Terrace Books, an imprint of The University of Wisconsin Press

Memoir / Gay & Lesbian Interest


A Novel
James Magruder

"Magruder is a writer of immense gifts, with a voice—smart, playful, lyrical, subtle, unsparing —utterly unlike anyone else's."—Tony Kushner, playwright of Angels in America

Things look bad for Rick Lahrem, a high school sophomore in a cookie-cutter Chicago suburb in 1976. His mother's second husband is a licensed psychologist who eats like an ape, his stepsister is a stoner slut, and his father is engaged to a Southern belle. Rick's only solace is his growing collection of original Broadway-cast LPs, bought on the sly at Wax Trax.

After he brings two girls in speech class to tears by reading a story aloud, Rick is coaxed onto the interscholastic forensics team to perform an eight-minute dramatic interpretation of The Boys in the Band, the controversial sixties play about homosexuality. Unexpectedly successful at this oddball event, Rick begins winning tournaments and making friends with his teammates.

Rick also discovers the joys of sex—with a speech coach from a rival school—just as his mother, reacting to a deteriorating home environment, makes an unnerving commitment to Christ. The newly confident Rick assumes this too shall pass—until the combined forces of family, sex, and faith threaten to undo him at the state meet in Peoria.

James Magruder's Sugarless offers a ruefully entertaining take on the simultaneous struggles of coming-out, coming-of-age, and coming-to-Jesus.

"In this fascinating 1970s coming-of-age story, playwright and translator Magruder introduces readers to Rick Lahrem, a high school sophomore struggling with his sexuality, his loneliness and his new stepfamily . . . While this novel may be about a homosexual relationship in the 1970s, the story captures the struggles of teenagers, straight and gay, of every generation."—Publishers Weekly

"The tale of adolescent sexual awakening in James Magruder’s Sugarless reads so true it feels like it should be thrust into the hands of every confused protogay teenager."—Out Magazine

'Sugarless is the rough chutes and ladders of adolescence against a realistic and hilarious evocation of the 1970s. If you ever wondered what makes boys tick, or you've been in danger of forgetting, this is the book you've been looking for."—Amy Bloom, author of Away

James Magruder is a playwright and award- winning translator who lives in Baltimore. He wrote the book for the Broadway musical Triumph of Love and has published stories in Bloom, Subtropics, and The Gettysburg Review. He teaches at Swarthmore College and the Yale School of Drama. This is his first novel.

Click here to view the Sugarless book trailer.

The Terrace Books logo is designed in the shape of a book with a Union chair in silhouette on the cover. The words Terrace Books, Madison, Wisconsin appear also.
A trade imprint of the University of Wisconsin Press

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at publicity@uwpress.wisc.edu or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

The cover of Sugarless is white, with the illustration of a partially unwrapped stick of blue gum.

October 2009

LC: 2009008142 PS
224 pp.  5 1/2 x 8 1/2

Book icon
Cloth $24.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-23380-8
Shopping cart ADD TO CART
  Review cart contents
Secure checkout

“A remarkable debut.
At once tender and satirical, Magruder illuminates the secret heart of every character, from the sixteen-year-old narrator who worships Broadway show tunes to the Christian girl who wears a live Peruvian cockroach pinned to her blouse.”
—Richard McCann, author of Mother of Sorrows


Home | Books | Journals | Events | Textbooks | Authors | Related | Search | Order | Contact

If you have trouble accessing any page in this web site, contact our Web manager.
E-mail: webmaster@uwpress.wisc.edu.

Updated July 25, 2010

© 2010, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System