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The Atlas of Reds and Blues

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,577 ratings  ·  335 reviews
An arresting debut novel which bears witness to American racism and abuse of power, tracing one woman's shift from acquiescence to resistance.

When an unnamed narrator moves her family from the city of 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
Hardcover, 258 pages
Published February 5th 2019 by Counterpoint
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"No, where are you really from?"

A brutal question to be asked when you are an American, born in America, raised in America. Hard to believe this is even a question asked in this century. But if your skin is brown and your parents are Bengali immigrants and you live in Atlanta, it's a painful reality.

This debut novel is written by Devi S. Laskar, an American poet. The style is poetic, with short chapters (many only a sentence long) and characters given nicknames rather than traditional names. She
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dr-tbr-3
There’s so much I could tell you about The Atlas of Blues and Reds, but there’s so much I’d rather you experience completely on your own if you decide to pick this up. This book is a treasure and a standout. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The narrator, known as The Mother, moves with her family from Atlanta city-proper to the suburbs, where she quickly finds that, though decades have passed since her own childhood, not much has changed.

The questions are always the same. “Where are you from?” “No, really- wher
Elyse  Walters
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Oh Mother”.....
You are an unforgettable narrator!!!!
I was angry and sad with you!!!!

My goodness...
Powerful, brutal, beautiful poetic prose....
Devi S. Laskar’s sentences are piercing!!!

Fastest shortest ‘punch-in the-gut’ book- of- vignettes I’ve felt in any book this year!

The ugliness is disgusting and devastating....
Based on the author’s own experience as woman of color in America, in a wealthy suburban area!

Shame on us, America!!

Highly recommended!!!

Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I received a copy of “The Atlas of Reds and Blues” to review I was immediately struck by the gorgeous cover, a wonderful enticement to open and read the book. Devi Laskar has written two books of poetry prior to this book, and the rich and evocative writing of a talented poet were present on every page.

Laskar’s actual experience with a police raid on her home by armed officers informs the book along with her experience as a second generation American daughter of Bengali immigrants. From th
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
It was okay....

That's how I'm rating this one. I REALLY wanted to like this and thought I was going to be blown away. Again, I'm standing here and wondering, "What did I miss???"

It wasn't the structure of the book that bothered me. Normally, I'm fine with short paragraphs as chapters or even a sentence (in some cases). However, I think the structure of this and how choppy it was hurt my ability to read and relate or empathize as much as I could have. I'm not saying that every story has to be to
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
[3.8] The narrator of this novel is trapped in a suburban world where she and her children are the victims of constant racism. The novel is written in poetic fragments which loop from past to present. My own distracted mood (I found myself constantly putting the book down and hopping up) didn't always sync well with the staccato structure. I was both confused and stunned. Yet even with my own shortcomings as a reader, Laskar's unconventional approach very effectively conveys the horror of white ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, poc-author
This book isn't perfect, but I loved the writing style (which surprised me because I usually don't jive with more experimental books, but it reminded me a lot of books written in verse) and story that was being told broke my heart in its honesty and realness (which is based on the author's own experience with police raiding her home). ...more
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: inhumanity
Devi Laskar has performed a sort of miracle here: she takes the common (but always tragic) theme of the two Americas and she delivers it with an original style and a gut-punch that had me reeling.

What is it like to be the daughter of Bengali immigrants – a woman of color living in a sanctimoniously racist upwardly mobile Atlanta suburb? For the unnamed narrator (we get two big hints of the narrator’s name much later on), it means constantly being subjected to commentary such as: “How long have y
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
A powerful story with an ending that swept me away with many emotions. A story of prejudice, racism and the repeated insults a woman and her daughters must endure. It addresses the question of how many times a person can turn the other cheek. How long must a person display a stiff upper lip when with each act of hatred against them they rage on the inside? Although this book is short and a quick read it’s left me in an introspective place. I will silently contemplate what has passed and what sad ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Did not enjoy this one. The writing was really uninspired and a confusing jumble of issues and events without any coherent story. This book starts when the narrator has been shot during a police raid. She then recounts all the awful things she’s experienced as a WOC in the south, where the people are apparently uniformly horrible. (They aren’t, though). Things jump around in time and place, and different names are used for the same character. Just confusing.
Zeyn Joukhadar
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In THE ATLAS OF REDS AND BLUES, Devi S. Laskar explores the silences and the righteous anger of women of color in the face of white supremacy with deft tenderness and clean, shimmering prose. I recognized so much of my own experiences with white supremacy in the ways that the character of Mother navigates her silences in order to maintain safety and sanity under the constant drone of microagressions as well as violent racism and misogyny--until silence and safety are no longer possible for her, ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Although this was a quick and easy read, it never particularly 'grabbed' me. I had a couple of problems with it - first of all, a lot of the casual racism seemed repetitive (maybe that was the point?) and a bit forced (... do people really ask such rude & intrusive NOYDB questions?) - although such things undoubtedly happen more frequently these days in 45's America and in the South. Secondly, the kaleidoscopic structure didn't really work for me, and I would have preferred more concrete informa ...more
Erin Glover
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Racism, segregation, and prejudice are alive and well in the South. If you don't believe me, just read this book.

The protagonist lies in a pool of her own blood after being shot, as she looks back at her life in Georgia as a Bengali descendent. Make no mistake. She's American. She tells us over and over. Yet no one sees her that way. People constantly ask her where she's from. Some tell her to go back to her own country. The problem is, the US is her country.

There is no room for her in Georgia
Stacey A.  Prose and Palate
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reads
I was not prepared for the onslaught of emotions I experienced while reading The Atlas of Red and Blues. It has been over a week since I finished it, and honestly, I am still reeling from it. Laskar's writing is stunning - consisting of short, poetic bursts that brilliantly convey the urgency, fear and frustration that is felt by the main character, Mother, throughout the entire novel. In it's brief 224 pages, Laskar addresses struggling with culture specific, unrealistic standards of beauty per ...more
Carmel Hanes
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a quick read--spare in information, concise in prose, large in underlying message. It takes the reader into a house of mirrors, propelling us around corners, backtracking through time, bringing us to abrupt stops, outlining critical moments within a lifetime of moments.

The story is told through the perspective of a woman ("Mother") as she experiences what it means to be a woman of color within a white, non-accepting culture. A culture that assumes and judges despite the fact she is
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
What a unique read, like flashes of a life, past, near present, present.
Mother lies bleeding on her suburban driveway in a quiet neighbourhood, shot by police.
Her hero (husband) may or may not be present.
She recalls growing up in the South, where she was born, the questions nevertheless about where they came from followed soon after by, go back where you came from, American born and raised, her beauty unappreciated, her talent undervalued, her car pulled over relentlessly.
We experience her helpl
"Y’all best be getting back to where you came from, you hear?"

This book succeeded in getting me really angry about the current state of the U.S. The main character "Mother" is on the receiving end of a lot of cheery racist comments, and is treated terribly for being an "immigrant" even though she was born and raised in the states. As she lays dying after being shot by a police officer, her life flashes before her eyes, with a focus on her hardships. It's the kind of stuff we know is happening in
Yangsze Choo
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Searingly poignant, and written with poetic briefness, The Atlas of Reds and Blues switches back and forth in time, with sliver sharp images of one woman's life and retrospective as she lies bleeding out on her driveway after being shot by the police. Devi Laskar engages the reader in a beautifully organic exposition of the subtle nuances of racism, and how it is that the protagonist "Mother", has arrived at this final moment on her own driveway. I was swept away by this thought-provoking and em ...more
Martine Watson
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Where to begin? I was so fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book, and I have to say it’s an absolutely stunning debut. This thoughtful, incisive prose, which often leans toward poetry, will haunt me for a long time, as will the message. But there is nothing didactic in Laskar’s exploration of the many faces of racism is America today. Her book is political, but it is also deeply personal. An incredibly moving read. I really can’t say enough good things about it, but just this—be sure t ...more
Mridula Gupta
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“She closes her eyes and a kaleidoscope appears, the blue of the sky giving way to the red pulse of pain near her stomach.”

An unnamed second-generation immigrant born to Bengali parents, also called The Mother is lying bleeding (from a gunshot wound during an impromptu raid) in her driveway. While the most question should be about the reason for such an occurrence, there is a bigger story that needs to be told first.

As our unnamed protagonist travels back to her childhood days, we see her me
Aww sheesh. I feel like I need to explain that rating.

I wanted to like this book. From the blurb and the hoopla surrounding it, I would have bet real money that I would like it. There are real issues that concern me involved in this book, and I've heard nearly everything this character has heard, including things people on GR think must be impossible (people really do say incredibly insensitive and racist things - it happens - and often they do it proudly.)

My difficulty came first with the tone
Charity Jones
Feb 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I loved what the author had to say and I loved the way in which she said it (lyrically and poetically) but I was constantly thrown off by the literal structure of the book. There didn’t seem to be much fluidity or cohesiveness to the “recollections” being told. The racism portrayed in the book seemed to come across very conventionalized. In my opinion as a WOC, there were so many layers that could have been explored that were left unchartered. The synopsis draws you in because you want to know t ...more
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a marvel of compression, yet light as a feather to read. Mother's story of racism and its infuriating macro and micro aggressions is relayed in a light but bitterly ironic voice - whether she's juggling three little girls and a giant bag of dirty laundry at the cleaners, sitting at her bathroom-facing desk at work, or bleeding out in her driveway. The lightness of the writing was also enhanced by the great use of white space - some pages contain just one or two sentences - but it se ...more
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was ok. I felt that there was too much going on...the whole thread about Barbie and about the main character as a child seemed to weigh down the rest of the story or the other threads.

I usually look forward to poets when they write a full-length book because they carry over the beauty of poetic language. I didn't find that here. The writing is solid....and I get the feeling she had a lot of personal messages (or experiences) that she wanted to express. It was a quick read but jarring at tim
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A Powerful, Emotional and Beautifully Written Book!
This book is stunning! Inside and out! It grabbed me right from the beginning and didn't let go. Laskar has crafted a beautiful novel. Written in the most poetic prose she covers heavy subject matter, Racism, Stereotypes, Misogyny, Bullying and Police Brutality. This book is an emotional rollercoaster! As you watch a mother try so hard to raise her daughters and to be proud of who they are while they face unjustified harassment and bullying. It
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
The more I reflect on this book, the more I like it. Mother and her family live in Atlanta suburbia, and even though she is an American-born woman of Indian descent, she and her three girls are bullied and made to feel set apart in their neighborhood. Mother has married Her Hero, but he away on business and traveling the world so much that he is not aware of the issues his family faces, and quite honestly, it appears that if he did know, he still might not care.

Told in short chapters and snippe
Barbara Ridley
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Beautiful, stunning! Readers unfamiliar with Leskar's previous work will immediately recognize that this debut novel is written by an accomplished poet. Written in a beautiful, lyrical style, this novel nevertheless covers difficult territory: the racism and abusive treatment experienced by a brown-skinned American woman born in a Southern town, and then moving later in life to an affluent Atlanta suburb. The novel opens with the protagonist, identified only as "Mother" to three young daughters, ...more
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I picked up @devislaskar’s The Atlas of Reds and Blues during my lunch break and finished it the same evening! I don’t think I’d quite prepared myself for how swept away I’d be by this book!

It is a uniquely structured and multi-lineal narrative, and had me instantly hooked. It is a moving commentary on race in America, particularly sharing the experience of a woman of color in her own family, at work, in the community, and with the police! I read in the blurb that this is based on the author’s o
Jan 01, 2019 marked it as tbr-i-own
r.o. kwon wrote about this book in electric lit:

Kiese Laymon says about The Atlas of Reds and Blues that he’s “never read a novel that does nearly as much in so few pages,” and that the book is “as narratively beautiful as it is brutal.” This debut is about a woman, the American-born daughter of Bengali immigrants, who has been shot by the police and lies bleeding in her driveway.

and it immediately struck me so poignantly that i almost cried. i can't wait to read it.
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction

Mother, the American-born daughter of Bengali immigrants is bleeding out in her driveway. She's been shot by the police.

As she lies bleeding, we are whisked through her flashes of thought, from her childhood Barbies, to her recently deceased dog Greta, her middle daughter's bullies, and much more.

This is a fantastic novel. By the time we get to the circumstances of the shooting, they are all the more tragic because we feel like we know Mother.

Another plus is the fact that the novel flies by. Ea
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Jane's Stories: Johnson Award Nominee: Atlas of Reds and Blues 8 12 Aug 31, 2019 12:35PM  

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Devi S. Laskar is a native of Chapel Hill, N.C. She holds an MFA from Columbia University in New York, an MA in South Asian Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BA in journalism and English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A former newspaper reporter, she is now a novelist, poet, photographer and artist. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming f ...more

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“Never mind that she’s been hearing this soliloquy from strangers since she was born, in the Year of the Fire Horse, twin sixes after the nineteen. Never mind the order of questions invariably changes even if the questions themselves do not: 'How long have y’all lived here? Do you even speak English? Oh, well. Your English is so good. Bless your heart, you must miss your people. You stick out like a raisin in a big bowl of oatmeal. Is it true that you worship cows? . . . Have you even heard of the Bible? Don’t get all uppity on me, don’t turn away. I know you think you don’t have to listen. But this is my country. You do. When are y’all heading back? Y’all best be getting back to where you came from, you hear? No need to overstay your welcome.” 3 likes
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