The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara
A gritty and gorgeous debut inspired by the real House of Xtravaganza made famous by the seminal documentary Paris Is Burning.
It's 1980 in New York City, and nowhere is the city's glamour and energy better reflected than in the burgeoning Harlem ballroom scene, where seventeen-year-old Angel first comes into her own. Burned by her traumatic past, Angel is new to the drag world, and has a yearning to help create a family for those without. When she falls in love with Hector, a beautiful young man who dreams of becoming a professional dancer, the two decide to form the House of Xtravaganza, the first-ever all-Latino house in the ballroom circuit.
Into the house come Venus, a whip-smart trans girl who dreams of finding a rich man to take care of her; Juanito, a quiet boy who loves fabrics and design; and Daniel, a butch queen who accidentally saves Venus' life. The Xtravaganzas must learn to navigate sex work, addiction and persistent abuse, leaning on each other as bulwarks against a world that resists them. All are ambitious, resilient and determined to control their own fates, even as they hurtle toward devastating consequences.
Told in a voice that brims with wit, rage, tenderness, and fierce yearning, The House of Impossible Beauties is a tragic story of love, family, and the dynamism of the human spirit.
‘The House of Impossible Beauties tells of a search not only for respect but, above all, love in a time and place that seeks to starve its characters of both… From these threads of fact and myth, Cassara runs up a fictional ensemble that craftily stitches glamour and grit.'
- Financial Times
'Vivid and engaging... The novel feels like an anthropological plunge into another era, enhanced by rhythmic, urban prose littered with slang and Spanglish.' - The Economist
'Fabulous...a grand, beautiful tale of art, love and the human spirit.' - Elle
‘A marvelously serious, deep, artful, humane read… There's so much downright gorgeous prose here.' - Paul Harding
‘Fierce, tender, and heartbreaking.' - Kirkus
‘Cassara has done a superb job of reimagining a world that will be foreign and even exotic to many readers, while creating fully developed characters to populate it. The tone is singularly apposite... A compassionate story, which is altogether moving and unforgettable.' - Booklist
‘An exceptional first novel... The writing is erotically luscious, lyrically intense, forthrightly in your face, and pitch-perfect in the dialog.'
- Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal starred review
'Cassara writes of a community that glitters in the face of an ugly world. Joy and loss clutch hands in The House of Impossible Beauties. It is a tragic book, a lyrical book, a defiant book, and ultimately a loving book. The heroines and heroes hold fast to love and Cassara clearly has deep love for every character who struts across these pages.' - Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Publication Date: 4 October 2018