The House of Impossible Beauties
NAMED A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2018 BY Buzzfeed * The Wall Street Journal * The Millions * Southern Living * Bustle * Esquire * Entertainment Weekly * Nylon * Mashable
"Cassaras's propulsive and profound first novel, finding one's home in the world--particularly in a subculture plagued by fear and intolerance from society--comes with tragedy as well as extraordinary personal freedom." -- Esquire
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.
'A gritty, fiercely impressive debut...Joseph Cassara has written a lithe, fiery and incredibly authentic story. A future queer classic.' * Attitude * `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, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers * 'Fabulous...a grand, beautiful tale of art, love and the human spirit.' * Elle * `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, author of Harmless Like You * 'Gritty, fiercely impressive... Joseph Cassara has written a lithe, fiery and incredibly authentic story. A future queer classic.' * Attitude * Some debut novels are much anticipated... Others seem to come out of nowhere. Who knew Joseph Cassara's The House of Impossible Beauties would be that good... Either way, debut novels are always a surprise, and therein lies their power. * PW First-And Foremost * `Intimate and dazzling...a novel full of desire and suspense and heartbreak.' * Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy * `In Joseph Cassara's powerful story about the scene in New York in the 1980s, it is full of vivid characters and wonderfully authentic dialogue that reminded me of the period I spent working in the city during that time. For me, it was especially gratifying to see how important Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey -- those two giants of American Contemporary Dance -- feature in the life of the fabulous Xtravaganzas.' * Stuart Hopps, choreographer * `Brilliant! So evocative, so moving, and unfortunately still so current, given all the PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and chemsex discussions at the moment.' * Tristan Barber, Consultant Physician (Sexual Health/HIV), Chelsea and Westminster Hospital *
Joseph Cassara was born and raised in New Jersey. He holds degrees from Columbia University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop and has been a writing fellow at the Fine Arts Centre in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The House of Impossible Beauties is his first novel. He lives in Iowa.