Brazos Valley reads 2022: Attica Locke ‘Bluebird, Bluebird’ and the Souls of Black Texans

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Attica Locke, award-winning novelist and screenwriter, is the narrator for the 2022 Brazos Valley Reads.


Mel Melcon for the LA Times

Attica Locke, a novelist and producer for television and film, is the keynote speaker for 2022 Brazos Valley reads (BVR). On April 6th from 7-8 p.m. she will talk about her novels and her experiences as a screenwriter and producer via Zoom and answer questions via Zoom.

“Anyone who lives in the Brazos Valley and has an interest in literature should consider attending,” said Jason Harris, organizer of the BVR and associate professor in the Department of English. “It’s a bit like a giant book club where the author actually shows up. Since Locke also writes about East Texas, there’s that added regional appeal. Locke’s novel and screenwriting addresses painful questions about how racism and alienation are embedded in Texas communities while creating compelling narratives that explore love, greed, crime and identity.”

Locke’s recent work as a television writer and producer includes that of Netflix when they see us, the Hulu adaptation of Little fires everywhere, and the upcoming Netflix adaptation of Completely new. With six awards for her novels thrush, thrush, heaven my home, Pleasantvilleand The cutting seasonLocke’s publishing career began over a decade ago when she retired from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood to pursue writing fiction.

“In a novel you’re very quiet with yourself and only in league with yourself,” said Locke. “You don’t have to account to anyone but yourself. That gives novelwriting a kind of purity of experience and purity of voice. In novels, whatever is written on the page is me and only me. With television, it’s so intensely collaborative that no one can say they made it.”

Born and raised in Houston, Locke’s novels depict East Texas through the eyes of black people at different times.

“I write a lot with place and time in mind,” Locke said. “All my books have a timeline at the front that shows where you are in space and time. I’m really interested in characters that can only be understood in the time and space we find them in, who couldn’t otherwise exist. What happens in my books is always linked to the past. There is always a bit of history in everything I do.”

Through her novels about Black Texans in different historical eras and her presentation at the BVR, Locke hopes to change the way her readers think about Texas history and American history in general.

“I hope my readers learn to broaden their understanding of American history to include the stories of Black people and Black Texans,” Locke said. “I hope to increase people’s understanding of what Texas is and what it means to be a Texan. It’s a lot wider than we think. I’ve always believed that books make your mind grow and your heart grow because they allow you to see from different perspectives. I hope my books do just that.”

The Department of English at Texas A&M University created Brazos Valley Reads in 2005 to promote unity between Texas A&M students and employees and the Brazos Valley community. The program also aims to encourage shared cultural and educational experiences within these communities.

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