This gorgeous book.
This gorgeous and painful and always-too-timely book.
I was lucky and got to read an advanced copy of The Atlas of Reds and Blues way back in October on my plane to Sirens and it’s stuck with me all that time, in snippets and phrases and impressions, all lingering like a really good book should, making me pause, stop, think and see the world in a slightly different light. I read it all in one go, opening it thinking I’d read a little and pick it up later that weekend and instead I was unable to stop until that very last page, which I had to stare at until my eyes unblurred from tears.
If you’ve been paying attention at all to our world in the last 1, 5, 10, 20 years, then nothing in this story should surprise you. Upset, perhaps. Remind. Reinforce and reignite. Because this is the reality of too many people, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Atlas of Reds and Blues was inspired by a real event.
Switching between Now and an unspecified Then, the narrator – known only as Mother – lives through the trauma of racism in the U.S. over and over and over again while bleeding out from a police officer’s gunshot on her own driveway. No one steps into help, not the carefully poised neighbors behind the flashing police lights nor the bystanders in her office or at the dry-cleaners when she’s asked, demanded of, – again and again and again – where she’s from.
It’s the lived experience for most, if not all, Americans who have been pegged for one reason or another as other. And even though some of these incidents can seem small, even innocuous, they accumulate like snowflakes until they become an avalanche that can obliterate. That can kill.
This book reads as poetry, the sharp, incisive, brutal kind that you are drawn to read again and again, uncovering new layers and meaning each time. It’s beautiful, it’s haunting, and it’s necessary.
It’s the kind of book that should be talked about – in the media, online, and between ourselves. And I so hope it is talked about, because we need to keep having this conversation until Mother’s situation – facedown on the asphalt – becomes a fantasy again, instead of our reality.
Buy Atlas of Reds and Blues from your local indie, or find it online here.
Then come, and talk.
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