About the Book
Title: A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF HEAVEN
Author: Mathangi Subramanian
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multi-cultural Interest
A pre-teen graffiti artist. A transgender Christian convert. A blind girl born to an orphan stricken by pregnancy loss. A queer daughter of a hijabi union leader. These girls and women make up a small part of Heaven – eking out a modest existence from the scraps of the surrounding city, fiercely driven to protect themselves and each other from outside threats: those who cannot accept these women for being their true selves – queer, or transgender, or poor, or visually impaired. Subramanian peels back the layers of these interconnected stories with a tenderness that feels poignantly at odds with their daily reality: the silent, patient dedication with which the girls construct a barrier around their classroom, so they can focus on their learning, unmolested by rats. A group of children who collect bags of fragrant frangipani flowers for a poor young girl’s offering, so the gods will grant her the privilege of going to school. The daring and determination of a line of women and children facing down an approaching bulldozer, unwilling to step aside to allow for the destruction of their homes, their lives.
Praise for A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF HEAVEN
“The language [takes] on a musicality that is in sharp contrast to the bleak setting…refreshing…a strong debut.” —New York Times Book Review
“This novel features a wide cast of characters and each girl has a unique perspective to offer. This book highlights many themes such as poverty, feminism, transgender issues, and living with disabilities. This beautifully written novel follows these girls as they navigate life’s obstacles with the love and support of their friends and family… I also fell in love with each character very quickly. Each girl in the story is very compelling in their own way, and I kept turning the pages to learn more about them…Perfect for readers who want to learn more about Indian and South Asian culture, or for readers who love stories featuring strong female friendships.” —Reading Women
“Spending time with this fearsome five is…just plain fun. Slum life is never romanticized. The narrator, an unnamed member of the girls’ inner circle, delivers enough cynical wisdom and pithy commentary to show just how wise these girls are to their plight without dismissing how insidious cultural messages are. What crystalizes is the sure knowledge that none of them are powerless…A People’s History of Heaven forefronts human dignity and the intelligence it takes to survive at the intersection of so much society uses to set people apart, while also making it clear that, ‘in Heaven, anger is not about any one person. It’s about the whole world.’” –Foreword Reviews
“Tackling some of the most trenchant issues facing Indian women in particular—casteism, arranged marriage, forced sterilization—as well as women all over the world…It has the heart-on-its-sleeve melodrama of some of the most successful teen novels and films, though it will likely also appeal to adults wanting to tuck in to a novel which is like the brainy big sister of a Lifetime movie. A girl power-fueled story that examines some dark social issues with a light…touch.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Strong debut…Subramanian’s evocative novel waves together a diverse, dynamic group of girls to create a vibrant tapestry of a community on the brink.”
“Everything about A People’s History of Heaven is wonderful: the lyrical, light touch of the narrator, the story, the humor, and most of all, the girls. This novel—as shiny and crinkly and heartbreaking as “cellophane the color of false promises”—overflows with girls I want to meet, befriend, celebrate, and shelter from the ills of their world. But they don’t need me to do that! Faced with bigotry and bulldozers, these girls know exactly what to do: stick together and help each other learn, love, see, fight. These are girls who ache, girls who build, girls who claim or escape girl-ness. Read about Banu, Deepa, Joy, Rukshana, Padma, and Leela: These are girls who save the world.” –Minal Hajratwala, author of Leaving India
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.