Author Playlists

Stacy Jane Grover’s Playlist for Her Essay Collection “Tar Hollow Trans”

“This playlist of the bands mentioned in Tar Hollow Trans is an extension of this imaginative work. Together, they stand as an incomplete record of how home sounded to me, a transgender, piano-playing mall goth pastor’s kid growing up in the 90s/00s.”

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Stacy Jane Grover’s essay collection Tar Hollow Trans offers compelling insight into Appalachian trans and queer life.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

“Grover debuts with a stirring exploration of Appalachian queer identity. Writing about her transness and experience of living in the region, Grover rejects the portraits of Appalachia that have been put forth by writers such as J.D. Vance. Her version, rooted in the aughts, comes alive with anecdotes about mall goths and Evanescence fan pages, laid against careful analysis of what made that early virtual world sacred.”

In her own words, here is Stacy Jane Grover’s Book Notes music playlist for her essay collection Tar Hollow Trans:

I never considered myself to be Appalachian growing up, but when I discovered the word Appalachia it explained so much about how I was raised. Yet the Appalachia I encountered in books read like a caricature—banjos, porch sitting, mythic meemaws, coal mining, and least relatable to coming from Ohio, discussions of the South.

I wanted to show a different Appalachia from the one found in stereotypical representations of the region, so I wrote Tar Hollow Trans. The book charts my attempts–and ultimate failure—to write myself into a legible transgender, Appalachian identity using various cultural traditions, folkways, and artifacts, as well as gender and sexuality theories.

This playlist of the bands mentioned in Tar Hollow Trans is an extension of this imaginative work. Together, they stand as an incomplete record of how home sounded to me, a transgender, piano-playing mall goth pastor’s kid growing up in the 90s/00s.

Creed – Higher

As a sheltered pastor’s kid who left the evangelical world just as Y2K and the end of the world failed to manifest, Creed hit hard. They served as a gateway band to better rock music. “Higher” is the song I most remember from that time. Creed was and remains excellent karaoke fodder.

My Chemical Romance – I’m Not Okay (I Promise)

Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge was on heavy rotation in my life. While “Helena” inspired many makeup styles and homecoming outfits, “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” brought us levity and reprieve from the more serious, sad, and angry music that normally filled our speakers.

Evanescence – Imaginary

Evanescence is really where the world began for me musically. Fallen turned my black-and-white world technicolor. Imaginary was the song of waiting for dial-up to connect, of spending hours on EvThreads, Myspace, AIM, and Yahoo! chat rooms. It is the song of self-exploration and invention.

Dresden Dolls – Half Jack

I struggled with whether to include Dresden Dolls in the book and on the playlist, even though I did listen to them nearly daily. As a teen, this album gave words to things I’d never heard said so clearly. “Half Jack” was a transgender awakening song for me. The lyrics “Half underwater, I’m half my mother’s daughter” “It’s half biology and half corrective surgery gone wrong” named my nascent dysphoria and yearning to transition so clearly. I ultimately kept the reference to the band in the book because it is true to the time, and shows how I’ve grown from those times. It’s okay to like something when you’re a teen and move on from it.

Tori Amos – Precious Things

Tori Amos came into my life and lit my little world ablaze. “Precious Things” spoke to my discontent with Christian boys and the misplaced frustration and jealousy that was wanting, wanting to be those pretty girls

The Cure – End of the World

It was nice to be a goth teen when a new Cure album was released. I was young, depressed, and tragically, hopelessly romantic. So “The End of the World” provided the soundtrack for that feeling. “You want me to lie, not break your heart/ I want you to fly, not stop and start/
We want us like everything else”

A Perfect Circle – Pet

“The Thirteenth Step” came into a post-9/11 world right after the Iraq invasion had happened. As teens, Pet spoke to our resistance to buying into W. Bush’s war machine and the bigoted groupthink that was happening at the time.

Chevelle – Breach Birth

Much of “This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In)” expressed the disenfranchisement, rage at systems and structures, and anger of being an adolescent. “Breach Birth,” when someone is born backward, was another early transgender metaphor song for me. “So create, reclaim/Sovereign shapes tempting us/Ration out, their schematics/Dare we live without molds”

Kittie – Oracle

I had the lyrics to “Oracle’ painted on my bedroom wall. There was something so grounding about a heavy song about a girl getting revenge. Nothing, and I mean nothing, was as hard or radical or heavy as Kittie was. And they were only a few years age difference from us, so to have other teens creating art in this way exploded my conception of what was possible. They gave me permission to say things that I wasn’t supposed to.

Otep – Possession

Otep was an early writing inspiration for me. I remember this song so vividly because it introduced me to the word patriarchy (“It’s revolution us against the patriarchy”) and ways of naming the social climate of the 00s (“the afterbirth of knowledge is America’s nightmare”).

Rob Zombie – Superbeast

I first heard Rob Zombie, like many Millennials, on the “Twisted Metal” series soundtracks. I didn’t know the term or concept at the time, but Zombie’s shock rock was camp, and a camp that tore holes in the evangelical world I grew up in. 

Evanescence – Lacrymosa

I played classical piano and deeply loved classical music. Lacrymosa fully melded the classical and metal worlds I inhabited together. The lore is that Mozart wrote the piece to be played at his funeral and Chopin requested it to be performed at his. But this version did become a requiem for my best friend, and was played at his memorial, and forever lives as a bridge to an earlier time.

Birthday Massacre – Kill the Lights

In the book, this song is mentioned as being on a mix cd I burned for a boy I liked. The band was creepy but not off-putting, and music one could dance to, which was perfect for a rave kid I was trying to woo.

Hungry Lucy – Alfred

This is another song from the mix CD that expresses the tragic romance of letting one’s love go into the light. “I wasn’t there but I was always in your heart/Now I find I’m still alone.”

Portishead – Roads

Beth Gibbons is one of Amy Lee’s main musical inspirations, so I found Portishead through Evanescence. While this song has nothing romantic about it lyrically, the end-of-the-world vibe of “we’ve got a war to fight ” and the dark, dream pop, shoegaze sound lent themselves to the fantasy of dancing to this song in the boy’s low-lit bedroom. Which never happened. “Roads” also contains the right mood to end a playlist dedicated to a book that revisits a time gone to me, only partially recoverable in memory.

Stacy Jane Grover is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and holds an MA in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. Tar Hollow Trans: Essays is her first book.

If you appreciate the work that goes into Largehearted Boy, please consider supporting the site to keep it strong.