Excerpt: The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi S. Laskar

About the Book:


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.

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Featured in Aug/Sept 2019 Issue: Fierce Female

. . . in which the narrator attempts to decide which particular incident set her on the path of this particular life story, concrete driveway and all, without sprinkling regret and bitterness over everything upon which she stews, without uttering the word no . . .

Possibly the exact moment the mustached state policeman, in monogrammed Kevlar and matching navy pants, stands in her driveway and points his assault rifle at her head on a cloudless morning in May, right after she took the girls to school, before she has her shower, and while she is still wearing her brown “Hard Work Never Killed Anyone but Why Risk It?” T-shirt and gray sweatpants.

Possibly one minute later when she counts the number of police and the number of automatic guns on her front lawn: all weapons at the ready as if she would cower before them or be impressed at the demonstration of force or be more inclined to listen to their list of demands.

Possibly a moment not too much later when the firecrackers are unexpectedly displayed, and she finds herself on the ground, bleeding.

Or, years earlier, the moonless night before she goes into labor for the first time, the air thick with mosquitoes. Hands, face, and feet swollen from gestational diabetes. She wears flip-flops everywhere, the police precincts, the courthouses she covers, and the newsroom where she works as a journalist. For months, all jewelry had been off her hands, ears, and neck to quell the tide of swelling, the tide that never ebbs. The dangerous pregnancy and its forty daily admonitions and precautions always looping in succession in her mind. Labor Day weekend, 1998. After work, she lives in black stretch pants and a maternity T-shirt that has a cartoon picture of Garfield on it because those are the only two comfortable things she owns. It is close to midnight and neither her husband nor she can sleep. So humid that even the crickets in the Georgia thickets stop chirping to conserve personal energy. They decide to watch a movie, but notice there is no popcorn, her only obgyn-approved snack, left in the pantry. She volunteers to go to the 24-hour grocery a few miles away to lap up the hyper-air-conditioned air, while her husband, her hero, tries his luck at renting Titanic….

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