A People's History of Heaven Summary and Reviews

A People's History of Heaven

by Mathangi Subramanian

A People's History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian X
A People's History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2019
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

A politically driven graffiti artist. A transgender Christian convert. A blind girl who loves to dance. A queer daughter of a hijabi union leader. These young women live in a Bangalore slum known as Heaven, and together they wage war on the bulldozers that would bury their homes and, ultimately, on the city that does not care what happens to them.

Welcome to Heaven, a thirty-year-old slum hidden between brand-new high-rise apartment buildings and technology incubators in contemporary Bangalore, one of India's fastest-growing cities. In Heaven, you will come to know a community of people living hand-to-mouth and constantly struggling against the city government who wants to bulldoze their homes and build yet more glass high-rises. These families, men and women, young and old, gladly support one another, sharing whatever they can.

A People's History of Heaven centers on five best friends, girls who go to school together, a diverse group who love and accept one another unconditionally, pulling one another through crises and providing emotional, physical, and financial support. Together they wage war on the bulldozers that would bury their homes, and, ultimately, on the city that does not care what happens to them.

This is a story about geography, history, and strength, about love and friendship, about fighting for the people and places we love - even if no one else knows they exist. Elegant, poetic, bursting with color, Mathangi Subramanian's novel is a moving and celebratory story of girls on the cusp of adulthood who find joy just in the basic act of living.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Subramanian's evocative novel weaves together a diverse, dynamic group of girls to create a vibrant tapestry of a community on the brink." - Publishers Weekly

"A girl power–fueled story that examines some dark social issues with a light, occasionally saccharine, touch." - Kirkus

"Subramanian is a remarkable writer whose vibrant words carry a lot of heart. This inspiring novel is sure to draw in readers with its lyrical prose and endearing characters." - Booklist

"What a thrill to read a novel as daring and urgent as A People's History of Heaven. It's a story about defiance in the face of erasure, about the survival tactics of an unforgettable group of girls. I can't remember the last time I encountered a voice of such moral ferocity and compassion." - Tania James, author of The Tusk That Did the Damage

"How can a novel about a group of daughters and mothers on the verge of losing their homes in a Bangalore slum be one of the most joyful and exuberant books I've read? Subramanian writes without a shred of didacticism or pity, skillfully upending expectations and fiercely illuminating her characters' strength, intelligence, and passionate empathy. A People's History of Heaven should be a case study in how to write political fiction. Each page delighted and amazed me." - Heather Abel, author of The Optimistic Decade

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Reader Reviews

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Gaye R. (Coupeville, WA)

Friendship
This is a book of friendship and love among the women and girls of Heaven, a slum in Bangalore, India. Despite(or maybe because of)their poverty and day to day struggles to live, they support and protect one another with a fierce loyalty. My admiration for these women and their strong passions made this book an easy read for me. In fact, it was difficult for me to put the book down.

The more I read about each girl and woman the more they became dear to me as friends. An introduction of "The People of Heaven" at the beginning of the novel, had me embracing each women and girl before I had even read the first page. I was sorry to have the book end which means I will read again and that is the highest compliment I can bestow on a book.

Molly K. (San Jose, CA)

A Caste of Jewels
Do not be deceived! This is a book of poetry. The words glisten off the page, and they are alive. It has been a privilege to read this story.

Five young women, with their families, friends, and teachers, live in poverty. Yet they find the strength and stamina to fight the destruction of their community. To some readers, the players might be considered misfits, but most readers will cherish their relationships, their insights, and the love they have for each other.

I found the plot to unfold slowly. Normally, this is a distraction. This time, the writing is so beautiful that I loved every page. I look forward to the writer's next offering.

Susan U. (Brookfield, WI)

Heaven
I loved this book. It's a book about girls and women who have nothing but their friendships, their desire for something better and their absolute devotion to one another. One is nearly blind, one is gay, one is transsexual - all are poor. The book takes you on a journey through their lives and their fight to save Heaven, the slum that is their home. Sit with them a while and get lost in the beautiful prose that describes the colors, sights and sounds of the world they live in. You will be blessed by having shared time with them.

Windell H. (Rock Hill, SC)

Standing your ground.
Great read! This is a story about people at their best and society at it's worse. The writer has created a story in which we can all identify. Big government versus the down trodden.This book appeals to the compassion in all of us. Young and old can find themselves in these characters.This book also presents questions great for group discussion. Reminds one of the trials and tribulations of the "Radium Girls". Great story of young women coming of age.

Sally H. (Geneva, OH)

A People's History of Heaven
I loved this book: the story lines, the characters, the things I learned about another culture, and the writing. I was sorry to see the book because I wanted to know how everyone's lives turned out. I would recommend this book and plan to suggest it to my book club.

Sandi W.

Mother/daughter dynamics
A poor lowly slum in Bangalore, hidden behind the city high rises. Houses physically built from scrapes. But the homes built with love. Five families - five young girls, well almost - who fight to live in this squalor they call Heaven, as bulldozers nosily idle nearby, waiting for a chance to grind up what little they have.

This book reminds me so much of Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club. Different nationality, different daily agenda, but the same mother/daughter dynamics. This is a debut novel, as was the Joy Luck Club for Tan, but it shows the resounding promise for Subramanian that sparked Tan's future career.

...11 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Mathangi Subramanian

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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