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 ... In her acknowledgments, Laskar thanks her publisher for 'embracing this experiment.' 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.
This debut novel is an experiment with time and space and memory, as Laskar weaves Mother’s past with the history of the Barbie doll ... 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.
...[a] devastating, poetic debut ... It paints a horrifying picture of the realities of the American dream if you’re from an immigrant background ...This is a powerfully written novel, especially in the way it moves around in time to create a perpetual loop. Each ampersand that breaks up the sections contributes to the onward thrust, moving into a new memory, and each memory tells us about the underbelly of racism in America, how it festers in suburbia. Laskar never seems to polemicise; instead she gravely turns traumatic memories into fragments of poetry, floating in the ether, fighting for survival.
...a poignant meditation on racism and police brutality experienced by people of color ... Laskar also makes the unusual choice to not name her characters. While this runs the risk of keeping the reader at arm’s length, it also elevates the narrative from being merely one person’s story into a universal fable where these characters are everyone and anyone. Whether you appreciate this choice or not will depend on the sort of reader you are ... Laskar has a fine eye for capturing the loneliness and heart break of her characters, even as they desperately try to assimilate ... Laskar’s fine and moving novel is a step toward her own release, and with it she simultaneously offers readers a way out, too.
Laskar herself is both a journalist and a poet, and The Atlas of Reds and Blues marries the two forms in a uniquely compelling way. There is at once a detachment and deep intimacy in how she unfolds her character’s quest, a precision and mastery of language that isn’t afraid to linger in its own beauty paired with a powerful drive to find and tell the truth. Even the way Mother and her family are identified by nicknames seems to mimic a reporter’s shorthand as it might be scribbled on a notepad. And yet, in context, this device is more than just a marker of how Mother’s mind works. Its effect is ghostlike, creating a blurriness around the family that sets them apart from the rest of the characters, intensifying their isolation in the town ... Laskar’s crisp and lyrical sentences seem to exist in a dreamspace that temporarily suspends the horror of Mother’s situation. And yet there is always a lingering sinister mood, a reminder that something is deeply wrong even if the narrator is somewhat detached from the telling. Just as effective is Laskar’s use of blank space, employed strategically to dictate the reader’s pace ... Unflinching and fueled by a seeking that forgoes simple resolution, The Atlas of Reds and Blues is a masterful hybrid of forms: it’s a poet-journalist’s journey to collect and interrogate evidence, to study the geography of a woman of color’s trauma, and to reckon with the legacy of violence that guards the gates of American belonging.
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.
Laskar’s stunning debut skillfully tackles hefty topics such as bullying, racism, and terrorism in a mosaic, life-flashing-before-one’s-eyes narrative ... Laskar touchingly shows how Mother just wants to have a normal life with her family and rise above prejudice. Elevated by its roaming structure, this is a striking depiction of a single life.