“A People’s History of Heaven” by Mathangi Subranabian— A Slum Known as Heaven

Subramanian, Mathangi. “A People’s History of Heaven”, Algonquin, 2019.

A Slum Known as Heaven

Amos Lassen

Living in the Bangalore slum are a group of young women that includes a politically driven graffiti artist, a transgender Christian convert, a blind girl who loves to dance and a queer daughter of a hijabi union leader. As we read about them and to get to know them , we fall in love with them.

The slum is known as Heaven and it has been around some thirty years. It sits hidden between brand-new high-rise apartment buildings and technology centers contemporary Bangalore, one of India’s fastest-growing cities. Those who call Heaven home hand-to-mouth and constantly strugge against the city government that wants to bulldoze their homes and build more glass high-rises. These families, men and women, young and old, gladly support one another, sharing whatever they can.

The girls we meet are five best friends. They go to school together and are a diverse group who love and accept one another unconditionally, pulling each other through crises and providing emotional, physical, and financial support. Together they fight a war on the bulldozers that want to 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.  The five young women have power despite the way they live. They exemplify what an accepting community is. Writer Mathangi Subramanian “upends expectations and fiercely illuminates 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.”
This is a girl power-fueled story that examines dark social issues with a light in this story about defiance in the face of being done away with and the survival tactics of an unforgettable group of girls.

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