Black writers, like all black people, are not defined solely by being oppressed. The majority of black fiction writers will write about how they deal with racism because it is an every day reality in their lives but it is not the only reality.
Attica Locke’s fiction exemplifies this. Darren Mathews, the star of what appears to be the first in a series from Locke, is a complicated man. You empathize for him to a degree because of what he has to endure as a black Texas Ranger, with a mother who is an alcoholic, a wife he cannot seem to make happy, and a family with its own set of expectations. Yet Mathews is also prone to making his own mistakes regarding the bottle and the cases he works on.
Drop him in the heart of a turf war where a sect of the Aryan Brotherhood, insulated by an indifferent local police department, is muscling in on a town that’s populated mostly by black folks and you have one hell of a novel. I read most of it in one sitting, which I rarely do anymore, and am still considering it.
The mystery is interesting enough but it’s not the only thing that makes this novel so readable. This is a deeper exploration about destiny. The uncomfortable choices we are all forced to make because of the directions life takes us. Racism is a looming specter in affecting destiny, but it is not the only thing. Love is a factor as well. Which is what makes this book so heartbreaking, especially the completely unexpected last scene.
I usually have more words for books that move me but I need to sit more with this one. And I need to read Heaven, My Home soon.