Attica Locke's latest novel "Bluebird, Bluebird" is personal.
The plotted whodunit is thinly veiled with Locke's own family history and complicated relationship with her home state of Texas and the small towns that plank Highway 59.
The story focuses on two present-day homicides in the small, sleepy town of Lark: A white woman and a black man turn up dead within days of each other. The protagonist, an African-American Ranger named Darren Mathews, is not eager to return to his hometown, but feels a calling to investigate.
Locke is not subtle in her exploration of the issues of racial identity and justice. She crafts an internal familial battle and dictates the plight of African-Americans still suffering from the worst kind of racism and discrimination in many areas of the United States today.
"When I was first writing the book, I was writing a book about a Texas that I understood. A deep, rural Texas which I expounded on," said Locke. "Growing up in the South, we lived with our history right at the hip. We navigated these complicated waters."
Current events, however, changed the tone of her book without altering a single word.
"Then the election happened and we started seeing a rise of hate crimes and discrimination. Suddenly these characters became infinitely more timely than I had ever intended," she said.
This is Locke's fourth book that adds to the ongoing conversation of a region's bigotry. Her previous works, "Black Water Rising," "The Cutting Season" and "Pleasantville," are set in Houston or Louisiana, and, like "Bluebird, Bluebird," tour the South with the tastes of bourbon, blues and barbecue dancing from the pages.
The former writer and a producer of the Fox drama series "Empire" continues to find commercial success in her writing, but says there is a clear take-away in this novel.
"It's a new type of radical thinking," said Locke. "There is a presentation of the black point of view that counters a larger narrative. One that says we are all related. As Southerners, as Americans, deep down we really are the same."
Book: "Bluebird, Bluebird"
When: 10:10 a.m. Feb. 17
Where: Lutheran Church of the Ascension Sanctuary, 120 Bull St., Wright Square