Geschrieben am 3. Februar 2019 von für Crimemag, CrimeMag Februar 2019

7 Questions for Attica Locke

„My heart is split“

Marcus Müntefering hat Nachfragen an Attica Locke zu „Bluebird, Bluebird“

Vorbemerkung: Die folgenden Fragen und Antworten waren die Basis für eine Besprechung von Attica Lockes „Bluebird, Bluebird“ bei Spiegel Online. Es handelt sich also nicht um ein „normales“ Interview, sondern um eine Reihe von Fragen, die sich mir während der Lektüre des Romans stellten und die ich nicht in die dramaturgische Reihenfolge gebracht habe, wie es in einem zur Veröffentlichung gedachten Interview der Fall gewesen wäre. Da aber Atticas Antworten auf meine per E-Mail geschickten Fragen sehr ausführlich und durchdacht sind und durchaus einige Aspekte des Romans vertiefen und verständlicher machen, stelle ich es hier (nach Absprache mit Attica) zur Verfügung. Wer den Roman noch nicht kennt, sollte zunächst die Besprechung bei Spiegel Online lesen, weil die Fragen sonst wenig Sinn ergeben könnten. Und, ach ja: Dieses Interview ist spoilerfrei.

Marcus Müntefering: Attica, in another interview you said that you finished your novel before Trump got elected, but that the book changed due to this. Could you please explain in which way the book changed even if you didn’t change a word?

Attica Locke: Well, America changed after Trump was elected. And my book felt prescient and honest in a way that was scary – even to me. I wrote a book about Southern racism, but with the hope of it being a cautionary tale about what we as a country are moving away from. But when Trump was elected, it laid bare a bitter, lingering ugliness about racial hatred and violence in America that made my book feel more urgent.

In your book you write that Darren had hope that Obama being president could change „the ancient rules of southern living“ – „When in fact the opposite had proved to be true (…) Amrica had told on itself“. What change did Obama bring – and where didn’t he change anything?

Attica Locke © 2012 Larry D. Moore -Wikimedia Commons

For me, Obama’s election was a major moment of hope for me – that we as a nation might be able to move past some of the uglier parts of our history. I never believed in a „post-racial America“ – I don’t think that should ever be a goal (we should be able to respect different races, not erase them) – but I did think that Obama’s election might be the first step toward healing a tortured racist history. That we might begin to move toward greater racial equality. But Obama’s election – though there is no doubt that it was a sign of progress for the nation (I truly never thought I would see a black president in my lifetime) – brought to light how much racism was still coursing through the veins of America. And in fact, there were a great number of people for whom his presidency was an affront to their idea of a white supremacist America, and, as a result, there was slow uptick in racist rhetoric and violence in the years after he was elected. Which reached its apex in the election of Donald Trump.

Your story takes place in a very small town near Highway 59. This road seems to have a personal meaning to you. Could you tell me about that?

My whole family comes from East Texas and from small towns along Highway 59. On both my mother and my father’s sides, I can trace my roots in this part of Texas going all the way back to slavery. It is a part of my cultural identity. I also spent a lot of time on Highway 59 as a child – when we would drive across the state to visit relatives. I’ve often said, I became a writer on Highway 59, because in the years before iPhones and iPads, there was nothing to do in the back of car as a child but daydream. I used to make up stories.

You seem to have a deep love for rural Texas, even if all kinds of bad things happen there to black people. How do you preserve this love? Or did I read it wrong and it’s more of a love/hate-relationship?

It’s ambivalence. My heart is split. The fact of the matter is that Texas has given my family a lot; meaning we were able to make a wonderful lives for ourselves in the state. My ancestors were homesteaders and farmers after slavery, and from farming cotton and corn, my grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents were able to send their children to college. From rural East Texas, my family created doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians, professors, writers, decorated Army men – all that came from hard work and dirt. I am proud of my ancestors. And for me, there is always this sense: I can’t hate where I come from.But Texas also breaks my heart. There is so much about the state’s conservative politics that I disagree with. But at the same time, I have witnessed beautiful friendships and romantic relationships between black and white people in Texas that are no less real because there aresomeracists in the state. Texas is a contradiction.

What does it mean to be a proud black Texan like Darren? And how is Texas/East Texas different than the rest of the USA?

East Texas, which borders Louisiana, has more in common with the American South (Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, etc.) than it does with the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico). I identify both as a Texan and as a Southerner. But there are some Texans (who live in the western part of the state) who don’t consider Texas a part of the American South. To me, being a proud black Texan is about some of the things I write about in the book… the idea of not being run off. Unlike a lot of folks, my ancestors never left the South after slavery. We stayed because we believed we had a right to be wherever we wanted to be, and we wanted to be in Texas. We were willing to fight for our right to live and thrive in a state we had essentially built as slaves.

In your novel there is a café called Kay’s Kountry Kitchen, you call the name „a flagrant act of microaggression“ – in which way is something like this typical for Texas?

Yes! I didn’t always notice it when I was growing up, but when my husband (who is white and from the state of Missouri) first visited Texas, he understood the coded messages around us – messages that in some ways were meant for him – all the subtle nods to the KKK (the Ku Klux Klan, a historical racist terrorist organization going back tot he Civil War). Things like: there is a country radio station in Houston called Kikk FM… and their billboards used to look like this – KiKK fm; also there’s a chain of printing shops called Kwik Kopy. I wish I could show you a photograph my sister found of the two of us standing in front of our preschool in Houston in the late 70s. The name of the preschool was Krestmont Kiddie Kollege. And in the picture, we’re wearing African dashikis (our parents were political activists in the late 60s and 70s), but standing in front of the school’s sign, blocking out all letters except the KKK. As I said, Texas is full of contradictions.

„Blues was black Texans true legacy“ – Could you explain what significance the blues has for you?

I am a die-hard blues fan. I grew up on Lightin’ Hopkins and Freddy King and Bobby „Blue“ Bland and Johnnie Taylor and BB King. I also grew up on classic country: Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, Jr. My grandmother used to play it in her house because in rural east Texas, country music and gospel were about the only things you could hear on the radio. I recognize the connection between all of this music. I often say that Blues and Country are like fraternal twins. There is not one without the other. And I love both. I listen to country music even today. But for black folks, blues speaks to our agrarian roots and the rootlessness that was at the heart of our lives as slaves. It has the humor that has seen us through so many difficult times. The music was and isa salve. For me, blues is my muse. Lightnin’ Hopkins in particular. He was what I aspire to be on paper: spare, lyrical and wise.

Das Buch:
Attica Locke: Bluebird, Bluebird (2018). Übersetzt von Susanna Mende. Polar Verlag, Stuttgart 2019. 329 Seiten, 20 Euro. – Buchbesprechung von Sonja Hartl in dieser CrimeMag-Ausgabe nebenan.

Marcus Müntefering und seine „Bloody Questions“ für inzwischen 27 Autorinnen und Autoren:

Übersicht hierChristopher G. Moore, Oliver BottiniStuart McBride, Steve Hamilton, Tana French, Garry Disher, Jerome Charyn, Friedrich Ani, Mark Billingham, Adrian McKintyRobert Wilson (2 Teile), Simone Buchholz, Lawrence Block, Karin Slaughter, Val McDermidJoe R. Lansdale, Bill Moody finden Sie hier. Nicht (mehr) zugänglich sind zur Zeit die „Bloody Questions“ mit Wallace Stroby (8) Lauren Beukes, (7, Teil 1) und Lauren Beukes (6, Teil 2) Richard Lange (5), Zoë Beck (4), Sam Millar (3), Declan Burke (2), James Lee Burke (1).

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