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The Atlas of Reds and Blues

A Novel

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List Price: $25.00

ON SALE: February 5, 2019 | Hardcover | 5.5 x 8.25, 272 pages | ISBN 9781640091535
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“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

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 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.

Praise

Praise for The Atlas of Reds and Blues

“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)

“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)

Praise for Gas & Food, No Lodging

“Here are poems burnished by unquiet rage, fragments of subtle humor drenched in irony and sorrow. Here are lyrical forms gleaming with wry intelligence and a fierce originality. Here is a collection poised to snap you out of your daydreams and into an alert wonder about this strange, familiar world.” —Elizabeth Rosner, author of Electric City and Gravity

“There are women and girls out there who are lost on a highway, who resort to the wiles of fairies and wicked stepmothers; to vengeful exes and adoring aunts. The road trip of Gas & Food, No Lodging travels the interstate of precise form, indelible language, and a music that rivals the wind. Devi Laskar has created a tryptic of dreams that is interpreted through mythologies as beloved as Persephone and Scheherazade and as twisted and as misfit as rubberneckers on a highway and dieters in a support group. Beneath the hardened images lay a loneliness underscored by a foreignness—not just to the country, the state, the road in-between, but also to the family and to the self. Devi Laskar says in Unanswered/Untranslatable/ ‘Memory is praise and plundered…’ and in this solid and indelible collection, memory is also vexing and determined. Every word, every stanza, every verse holds strong.” —Elmaz Abinader, author of This House, My Bones 

“Devi S. Laskar is a poet who deserves wider readership. She’s been toiling in the fields of poetry for many years now yielding poems that explore American culture in conflict with her Indian cultural identity; her woman self; and her need to write. Writing transforms her complicated modern life allowing in the mythic from Persephone to Ra. In her witty and masterful poem, ‘The All-Saints, GA, Overeaters Support Group / meeting #18,’ food connects to a variety of myths regarding the body, community and memory—from watermelons to pomegranates. The title poem, ‘Gas & Food, No Lodging’ shows the poet in full American trope: ‘No one comes in to loiter. One buys beer, no candy. / The traffic light never turns yellow or red. Just Get-n-Go.’—What is left as we leave one part of our lives for the promise of something new, different, that possible success. Laskar understands how mortality is differently perceived, and she often looks back to a culture that is thousands of years older than ours and what that offers—the tension from this knowledge lends her poems a kind poignant humor and bitter wisdom. Gas & Food, No Lodging will serve the poet well as she gains her much deserved wider readership.” —Patricia Spears Jones, author of A Lucent Fire: New & Selected Poems and Painkiller

Praise for Anastasia Maps

“There’s a lot of heaven in this book: constellations, ‘expanding giants,’ ‘the puny sun,’ ‘stars already dead but still shining holy.’ And the moon, the moon. Don’t be fooled. These poems are made of red earth: the lives and blood of ordinary people. The gods are included for metaphor and balance, with their pomegranates and tridents. The astronomical proposal that ‘our destiny is a function of collapse’ lurks beneath the book’s surface. But it’s the contemporary spinning world Devi S. Laskar is describing in Anastasia Maps. In a deft chorus of voices and a multitude of styles, Laskar—the ‘uninvited guest witnessing all’—turns her gaze on everything from Sanskrit psalms to simple rain to ‘those deadbeat stars’ and shows them to us upended, startling, and new.” —Molly Fisk, radio commentator and author of The More Difficult Beauty and Blow-Drying a Chicken

“In Anastasia Maps: Poems, Devi S. Laskar ‘[journeys] / here with seed-bags of wildflowers’ as she writes in a voice rooted in ancient lyric tradition. The speaker of these poems ‘walks backwards // toward [her] stellar beginnings’—the time where the mythological and the contemporary join one chorus. The steady form and articulation of her lines cycle from the land of Olympic myth to the corner of ‘Willow and Banks,’ transforming each landscape with the poem-as-axis-mundi. In these poems an apple bears the discursive weight imbued with the Judeo-Christian creation story, Hades and Persephone, and Natalie Diaz’s poetry. Laskar’s each poem grows a bough that leads to realization, each realization bears fruit that startles with its starlight. Each incisive poem sacralizes the world of the mundane with contemporary parables as the poet crouches “close to the earth, humming its most ancient / song.” —Rajiv Mohabir, author of poetry collections The Cowherd’s Son and The Taxidermist’s Cut

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