“It’s not easy to be a girl. But trust me, my dear. It is much, much harder to be a woman.”
Published: March 19, 2019
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
Series: N/A – Standalone
Early on, we girls learn that life owes us nothing, that womanhood is a spectrum of nuisances, heartbreak, and tragedies.
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 are some of the young women who live in a Bangalore slum known as Heaven, young women whom readers will come to love in the moving, atmospheric, and deeply inspiring debut, A People’s History of Heaven.
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 made up almost entirely of women, mothers and daughters who have been abandoned by their men when no male heir was produced. 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 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.
Hey guys! Do I have a treat for you today! This review is going to be so great because I legit loved this book and cannot thank my friends over at Algonquin enough for offering this ARC to me!
A People’s History of Heaven centers around five young girls who share stories of love, loss, learning, laughter, and more importantly, sisterhood. We follow them, past and present, as they fight to remain in school, discover themselves, and fight to be girls in a world made for boys. It’s told through a very interesting POV, first person omniscient, where the narrator is never revealed but knows all the details of the girls’ and the older women’s lives. It’s something I don’t think I’ve ever read before, but it really works for this one because you get to feel the intense sense of community that’s here but you aren’t limited to one girl’s story, you get to see the history and present of Heaven.
I will say this feels very spastic in terms of plot because there doesn’t seem to be some central driving force aside from the pending demolition, and even that has little to no resolution in the end. You really hop around from girl to girl, woman to woman, story to story, but somehow, it works. And it works damn well. I really enjoyed this, it was both a fun read and a deeper, more meaningful one at the same time. It was one of those stories where I could just read a hundred pages without getting tired of the characters or the story line or anything, I was hooked from the moment I started.
The girls in this are so special and I think they’re what makes this story the gem that it is. There is so much diversity here within this community and each girl, each woman, gets the chance to tell their story and live their truth over the course of this novel. I loved them all. I was rooting for them all. I wanted them to go to school and fall in love (with boys or girls) and get out of the slums and live their dreams. This was the first time in a long time that I really connected to a cast of characters like I did with these girls, with their families. I laughed, I cried, I dreamed with them, and in the end, I was sad to see them go.
This novel was an incredibly moving and deeply touching debut and I’m both grateful to the author for bring these characters to me and for the publisher for offering this ARC to me. I can’t wait to see what else this author does, I’ll be following her for sure! Do yourself a favor and pick this one up!