The house of impossible beauties

Joseph Cassara

eBook - 2018

NAMED A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2018 BY Buzzfeed - The Wall Street Journal - The Millions - Southern Living - Bustle - Esquire - Entertainment Weekly - Nylon - Mashable. 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 bette...r 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.

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Instantly available on hoopla.
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Published
[United States] : Harper Collins Publishers 2018.
Language
English
Physical Description
1 online resource
Format
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
ISBN
9780062677006
0062677004
Access
AVAILABLE FOR USE ONLY BY IOWA CITY AND RESIDENTS OF THE CONTRACTING GOVERNMENTS OF JOHNSON COUNTY, UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, HILLS, AND LONE TREE (IA).
Main Author
Joseph Cassara (author)
Corporate Author
hoopla digital (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Inspired in part by Jennie Livingston's celebrated documentary film Paris Is Burning (1991), Cassara's first novel dramatically re-creates the world of Harlem balls and the houses that revolve around them, focusing on the real-world House of Xtravaganza, the first Latino house in the ball scene. A fabulous queen named Angel is the "mother" of her three Xtravaganza "children": teenagers Venus, a pre-op transsexual; Daniel, a butch gay; and Juanito, who wants to live like a man while he busily makes clothes for the other three. The two boys become lovers while Venus searches for a man who will love her and give her a home in the suburbs. It's the 1980s and early '90s in New York, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, which will figure largely in this often heartbreaking story of young people who support themselves by selling their bodies. Drugs, too, are part of the scene and will impact the lives of the three "children." 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. And although the text is sprinkled with Spanish words and phrases, they are generally understandable in context and add verisimilitude to a compassionate story, which is altogether moving and unforgettable. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

This exceptional first novel opens in 1980 New York with 16-year-old Angel feeling trapped in her boy body. But she does something about it: she starts wearing women's clothes, which brings out the rage of her hard-drinking mami, and introduces herself to larger-than-life diva Dorian. Then there's Thomas, first introduced as a Barbie-loving boy from Staten Island and next as a runaway named Venus, who's saved from a beating by Daniel. Venus takes him home to her family of trans outsiders, which includes Angel as mother and handy-with-a-sewing-machine Juanito, with whom Daniel finds love. But all families have their problems, and this one faces more than its fair share, starting with the advent of AIDS. 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. When Dorian tells friend Keith of one of his AIDS-inspired paintings, "Where is the beauty?" Keith responds, "You're telling me that I need to turn this virus into something beautiful?" Taking on the difficult lives of his characters, that's exactly what Cassara has done. VERDICT A grittily gorgeous work for readers who don't go for cozies.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

One of the strongest books I've been fortunate to introduce at conference (United for Libraries' "Out and Proud: LGBTQ Literature," ALA annual), this debut opens in 1980 New York with 16-year-old Angel feeling trapped in her boy body, then weaves together the stories of various trans outsiders whom Angel collects into a family. Deft dialog, affecting characters, unsettling social truth, and language both gritty and luscious; with a 50,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Angie and Venus Xtravaganza were key members of the New York drag ball scene made famous to outsiders by the 1991 film Paris is Burning. Cassara's debut novel imagines them as runaways fleeing impoverished, unsupportive, or abusive homes; ball circuit stars embodying the glamour they craved; loving sisters and mothers to needy gay teens and each other; and grieving, jonesing, dying women. There's also a love story between Juanito and Daniel, younger runaways whom Angel (as she's called here) and Venus take in and teach to walk a ball and work the street. Impressionistically covering the period from 1976 to 1993, the book is long on origin stories and grief, as lovers and friends die of AIDS, johns fail to keep their promises, and cocaine and crystal meth take their toll. What it lacks, besides the ball scene, which readers see little of, is the feeling that Cassara is adding something to the story. While readers who are too young to know this history may appreciate having access to a dramatic moment and some of the legendary figures who populated it, those for whom this is more familiar territory may find themselves wishing for more insight. Angel and Venus may get to tell their story here, but they largely come across the way they looked from afar: as strong yet fragile, street-smart, shade-throwing, generous, and ultimately doomed divas. (Feb.) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

NAMED A RECOMMENDED BOOK OF 2018 BY Buzzfeed • The Wall Street Journal • The Millions • Southern Living • Bustle • Esquire • Entertainment Weekly • Nylon • Mashable • Libary Journal • Thrillist“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.” -- EsquireA 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 BurningIt’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. 

Review by Publisher Summary 2

NAMED A RECOMMENDED BOOK OF 2018 BY Buzzfeed ' The Wall Street Journal ' The Millions ' Southern Living ' Bustle ' Esquire ' Entertainment Weekly ' Nylon ' Mashable ' Libary Journal ' Thrillist'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.' -- EsquireA 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 BurningIt'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.