Attica Locke is the Baileys Prize shortlisted author of four crime novels. Her latest, Bluebird, Bluebird, is set in a small town in Texas, where a black Texas Ranger sets out to investigate two murders that have happened in quick succession – one of a local white girl and the other of a successful black lawyer from out of town. Attica tells us the story behind the setting.  

I come from a long line of black Texans.
 
I grew up on blues and barbecue: Bobby “Blue” Bland, Lightning Hopkins and Freddie King. Plus a little Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, if I’m gon’ tell the truth about it. I grew up getting a pair of cowboy boots every Christmas, and I spent my summers in the country, chasing fireflies and june bugs down dirt roads and through forests of ancient pine trees, my toes dug in the red clay dirt of my childhood. When I was in high school, my daddy taught me to shoot my first pistol behind the farm house that my family has owned for over 100 years—on the very land where my great-grandparents farmed cotton and corn and managed to send six kids to college and graduate school.
 
All my people come from towns along Highway 59, a line that runs through the heart of East Texas. On both my mother’s and father’s sides, I can trace my Texas roots going all the way back to slavery. Save for a few distant cousins fleeing the law, no one in my family ever left the eastern part of the state. Even after Emancipation and the rise of the Klan and Jim Crow politics, we stayed through unimaginably hard times for black folks. During the Great Migration of the twentieth century, though friends and neighbors fled north along Highway 59 — toward Chicago or Cleveland, Detroit or New York, cities with jobs out of the fields and far away from the racist south — my people are defined by the fact that we stayed. We were Texans, period. And we were not about to up and leave a land we loved, a land that had made us who we are. The fact that we believed we had the stones to endure what others couldn’t is the most quintessentially Texas thing about us, a bit of Lone Star swagger that runs in my blood. The way I was raised, the stand your ground doctrine cuts both ways, and my people have always made one thing clear: We were not gon’ be run off. Not even by the worst the state had to offer. The Aryan Brotherhood and Klan terrorists — they don’t get to define a place. Texas belongs as much to us as to anyone else. These days, I find myself saying the same about America. In the wake of Donald Trump, I refuse to let the rise of white supremacist rhetoric and racist violence define the country that I know and love. This is my country too. And like my ancestors — and Darren Mathews, the Texas Ranger in Bluebird, Bluebird — I believe in standing my ground against bigotry. I believe in standing up for the land that I love.

Order your copy of Bluebird, Bluebird
Follow @atticalocke on Twitter

This blog originally appeared in our monthly newsletter. Sign up below to have more like this delivered to your inbox.