The author allows the reader an unflinching glimpse into modern India and the lives of a group of best friends striving to reach higher and farther than the previous generation. Their voices were fresh and sincere as were the voices of their mothers. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand where India and the next generation of girls is going and the barriers that still need to be overcome.
This ethnographic novel, based on years of detailed research in Bangalore, tells the story of five young women living and learning in a slum in Bangalore, a city in South India. While it is specifically rooted in and around an event - the women and girls of the slum resisting the demolition plans of the city - it is more generally about the forms of connection, care and love that animate all of our lives. It is about friendship, about dreams, and about what it means to be alive. In this way, it is both timeless and timely - now, more than ever, how do we think about hope and connection in a world that feels more and more fractured, divided, and dystopic? Everyone should read this book - I've already read it several times and I know I will read it again. This is the kind of literature we need right now.
You will LOVE this book. Courageous and compelling, this novel is vividly written by Mathangi Subramanian. It is refreshingly feminist and set in India with strong female and trans characters. And her powerful characters come from low income and marginalized settings so the reader gets to walk in a world not usually known to most Americans. Her prose is full of beauty and wisdom. I couldn’t put it down and now want my book club to read it. I also think it will make a great gift for birthdays and graduation and summer holidays.
A beautifully-written page-turner, Subramanian tells a captivating story about a group of young women coming of age in dire circumstances. The strength and inner beauty that unites them and others in their community is incredibly inspiring.
While this book isn’t young adult, I do think it will appeal to YA readers. We do read a lot about the adult’s history, but I feel like the book really focused on the young girls.
There are a lot of characters in this book. I mean a lot. At times, it was hard to remember who each one was, but there is a guide in the book. I was reading the earc, so I wasn’t able to just flip back and forth. But I would have done that with a physical book and it would have made a big difference.
Each chapter goes back and forth in time, and focuses on different characters. When the book starts, the women of Heaven were trying to stop bulldozers from tearing down their village. The families there live in poverty, but this is their home. Big companies have been building all around Heaven, and now they want to build there, too. Most of the adult women in Heaven work. Some for the rich families close to their village. Some doing odd chores and work. There are very few men. Most leave their families and start new ones. Some are alcoholics or abusers. This takes place in a pretty modern time because there are cell phones, but it must follow the traditions of the area that I’m not familiar with. The women listen to the men. At least when they’re around. They are expected to produce a son. Their daughters are married off at young ages. They can’t afford modern medicines and have their babies at home.
The young teens were such a big part of the story. Deepa, Banu, Padma, Rukshana, and Joy. Each one has their own strengths and their own difficulties. They were all born the same year and are in the same class. Except for Deepa. She is mostly blind and was pulled out of class. But Deepa “saw” more than people realized. She was fierce and didn’t let her disability harm her. Deepa’s mom was the first child born in Heaven. Her mother suffered trying to have a child. She had a lot of miscarriages early on. Then a baby that died at birth. She was taken to a hospital that was said to help. They also paid the woman, which she didn’t understand. She just wanted a healthy baby. She woke up after having a c-section with a healthy child, but they also sterilized her.
Banu lived with her grandma. She’s sick and everyone knows she won’t be around much longer. Banu isn’t very good at school, but she’s good with construction and art. The headmistress of the school notices the strengths of each of her students. She has connections and tries to find schools that the girls can go to later in life. She tells Banu about a school for arts, something she didn’t even know existed.
Padma was from a migrant family. She is the only one who can read and write, so she takes care of everything for her family. Even the finances. Her mom has an untreated mental illness. Padma is one of the brightest in her class.
Rukshana is a queer tomboy. She begs to wear the trousers instead of dresses. Her mother is a hijabi union leader.
Joy is the top ranked school in her class. She’s also transgender with three older brothers. Her mom decides to covert them to Christianity because they could be reborn and Joy could be a daughter.
Each of these families is very different. There are different religions and different languages. But they are all loyal to each other. Family isn’t just blood. It’s who you let in and who you love with your whole heart.
There are a lot of warnings and I’m sorry if I forget some. Abuse, abandonment, adultery, slurs and harassment towards Joy, non acceptance of gay men, poverty, mental illness, blindness, secret families, miscarriages, death of a baby, fertility issues. This book shows all the bad along with the good (the people) who live these lives.
Thank you to the publisher for suggesting this book and sending me a copy for review through Netgalley. I gave this book 4 stars. I think it’s a pretty powerful book and it really makes you open your eyes to the things around you.
A remarkable book this one. The title for a start is one that captures so many images, beliefs and expectations. Yet this heaven is actually the name of a slum in Bangalore. It’s not just any slum either- for this is one made up mainly of women. Their men have abandoned them and so the woman here go and forage what they can. They have not produced male heirs so they must survive at they can. Imagine being on the bottom on life’s pile as you have not given birth to a son? It might not be the book you can actually booktrail but you do get a keen sense of the lives of these people who live in the poorest parts of the city, yet make it their own and where borders mean nothing.
Ironic and so sad that there should still be slums in this day and age, and that this one is called Heaven. But that’s where the book shines – for this is a sort of heaven, where the people are faced with the worst yet manage to stay proud, their heads held high and these women who live there are the strongest I have ever met.
The story here looks at five best friends who support each other in everything they do. What remarkable people these girls are. They have nothing but their slum home yet when it is in danger of being crushed by the bulldozers, they stand firm and rage war. Their city may have forgotten them, but they want their voices heard.
I shall never forget Deepa, Padma, Banu, Joy and Rukshan. Their story is woven beautifully like the threads of a sari. They are such fascinating characters with hopes, dreams and issues of their own. Some involving the simple wish to dance, others are struggling with their sexuality. What unites them all is a sens of community and brought to life through lyrical writing.