A People's History of Heaven

A People's History of Heaven

by Mathangi Subramanian


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"The language [takes] on a musicality that is in sharp contrast to the bleak setting . . . refreshing . . . a strong debut."
—New York Times Book Review
“Subramanian writes with empathy and exuberance, offering a much-needed glimpse into a world that too many of us don't even know exists. This is a book to give your little sister, your mother, your best friend, yourself, so together you can celebrate the strength of women and girls, the tenacity it takes to survive in a world that would rather have you disappear.”

In the tight-knit community known as Heaven, a ramshackle slum hidden between luxury high-rises in Bangalore, India, five girls on the cusp of womanhood forge an unbreakable bond. Muslim, Christian, and Hindu; queer and straight; they are full of life, and they love and accept one another unconditionally. Whatever they have, they share. Marginalized women, they are determined to transcend their surroundings.
When the local government threatens to demolish their tin shacks in order to build a shopping mall, the girls and their mothers refuse to be erased. Together they wage war on the bulldozers sent to bury their homes, and, ultimately, on the city that wishes that families like them would remain hidden forever.

Elegant, poetic, and vibrant, A People’s History of Heaven takes a clear-eyed look at adversity and geography--and dazzles in its depiction of these women’s fierceness and determination not just to survive, but to triumph.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781643750422
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 01/14/2020
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 741,088
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Mathangi Subramanian is an award-winning Indian American writer, author, and educator. She is a graduate of Brown University and the Teachers College of Columbia University, and the recipient of a Fulbright as well as other fellowships. Her writing has previously appeared in the Washington Post, Quartz, Al Jazeera America, and elsewhere. This is her first work of literary fiction.  

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A People's History of Heaven 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
DragonNimbus More than 1 year ago
A People's History of Heaven is a well-written book that spoke to me on many levels. Heaven is actually a slum hidden between expensive high-rise buildings in Bangalor, India. Five girls, almost women, who are different religions, sexual orientations, and have different goals in life form an unlikely group of crusaders as they try to save their homes from being bulldozed to make room for a shopping mall. One girl is blind, one was born male, one an artist, one a dancer, the girls are so different but they love eachother and stand fast in their quest to save Heaven. They are joined by their mothers - all were cast off by their husbands because they couldn't produce a male heir. But they refused to be silent or to go down without a fight. I knew very little about life in India - just what I've read or seen in movies. I was horrified to learn of the possible fate of these amazing, vibrant women, yet gratified to see them pull together and accomplish feats of strength and will power. Mathangi Subramanian paints a colorful, lively picture of life in a society that was new to me, but it is love at first sight. I don't feel like I'm explaining how powerful this book is , or how much it inspired me - you will have to read for yourself!
PNWBookworm More than 1 year ago
I struggled to get into this book a bit but once I did I found it to be a very moving story about the bonds of friendship between 5 teenage girls, each with very unique struggles and backgrounds. The crisis of the book is the slum where they live being torn down and their fight to save it but the heart of the story is each persons story and the way that society has played a role in that. The story definitely sheds light on the struggles of woman, and particularly poor women, in Indian society but it also shows us the heart and love of these people despite the struggles they face. Overall I enjoyed the book and look forward to seeing what this author does next.
CRSK More than 1 year ago
4.5 Stars Heaven is a slum in Bangalore, named for the Sanskrit word left on a broken sign, the word for heaven, and it is where the stories of these families take place. There are eighteen people of note in this story, but the primary focus is on five girls on the verge of womanhood who attend the local government school. Banu is an artist, her grandmother, her ajii, one of the original residents of Heaven; Deepa, who is visually impaired, is a dancer who doesn’t attend the school with the other girls; Joy is the youngest in the family with three older brothers, is transgender, identifying as a girl; Rukshana, who struggles with her sexuality, especially as a Muslim, and how she fits in; and Padma, who bears a lot of weight as the only member of her family who is educated, and therefore takes on adult responsibilities. These five girls are naturally accepting, and protective of each other, in such a way to tighten their bond even more. When their homes in Heaven are threatened by demolition with bulldozers, they choose to fight back rather than accept defeat. I didn’t know, going into this book, that this author, Mathangi Subramanian, has written other books, although this is her debut novel for adults. There is a smooth, effortless flow to her writing that I wasn’t expecting. Given the setting and what little I knew of this story, I was pleasantly surprised by the many moments of loveliness, and ultimately I found this to be an uplifting story. It is not without some moments of sadness, and it does tackle some of the issues that face women, particularly Indian women, but in any area that fosters some of the issues facing these women. With such beautiful, lyrical writing, and such a spellbinding story, I did not want to put this book down. Many thanks for the ARC provided by Algonquin Books (thank you Andrew!)