This Washington Post "Best Book of the Year" 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.
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.
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 is the author of The Atlas of Reds and Blues, winner of 7th annual Crook’s Corner Book Prize (2020) for best debut novel set in the South, winner of the 2020 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature; selected by The Georgia Center for the Book as a 2019 book “All Georgians Should Read,” finalist for the 2020 Northern California Book Award, long-listed for the DSC Prize in South Asian Literature and the Golden Poppy Award. The novel was named by The Washington Post as one of the 50 best books of 2019, and has garnered praise in Booklist, Chicago Review of Books, The Guardian and elsewhere.
Laskar’s second novel, CIRCA, will be published in Spring 2022 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Laskar holds an MFA from Columbia University and an MA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She holds BAs in English and Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She is an alumna of both TheOpEdProject and VONA, among others. In 2017, Finishing Line Press published two poetry chapbooks. A native of Chapel Hill, N.C., she now lives in California with her family.
Praise for The Atlas of Reds and Blues
Winner of the 2019–2020 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Adult Fiction
Winner of the 2020 Crook’s Corner Book Prize
Short-listed for the Northern California Book Awards
Finalist for the 2019 Clara Johnson Award for Women’s Literature
Long-listed for the 2019 Northern California Golden Poppy Book Award in Fiction
Long-listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature
Time, 1 of 15 New Books to Read This Month
The Washington Post, 1 of 50 Notable Works of Fiction This Year
Booklist, 1 of the Top 10 First Novels of the Year
The Millions, A Most Anticipated Book of the Year
Refinery 29, One of the Best Books to Read in February
Electric Literature, 1 of 48 Books by Women and Nonbinary Authors of Color to Read in 2019
Bustle, 1 of 24 Fiction Books Coming Out This Month that You Definitely Need to Read
Chicago Review of Books, One of the Best New Books of the Month
Big Other, A Most Anticipated Small Press Book of the Year
Cosmopolitan (UK), 1 of 31 New Books by People of Colour to Get Excited About This Year
Fast Company, 1 of 77 New Movies, TV Shows, Albums, and Books You Must Check Out This Month
“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
“’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
“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
“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.” ―The Free Lance-Star
“Her poignant, poetic prose will break your heart.” ―Hello Giggles
“Heartrending . . . A timely, poignant meditation on police brutality and lingering racism.” ―Book Riot
“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.” ―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.” ―Scoundrel Time
“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)
“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)