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A People's History of Heaven

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,124 ratings  ·  261 reviews
Heaven is a thirty-year-old slum hidden between brand-new, high-rise apartment buildings and technology incubators in contemporary Bangalore. In this tight-knit community, five girls on the cusp of womanhood-a politically driven graffiti artist; a transgender Christian convert; a blind girl who loves to dance; and the queer daughter of a hijabi union leader-forge an unbrea ...more
Hardcover, 290 pages
Published March 19th 2019 by Algonquin Books
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 ·  1,124 ratings  ·  261 reviews


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Angela M
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Heaven, worlds away from the life I know, a slum in Bangalore and yes, it’s a slum called Heaven. I was expecting to find poverty and repression here, but I had no idea that I would find the joy of beautiful friendships, loyalty, love, and hope nor mothers and daughters with strength and a desire to just live their lives . Fending off the government that wants to bulldoze their homes, these women and girls exhibit strength and concern for each, especially the five young girls. Deepa who can’t se ...more
Paromjit
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a gloriously inspiring, lyrical and poetic debut novel from Mathangi Subramanian of an almost completely female community, of discarded women, surviving hand to mouth on a daily basis, amidst the high rises of a Bangalore indifferent to their plight. Heaven is indeed a place on earth, perhaps a suprising one, teeming with poverty, repression and oppression. But look closer, for within the impoverished community is a joy, resilence, colour and vibrancy that will charm and endear itself to ...more
Debbie
A different version of Heaven…

What a strange, cool book! It takes place in a Indian slum called Heaven and tells the story of five teenage girls trying to find their place in the world. Oh god that sounds bland, when really this is the most poetic book I’ve read this year.

Well, poetic, yes, but sometimes I just liked the sound of the words strung together; it didn’t matter to me that the sentence doesn’t actually make sense.

Here’s a sample:

“Leela’s mornings are black eyes and battered limbs, bru
...more
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dr-tbr-3
Heaven is a beautiful place because of the people living inside. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

A diverse group of women are living in a slum named Heaven in Bangalore, India. Heaven is a hidden building in between other fancy, new high rises in an urban area of the city.

The community of strong women calling Heaven home are mothers and daughters “left behind” by men because of the search for a male heir. The women are destitute, not knowing where their next meal will come from. On top of that, the city regular
...more
Cheri
!! NOW AVAILABLE !!

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 s
...more
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
In Bangalore, India, nestled behind a luxury high rises, lies a little bit of heaven. Yet, for most of us, this would not be considered to be heaven at all, but a place where poverty dwells, lives are crushed, and dreams and hope are non existent. And yet...
"If you're a girl in heaven, you don't get out much. Too many eyes watching you.

There are people residing in Heaven. There are young girls with dreams, with hopes. There are their mothers, their Auntys, their fathers who look to each other f
...more
Fabian
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Times today don't allow jaded jokes or malicious irony: no, today we want what feels like goodness. Things can go sour quickly we've noticed, and nothing is more certain than this in a small "slum" of Bangalore. But gee, we've traversed terrains like this before, on screen (Slumdog Millionaire) and popular lit (Animal's People); but, scratch that. It's actually nothing like that. And it comes with a bonus too: we NEED this kind of stuff!

Our modern spoiled-brat me me me and things to buy days nee
...more
Berit Talks Books
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
an exceptional story drenched in culture and hope!


Mathangi Subramanian has intricately woven together the threads of these five girls lives into a beautiful story. Five extraordinary girls living in a slum called Heaven in Bangalore India. Now a slum is probably the furthest thing from heaven for most of us, but I think these girls might beg to differ. Surrounded with friendship and love these girls were an impenetrable support system for one another. There was so much beauty in how uncond
...more
Meike
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, india, 2019-read
This book narrates the life stories of five young girls who grow up in a slum called "Heaven" in Bangalore, and while it touches upon numerous social issues, the tone remains light and playful - this is the highly accessible cousin of Arundhati Roy's The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. In an attempt to reflect the diversity of the slum population, Subramanian introduces characters with different religious beliefs and family backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations as well as physical ...more
Sue
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, fiction, india, read-2019
Heaven in this story is one of the thrown-together slums of Bangalore, India, a place populated with the lowest ranks of Indian life. There are some full families, with both parents and children, but more commonly there are women alone or with children and grandchildren. Sometimes primarily female children for they are the less important and less powerful in life. All girls and women enter life here with a mark against them.

When we enter Heaven, we meet a varied group of girls and their familie
...more
Fafa's Book Corner
Mini review:

DNF

I received this E-ARC via Algonquin Books and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger warning: Mention of bullying. Homes being torn down.

I was really looking forward to reading this! I saw that synopsis and knew I had to request it. Unfortunately it wasn’t for me.

I really didn’t like the writing style. I’m sure it gets better. But I could barely read a paragraph.

Still recommend.
Janelle Janson
Thank you so much Algonquin for my free copy!

Thus far, I have had the most phenomenal year of reading. I am somewhat new to reading diverse books so this has been the most amazing surprise!

Set in Bangalore, India we follow in first person narrative five schoolgirls who call a slum their home. The slum is a community made up almost entirely of women who were discarded for who they are or for not being able to live up to the standards of men. It is nestled between high-rises and has a damaged sig
...more
Sherwood Smith
In India, a slum called Heaven is being threatened with razing.

The local women rally to fight it. We get to know some of these women, each distinctive, but the true focus is on five girls, each with different circumstances, including one with adult-level responsibilities, a visually impaired dancer, and a trans girl.


The writing is graceful, vivid, the narration swooping into each girl in intimate space, then outward again to paint the community. The grim side of poverty and its cost are not sent
...more
♥ Sandi ❣
3.5 stars Thank you to BookBrowse and Algonquin Books for allowing me to read and review this ARC. Published on March 19. 2019.

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 bull dozers 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
...more
Candie
Feb 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Good book. I found that the characters were very well done; they were a very diverse group of girls who all had very individual personalities and thoughts. Each girl, while growing up and struggling in the same place, had such a different and unique story. The relationships and bonds between the friends and the mothers and daughters were very strong, loving, intense and beautiful. This story is about strength, love and survival.

I did not really enjoy the plot aspect of the book. I don't dislike
...more
BookOfCinz
Apr 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: debut, 2019-reads
Mother-worry is a different kind of worry....

A People's History of Heaven is Mathangi Subramanian debut novel that explores a thirty year old slum called Heaven, situated in Bangalore, India that is going to be destroyed to make way for new high-rises and what the people from Heaven will do stop it. The book centers around five friends from Heaven:
Banu- a shy politically driven graffiti artist who loves building and construction, who is the glue of the group.
Joy- a transgender who became reb
...more
Linsey
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book felt one note to me. Every chapter was basically about the same thing, and there were too many characters to follow. I really enjoyed it in the beginning because the prose was quite beautiful at times; but I slowly stopped caring when I realized all the characters' stories were quite simplistic.

And again I have this criticism: why, oh why, does every recent book need to include a trans character? Most of the depictions are unrealistic and not explored, and it really just seems like th
...more
Cheryl Winter
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
The story was interesting but I did not like her writing. Every object had a synonym, analogy or overly descriptive. Keeping track of the 5 girls and their mothers was daunting. Very similar to "A Beautiful Forever". ...more
Tanya
Apr 19, 2020 rated it did not like it
I dnfd this book in the first few chapters. There was a conversation that I personally did not agree with. This book does not have a great "flow" so it reads a bit difficulty.

It reads more textbook like as opposed to fiction. If you enjoy that type of writing then you may like this.
...more
Kathy
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, giveaways
I won a copy in a Goodreads giveaway; this did not influence my review.

Two to two and a half stars.

A People's History of Heaven is an odd book in that I didn't find it to be plot-driven or character-driven. It is populated with too many characters and I had to repeatedly refer to the list of The People of Heaven to keep all of them straight. The plot is non-linear and jumps back and forth in time, typically without any demarcation or preamble indicating that a shift has taken place. Furthermore,
...more
Beth
Jan 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
I finished this book though I considered not doing so. Maybe there were too many characters for a short book. Maybe the best way I can summarize is to suggest lots of characters in an underdeveloped story. I got to know some of the characters like Janaki Ma'am and Banu and Deepa BUT I kept waiting for something to engage me (even as a backstory and there were backstories told). Yes there were some described strong characters but I didn't get to see and feel that strength as much as I would have ...more
Ming
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This story is beautifully written. The messages are uplifting and carry a sense of hopefulness.

Ok, let me pause a bit here to quickly describe the plot...something I usually do not do. The book is about five teenage young women who live in a very poor neighborhood, "Heaven," as bulldozers threaten to clear the homes they know. The women confront oppressive, patriarchal situations and impoverished circumstances. But the story is NOT "poverty porn." Instead, these women are strong and rich in thei
...more
Amy
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
I made it halfway through this. The writing has moments of beauty, but with so many characters (five girls, plus their mothers, grandmothers, fathers, brothers, teachers, and headmistress) and so many big issues (poverty, homelessness, education -- particularly of girls -- LGBT issues, development in rural villages, disability, mental illness) the story never feels anchored and the characters feel like sketches meant to represent topics rather than fully-formed people.
Shari P.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
I just could not get into this one. I liked the setting but found that both the plot and the characters were lacking. I kept waiting for something, an exciting event or to fall in love with a character but it just didn’t get there for me.
Francesca Forrest
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-group
This was such a wonderful story. We dipped into each girl's life, and into the lives of the mothers and even one grandmother, along with the school headmistress. There was so much love here--love, determination, imagination, friendship.

It's unlikely that you could collect a group of girls like these ones and peek into their lives and have all of them be supported in the ways that these ones are--to have no one whose story was tragic or miserable--but you know what? There are PLENTY of books that
...more
Tripfiction
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Charming and poignant novel set in BANGALORE



“In Bangalore, there is always someone worse off than you”

It was serendipity. I had made plans to travel to South India, arriving in Bangalore (which is also known as Bengaluru, take your pick) and I was asked to review a novel set there. Perfect timing.

The story is about 5 young girls who are living in Heaven, which it certainly isn’t. It is a slum just off the Old Airport Road, sandwiched between buildings that are flagships for enterprise and repres
...more
Beverly
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I so enjoy when a story drags me to where they want me to be as these five fearsome girls sneak their way into your heart. Raised in a Bangalore slum, each character gets to provide their backstory that centers around lives defined around by femaleness and class structure as they fight for their future, adventures, and just to be. The unnamed first person plural narrative voice showcases the ingenuity and solidarity of the characters in the unconditional acceptance of each other and each just wa ...more
Jessie
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
And then there was Mathangi Subramanian’s A People’s History of Heaven, and it was not the book for me. About a group of girls growing up in a Bangalore slum called Heaven, the book explores each of their stories as an imminent government removal of the slum looms. This book was heavy handed. The author, a nonfiction writer and academic, took what was a heavily researched book with real interview subjects and tried to turn it into a novel, which left it distilled down to the most simplistic, ste ...more
Stephanie Cassidy
I received a final copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I didn’t really like this book. I really loved the premise, but I just couldn’t like the book. I tried. I really tried, but I just couldn’t.
I kept getting the names mixed up and when I finally got the name to the relationship of the main character, I was already frustrated and bored of the book. There is no timeline, so I have no idea how long the plot is supposed to be. The writing is very child-like - there are not ver
...more
Michelle
Jan 06, 2021 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
DNF.

It’s one of those too-many-characters-for-so-few-pages kind of books where you end up unable to care enough about anybody.

And just generally super boring. Too bad. It SOUNDED good, but it was not. & I could tell I was gonna spiral into a reading slump of all new depths if I kept trying to plod along through it.
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Mathangi Subramanian, Ed.D., is a writer, educator, and activist. She previously served as Senior Policy Adviser to former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an Assistant Vice President at Sesame Workshop, and a public school teacher in Texas and New York. She has received numerous honors, including a Fulbright-Nehru Research Fellowship and a Jacob Javits Fellowship.

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