Cover image for The atlas of reds and blues : a novel
Title:
The atlas of reds and blues : a novel
ISBN:
9781640091535
Edition:
1st hardcover ed.
Physical Description:
258 pages ; 22 cm.
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Summary:
When a woman--known only as Mother--moves her family from Atlanta to its wealthy suburbs, she discovers that neither the times nor the people have changed since her childhood in a small Southern town. Despite the intervening decades, Mother is met with the same questions: Where are you from? No, where are you really from? The American-born daughter of Bengali immigrants, she finds that her answer-- Here --is never enough. Mother's simmering anger breaks through one morning, when, during a violent and unfounded police raid on her home, she finally refuses to be complacent. As she lies bleeding from a gunshot wound, her thoughts race from childhood games with her sister and visits to cousins in India, to her time in the newsroom before having her three daughters, to the early days of her relationship with a husband who now spends more time flying business class than at home. The Atlas of Reds and Blues grapples with the complexities of the second-generation American experience, what it means to be a woman of color in the workplace, and a sister, a wife, and a mother to daughters in today's America.
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Summary

Summary

Named a Washington Post Best Book of the Year

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

When a woman--known only as Mother--moves her family from Atlanta to its wealthy suburbs, she discovers that neither the times nor the people have changed since her childhood in a small Southern town. Despite the intervening decades, Mother is met with the same questions: Where are you from? No, where are you really from? The American-born daughter of Bengali immigrants, she finds that her answer-- Here --is never enough.

Mother's simmering anger breaks through one morning, when, during a violent and unfounded police raid on her home, she finally refuses to be complacent. As she lies bleeding from a gunshot wound, her thoughts race from childhood games with her sister and visits to cousins in India, to her time in the newsroom before having her three daughters, to the early days of her relationship with a husband who now spends more time flying business class than at home.

The Atlas of Reds and Blues grapples with the complexities of the second-generation American experience, what it means to be a woman of color in the workplace, and a sister, a wife, and a mother to daughters in today's America. Drawing inspiration from the author's own terrifying experience of a raid on her home, Devi S. Laskar's debut novel explores, in exquisite, lyrical prose, an alternate reality that might have been.

"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


Author Notes

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 is an alumna of The OpEd Project and VONA. The Atlas of Reds and Blues is her first novel. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Laskar's stunning debut skillfully tackles hefty topics such as bullying, racism, and terrorism in a mosaic, lifeflashingbeforeone'seyes narrative. Set in 2017 near Atlanta, the novel centers on Mother, an IndianAmerican woman in her 40s with three daughters and a husband who travels internationally more than he's at home. One morning, after taking her children to school, Mother is gunned down in her driveway in an unexplained robbery; the narrative is told in discursive segments that jump around in time to present flashes of Mother's life, all while she lies dying. These short pieces cover her job as a former crime reporter demoted to obituaries; her North Carolina childhood and girlish fascination with Barbie dolls and their tainted concept of beauty; being asked, beginning as a child, where she was from, though she was born in the U.S.; her family's move to the Atlanta suburbs in an unwelcoming neighborhood where other kids torment her middle daughter and cops often question Mother about her husband's job. Laskar touchingly shows how Mother just wants to have a normal life with her family and rise above prejudice. Elevated by its roaming structure, this is a striking depiction of a single life. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Guardian Review

A woman lies bleeding in her suburban driveway in this powerful and poetic debut In Devi S Laskar's devastating, poetic debut about racism in Trump's America, a south Asian woman lies on the ground in her suburban driveway, bleeding from a gunshot wound. Her life flashes before her eyes in muddled, often conflicting fragmentary snatches, as she tries to understand the question, where are you really from? Because if this is the end, and she is dying, that must be where she will go back to. She is American, a child of Bengali immigrants, and much of her life has been about the precariousness of that question: where are you from? No, no. Where are you really from? Where are your parents from? Her children are American. She is married to an American, a white man, who spends much of the novel absent, as he travels internationally for his work, and remains in the dark about the amount of racism his wife and children are experiencing. No names are given, but we learn that Middle Daughter is being bullied, and we watch as the acts intensify before turning violent. We get an insight into the Mother's own sense of identity as she remembers her childhood obsession with Barbie and her ensuing body image issues. We learn about the Mother's career as a crime reporter, now demoted to obituaries; the assumptions made about her because of the colour of her skin, ranging from facile to violent; the utter contempt with which she is treated in most aspects of her life. It paints a horrifying picture of the realities of the American dream if you're from an immigrant background. And there she is, crumpled on the ground. The present moment is described in ambient, almost blackly comic fragments, as the police search her invasively, looking for ID and crack jokes with emergency service dispatchers. They make generalisations about her life, her identity, her body, as they begin to understand what has come to pass. This is a powerfully written novel, especially in the way it moves around in time to create a perpetual loop. Each ampersand that breaks up the sections contributes to the onward thrust, moving into a new memory, and each memory tells us about the underbelly of racism in America, how it festers in suburbia. Laskar never seems to polemicise; instead she gravely turns traumatic memories into fragments of poetry, floating in the ether, fighting for survival.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* 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. She has just dropped off her three daughters at school and returned to her home in an Atlanta suburb. Born in North Carolina, this American of Bengali descent is nonetheless asked repeatedly where she is from because her skin is brown. She has faced discrimination, cruelty, and stupidity in routine circumstances and as a newspaper reporter. A policeman pulls her over day after day for phony traffic violations; a visit to the dry cleaner turns into a vicious confrontation. Her brown girls are harassed, even assaulted at school. Her white husband is perpetually away on business, unaware of his family's suffering. Now heavily armed government agents are searching her house; one has shot her, and no one is helping. A valiant woman of wit and irony, she thinks about Barbie dolls, her grandmothers, her beloved rescue dog, the mistreatment of a black classmate. 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.--Donna Seaman Copyright 2018 Booklist


Library Journal Review

[DEBUT] Pushcart Prize nominee Laskar here draws on unsettling personal experience to craft a kaleidoscope-like story of bias in America. When her tenured professor husband was wrongly accused of racketeering, she had to endure the kind of police raid depicted, but here she imagines the main character resisting such a raid and getting shot. Mother, as she is called, works as an obituary writer and lives in the wealthy Atlanta suburbs with her three daughters and always-on-the-road husband. As she lies in her own blood, her mind tumbles through fragments of her life: her family history in Bengal, growing up in North Carolina with immigrant parents, being asked if she speaks English though she is American-born, the prejudice her daughters encounter at school, her own conflicted obsession with Barbie dolls, bitterness about being shifted to obituaries from crime reporting (including scenes of her work), the novel she's writing, and the beloved family dog, now dead. These fragments are told in sharp, poignant language and blend effectively to create the sense of a single life, rich, troubled, and now wasted. VERDICT An important story, inventively structured.-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.