Attacus Atlas & Other Inventions: Southern belle

Aloha. This week we are to write about where we live and how this influences our writing. Although I’m in California these days, I was born and raised in North Carolina. Prior to moving out west, I’d spent sixteen years in Georgia. The first time I wrote the story that eventually became The Atlas of Reds and Blues, I still lived in an Atlanta suburb — and I wrote about a fictional Atlanta neighborhood and this family of color’s place in it.

I can’t imagine The Atlas of Reds and Blues in a different location — The Deep South, especially North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, figure prominently in the novel. In fact, place and how my main character interacts with her surroundings (and people) is the crux of my novel. The settings, the American South and India, are as much main characters as the Mother narrator. It is true that I re-imagined and re-wrote the novel while living in California. Still I relied on my lifetime’s experiences as an often-unwelcome Southerner to complete this book. It is place that grounds the reader and it is place that grounds the writer in this case, as well.

All of my formative years were spent in NC – except for the year my parents did their sabbatical in W. Germany (yes I’m that old, I remember a time when there were two countries named Germany) when I turned eight; and the many summers I spent in India visiting family and friends. I was raised in the South, but inside my parents’ home was India; their version of it: food, music, language, culture. And it was this binary existence that informed my writing of the novel, and probably informed my desire to grow up and become a writer. Mahalo.

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Devi Laskar

Poet, photographer, soccer mom, VONA & TheOpEdProject alum, Columbia MFA, former reporter, debut novelist!