Brazos Valley Reads 2022: Attica Locke ‘Bluebird, Bluebird’ And The Souls Of Black Texans
Attica Locke, a novelist and producer for television and film, is the 2022 keynote speaker for Brazos Valley Reads (BVR). Via Zoom on April 6 from 7-8 p.m. she will discuss her novels and her experiences as a screenwriter and producer, as well as answer questions via Zoom.
“Anyone who lives in the Brazos Valley and enjoys literature should consider attending,” said Jason Harris, the organizer of BVR and instructional associate professor in the Department of English. “It’s a bit like being in a giant book club where the author actually shows up. Since Locke also writes about East Texas there’s that additional regional appeal. Locke’s novel-writing and screenwriting tackles painful issues of how racism and alienation are embedded in Texas communities, while also creating compelling narratives exploring love, greed, crime and identity.”
Locke’s most recent work as a television writer and producer include Netflix’s When They See Us, the Hulu adaptation of Little Fires Everywhere, and the upcoming Netflix adaptation of From Scratch. With six awards for her novels Bluebird, Bluebird, Heaven, My Home, Pleasantville, and The Cutting Season, Locke’s publishing career began over a decade ago when she stepped away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood to pursue novel writing.
“With a novel, you’re just quietly with yourself and you are only in alliance with yourself,” Locke said. “You have no one to answer to but yourself. That gives novel writing a kind of purity of experience and purity of voice. With novels, whatever is on the page is me and just me. With TV, it’s so deeply collaborative that no one person can say they did the whole thing.”
Born and raised in Houston, Locke’s novels depict East Texas from the perspective of Black people in different time periods.
“I write a lot with setting in mind, both in terms of place and time,” Locke said. “All of my books have a timeline at the front that says where you are in space and time. I’m really interested in characters who can only be understood in time and space in which we find them that couldn’t exist in any other way. Whatever is happening in my books is always connected to the past. There’s always a bit of history in everything that I do.”
Through novels about Black Texans in different historical periods and her presentation at 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 folks and Black Texans,” Locke said. “I hope to broaden people’s understanding of what Texas is and what it means to be a Texan. It’s much broader than we think. I’ve always believed that books grow your mind and grow your heart because they allow you to see from different perspectives. My hope is that that’s what my books do.”
Texas A&M University’s Department of English began Brazos Valley Reads in 2005 to encourage unity between Texas A&M’s students and staff and the Brazos Valley community. The program also aims to encourage shared cultural and educational experiences within these communities.