticipated Nonfiction of Jan-Jun ’23”
“A book that courses like a river through place, time, and identity, Tar Hollow Trans is as finely crafted as it is necessary. Stacy Jane Grover has captured not just the deep feeling of Appalachian queerness, but the breadth of insight that comes from a life spent on the margins.”―Samantha Allen, award-winning journalist and author of Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States  
“Intelligent and sharply perceptive. There is an exciting restlessness to Grover’s thinking, and these essays take many unexpected and surprising turns. She writes inquisitively and insightfully about her identity and experiences as a trans woman, and about Appalachian folkways and artifacts and myths.” ―Carter Sickels, author of The Prettiest Star
Tar Hollow Trans” is a revelation. Sweeping, with stunning images and an enduring voice, this is a story that needs to be known: that of trans girlhood in rural Appalachia, told like a whispering, wonderous gospel. Heartfelt, haunted by home, and above all else, searching, this book marvels and creates the miraculous. I couldn’t put it down, and it will live in me forever.” — Alison Stine, author of Trashlands
Tar Hollow Trans is all at once a complex archive of identity, a sharp meditation on form, a haunting history of place, and a love letter to the particularities that comprise a life. Grover offers beautiful prose and intelligent reflections on transness, Appalachia, family, and more with the kind of thoughtful nuance these themes deserve. I loved being immersed in these essays. –Raechel Anne Jolie, author Rust Belt Femme