Ruth LeFaive | Longreads | February 2019 | 10 minutes (2,671 words)
“What does it mean truly, to be invisible?” Devi S. Laskar writes, “Her stillness, her ability to remain calm while high-decibel insults are hurled inches from her face and ears. To pretend nothing has been said. To pretend deafness.”
Laskar’s compelling debut novel The Atlas of Reds and Blues is the story of a second-generation Bengali-American woman who, after remaining invisible, still and calm throughout a lifetime of racist interactions, is pushed over the edge during an unfounded raid on her home. In her refusal to acquiesce, the narrator, known as Mother, is shot by a police officer, and lies bleeding on her driveway. This is where we find her at the beginning of the book. What follows are vivid scenes from Mother’s life depicted in gleaming, lyrical prose — an exploration of persevering as a woman of color, a mother and wife, sister and daughter, as well as a writer, in contemporary America where she is time and again treated as inferior.
The novel builds upon a traumatic incident from Laskar’s own life when agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation raided her family’s home at gunpoint. Although the legal matter was eventually dismissed, many of her family’s personal belongings were confiscated and never returned. The book imagines a fundamental difference — what if she had refused to be docile and was shot? Read more…