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The House of Impossible Beauties

About the Book

“Exceptional...The writing is erotically luscious, lyrically intense, forthrightly in your face, and pitch-perfect in the dialog." -- Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

A gritty and gorgeous debut that follows a cast of gay and transgender club kids navigating the Harlem ball scene of the 1980s and ’90s, 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 ball scene, where seventeen-year-old Angel first comes into her own. Burned by her traumatic past, Angel is new to the drag world, new to ball culture, and has a yearning inside of her to help create 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 Harlem ball circuit. But when Hector dies of AIDS-related complications, Angel must bear the responsibility of tending to their house alone.

As mother of the house, Angel recruits Venus, a whip-fast 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’s 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. 

Educator and Librarian Resources

Critical Praise

“A marvelously serious, deep, artful, humane read. I’m really knocked out by this…[Cassara] managed to put actual, living, breathing human beings on the page….There’s so much downright gorgeous prose here, so many beautifully and precisely observed images, subjects, emotions. Beautiful because true.” —Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers

“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, author of Harmless Like You

“Exceptional...The writing is erotically luscious, lyrically intense, forthrightly in your face, and pitch-perfect in the dialog, and the suspense comes from wondering what’s going to happen to these people...A grittily gorgeous work for readers who don’t go for cozies.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“ [An] exceptional debut...The book’s social truth is unsettling, its dialog deft, its characterization affecting, and its language both gritty and luscious.” —Library Journal

“Fierce, tender, and heartbreaking.” —Kirkus Reviews

“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 (starred review)

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780062676979
  • ISBN 10: 0062676970
  • Imprint: Ecco
  • On Sale: 02/06/2018
  • Pages: 416
  • List Price: 33.50 CAD
  • BISAC1: FICTION / Literary
  • BISAC2: FICTION / Gay
  • BISAC3: FICTION / Hispanic & Latino

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara

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