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The Atlas of Reds and Blues

Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)

The Atlas of Reds and Blues

Named a Washington Post Best Book of the Year & Winner of the 2019-2020 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Adult Fiction

Full Title: The Atlas of Reds and Blues

Author: Devi Laskar
Publisher: Hachette India

Award Category: Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)
About the Book: 

The Atlas of Reds and Blues opens with a woman lying bleeding on her driveway, shot by police. The woman has moved her family to the wealthy suburbs, but once there was is met with the same questions: Where are you from? No, where are you really from? The American-born daughter of Bengali immigrant parents, her truthful answer, here, is never enough.

The morning that opens The Atlas of Red and Blues is the morning that the woman's simmering anger breaks through. During a baseless and prejudice-driven police raid on her house, she finally refuses to be calm, complacent, polite. As she lies bleeding on her driveway, her life flashing before her eyes, she struggles to make sense of her past and decipher her present - how did she end up here?


About the Author: 

DEVI S. LASKAR is a native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and holds an MFA from Columbia University. Her work has appeared in Tin House and Rattle, among other publications. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and is an alumna of The OpEd Project and VONA. Laskar is the author of two poetry chapbooks, and this is her first novel. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Review: 

“The entire novel takes place over the course of a single morning… and the effect is devastatingly potent.”
Marie Claire

“Devi S. Laskar’s The Atlas of Reds and Blues is as narratively beautiful as it is brutal… I’ve never read a novel that does nearly as much in so few pages.”
Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

Devi S. Laskar used her own harrowing experience of a home invasion to inform her writing of The Atlas of Reds and Blues . . . The entire novel takes place over the course of a single morning, as Mother lies waiting for help, and the effect is devastatingly potent.”
Jenny Hollander, Marie Claire, The Best Women’s Fiction of the Year

The Atlas of Reds and Blues is a quick read, in part, because of these short sections, some only two sentences long. But it’s a page-turner, too, because of the urgency of each small story, each revelatory memory . . . If The Atlas of Reds and Blues and the lyric, thematic and structural care the author has lent it are an experiment, then it is certainly a successful one.”
Ilana Masad, The Washington Post

“I loved the very focused and concise ideas and dramatic situation, the efficient and effective structure, the strong and precise language.”
Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain and judge of the 2020 Crook’s Corner Book Prize

“‘Where are you from?’ It’s a simple enough question, it would seem, the kind of thing a child would ask guilelessly of someone encountered on the other side of a see-saw. And yet, it’s a question that has been weaponized, used to make people feel like they don’t belong where they are, like they need to leave and never return. It’s a question that sticks like a burr into the consciousness of Mother, an American-born daughter of Bengali immigrants, who refuses to be acquiescent in the face of this country’s xenophobia. Laskar has written a searing and powerful novel about the second-generation immigrant experience, making clear the ways in which America terrorizes its own people. It’s a violent look at a violent place, and you’ll feel forever changed for having read it.”
Kristin Iversen, NYLON, 1 of 50 Books You’ll Want to Read This Year

“The language is polished, poetic and packed with vivid descriptions of interior and exterior states. With its delineation of small moments and large consequences, it takes us to the despairing heart of Ocean Vuong’s words: ‘The truth is we can survive our lives, but not our skin.'”
Sanjay Sipahimalani, CNBC-TV18

“Laskar has written a propulsive, devastating book that blends fiction and personal experience.”
Elizabeth Sile, Real Simple, One of the Best Books of the Year (So Far)

“Driven by the fierce honesty in Laskar’s prose . . . Atlas is both beautiful and raw, hitting readers head-on with what women of color grapple with daily in America–racism, misogyny, invisibility, and otherness.”
Michael Adam Carroll, The Believer

“A poignant meditation on racism and police brutality experienced by people of color . . . The Atlas of Reds and Blues provides no easy answers. It does, however, delve deeply into the plight of ordinary people who do nothing to invite hate and yet get caught in hatred’s web, only to find disentanglement almost impossible. Laskar’s fine and moving novel is a step toward her own release, and with it she simultaneously offers readers a way out, too.”
Soniah Kamal, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlas of Reds and Blues makes me think of heat in a very literary way–it’s bright, blinding, fast, and violent . . . The novel takes place in one day’s time (and I read it in just about that same length of time) after Mother has been shot by the police following a raid on the family home. It’s a too-true story of the horrific institutional racism immigrants face, and it will make you hot with anger.”
Emily Stochl, Book Riot

“Despite the spectrum of cruelties the main character endures, there is rich beauty in the world Laskar portrays. Her background as a journalist and poet shine through in the details and exquisite imagery. This is a book readers will want to revisit.”
Ruth LeFaive, Longreads

Atlas tells the gripping story of a second-generation American immigrant and woman of color who in the workplace, home and society finds herself ensnared in racist, abusive circumstances. Told through the perspective of the unnamed protagonist The Mother, the narrative has timelines that fragment: Memories that stretch over decades and generations of prejudicial wounding are juxtaposed with the visceral, physical reality of lying in the driveway of The Mother’s upscale neighborhood home bleeding from a gunshot wound. Barbie dolls, grandmothers, rescue dogs, overzealous police, cruelty, humor, interracial marriage and more arrive in the novel’s tumultuous, can’t-put-it-down pacing and impeccably vivid prose.”
Lou Fancher, The Mercury News

“A novel of identity . . . One of the beauties of this accomplished first novel is its simple and delicate structure.”
Meg Waite Clayton, San Francisco Chronicle

“The author’s fluid, succinct language in each short chapter becomes the border of an atlas, straining to connect to form a person. A place. A thing. Laskar shows how women, and particularly women of color, not only have to manage motherhood, marriage, and ambition, but also must fight for respect on top of it all.”
Meredith Boe, Chicago Review of Books

The Atlas of Reds and Blues tackles overt, covert, and systemic racism and sexism in way that is profound and moving without ever dipping into sentimentality . . . You feel that you are in the hands of a master observer, a writer who will lead you to a place worth seeing and understanding. It also makes it abundantly clear that American readers must see and understand the experiences of those who have been ‘othered’–especially women of color.”
Amy M. Alvarez, The New Guard

“Laskar’s prose is quite poetic, and few novelists make as much use of the white space on the page as she does. In fact, as I was reading, I was forcibly reminded of Claudia Rankine’s book of poetry Citizen: An American Lyric . . . Like Rankine, whose work also tackles white privilege, Laskar is a writer whose words will infuriate readers, start a fire in their hearts, and make them wish they could single-handedly dismantle systemic oppression. And yet her rage is so eloquently presented that, even as you are fuming with her, you are marveling at her artistry.”
Ashley Riggleson, The Free Lance-Star

“Unflinching and fueled by a seeking that forgoes simple resolution, The Atlas of Reds and Blues is a masterful hybrid of forms: it’s a poet-journalist’s journey to collect and interrogate evidence, to study the geography of a woman of color’s trauma, and to reckon with the legacy of violence that guards the gates of American belonging.”
Claire Calderón, The Rumpus

“Her poignant, poetic prose will break your heart.”
Elizabeth Entenman, Hello Giggles

“Heartrending . . . A timely, poignant meditation on police brutality and lingering racism.”
Rabeea Saleem, Book Riot

“A powerful story of the unacceptable, unforgivable treatment persons of color–especially women–are forced to endure even now in the twenty-first century . . . Her writing’s beautiful lyricism juxtaposes the compactness of language with the prevailing ugliness of the world in which Mother and we live . . . The Atlas of Reds and Blues is simply a must-read.”
Jeanne E. Fredriksen, India Currents

“A story that unspools in short, luminous vignettes . . . Riveting.”
Anjali Enjeti, Khabar

“Each flashback–written in accessible but poetic prose–is a glimpse into Mother’s life. Laskar’s use of vignettes to comment on weighty topics like racism and sexism recalls Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street . . . Like Cisneros, Laskar varies the tone of her vignettes; some are sad or angry while others are humorous, and their power is collective.”
Anita Felicelli, Bustle

“Precise and unflinching, sometimes excruciating in its portrayal of life for those who are forced to prove on a daily basis that they are ‘American enough, ‘ this novel is a timely investigation of racism and xenophobia in our country.”
Ellie Paolini, Scoundrel Time

“An emotional triumph . . . A must read for anyone interested in exploring contemporary racial dynamics.”
Shoba Viswanathan, Bloom

“Stunning.”
Shawn Smucker, Christianity Today

“A deeply moving novel.”
Elizabeth Entenman, HelloGiggles, 1 of the 50 Most Anticipated Books of the Year

“It takes place in a morning; it covers a lifetime. Short, vivid chapters, like puzzle pieces, deliver the thoughts of a woman sprawled on the pavement, bleeding . . . Not only does Laskar bring her honed skills as a poet and journalist to her pulse-racing first novel about otherness and prejudice, she also draws on her own experience of a shocking raid on her home. Laskar’s bravura drama of one woman pushed to the brink by racism is at once sharply relevant and tragically timeless.”
Booklist (starred review)

“I finished it in two nights . . . The Atlas of Reds and Blues artfully, engagingly and infuriatingly weaves a tapestry of life as a woman of color navigating the everyday micro-aggressions that many of us know all too well.”
Victoria Law, Rewire.News

“Singularly sharp . . . It makes sense that a poet would write such a book: the novel, like memories, is prismatic and free-flowing . . . It’s an unrelenting story, but the way Laskar renders it is vital.”
Kamil Ahsan, The A.V. Club

“[A] devastating, poetic debut about racism in Trump’s America . . . A powerfully written novel . . . Laskar never seems to polemicise; instead she gravely turns traumatic memories into fragments of poetry, floating in the ether, fighting for survival.”
Nikesh Shukla, The Guardian

“An important story, inventively structured.”
Library Journal, Best of Spring 2019 Debuts

“Laskar’s stunning debut skillfully tackles hefty topics such as bullying, racism, and terrorism in a mosaic, life-flashing-before-one’s-eyes narrative . . . A striking depiction of a single life.”
Publishers Weekly

“Devi S. Laskar’s The Atlas of Reds and Blues is as narratively beautiful as it is brutal. In prose that moves between cushioning characters’ falls and ushering our understandings of characters’ utopias, Laskar creates a world where the consequences of American terror never stop reverberating. I’ve never read a novel that does nearly as much in so few pages. Laskar has changed how we will all write about state-sanctioned terror in this nation.”
Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

“A brown woman lies bleeding on the concrete. An agent of the state has shot her down in her own driveway. Her life–and the lives of her children, her whole family–spools out as she waits to find out if she will die. The Atlas of Reds and Blues is a triumph of book, mining the most searing art out of a horror pulled straight from current events. Devi S. Laskar announces herself as a brilliant, bold talent with her debut novel. This is a book that should be read, and discussed, and cherished.” — Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling

“Devi S. Laskar has written a beautiful, harrowing fever dream of a novel. This is a book that insists in no uncertain terms and despite horrific institutional and everyday racism that South Asian Americans are indeed American. This is a book I have been waiting a very long time for. A monumental achievement.”
Nayomi Munaweera, author of Island of a Thousand Mirrors

The Atlas of Reds and Blues is an unforgettable exploration of what it means to be a woman of color in contemporary America. Laskar describes the climate of lingering racism that surrounds her narrator and family in a wealthy suburb of Atlanta with a poet’s touch. A searing, powerful, and beautifully written novel.”
Jean Kwok, author of Girl in Translation

“In her kaleidoscopic novel, Devi S. Laskar maps the wild pendulum swings of life in suburban America as experienced by a woman of color. From the quotidian to the epic, from traumatizing invisibility to mortal danger, the cumulative effects of racism are balanced against the narrator’s relentless determination to persevere–as a mother and as a human being. The Atlas of Reds and Blues provides a fiercely honest reckoning with today’s cultural landscape, both its history and its future.”
Elizabeth Rosner, author of Survivor Café

“It begins with an ending: in a scenario that has become infuriatingly common, the narrator has been shot by the cops and is bleeding out in her driveway. The rest of the story proceeds as a series of snapshots, memories from her childhood and adulthood interspersed with her last thoughts and impressions. It wasn’t an easy life, lived as it was at the nightmarish intersection of racism and sexism, and it was cruelly cut short. The reader is left filled with bitterness at the constant injustices of her living days and the brutality of her death–it is all so tragically unnecessary and wrong. At the same time, this book is absolutely, overwhelmingly gorgeous, a marvel of coexisting beauty and pain. The Atlas of Reds and Blues is the kind of book that feels like a gift.”
Lauren Peugh, Powell’s Books (Portland, OR)

 

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