The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara

The House of Impossible Beauties

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 danc...

Details The House of Impossible Beauties

TitleThe House of Impossible Beauties
Release DateFeb 6th, 2018
GenreFiction, Lgbt, Historical, Historical Fiction, Glbt, Queer, Literary Fiction

Reviews The House of Impossible Beauties

  • Paromjit
    Joseph Cassara has written a heart wrenching paean to the LGBT community, a blend of fact and fiction based on the critically acclaimed documentary on the House of Xtravaganza in the 1980s and 1990s, Paris Is Burning. Set in New York, it tells of young gay and transgender characters, facing the trauma and rejection of their actual families and their efforts to set up their own chosen close knit and supportive 'family' circle that faces up to the ...
  • Tammy
    The House of Impossible Beauties follows four transgender kids through the heyday of the Harlem ball culture which was ground zero for the AIDS crisis. The places and characters are real but it is a fictionalized account of House Xtravaganza. I don't see the comparisons to A Little Life which is much more nuanced but this fierce, gritty novel will ultimately break your heart.
  • Blair
    With The House of Impossible Beauties, debut author Joseph Cassara has created a fictionalised account of the House of Xtravaganza, immortalised in the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning. From the backstory of key figures to the initial formation of Xtravaganza – the first all-Latinx house on the Harlem ball circuit – and beyond, we follow a cast of gay and trans performers as they fight to get off the streets, find and lose each other, and de...
  • Paula Bardell-Hedley
    New York's underground drag ball scene flourished in the early 1980s. These glitzy, elaborately-themed events rose with meteoric intensity from the Harlem district, bringing with them an immense euphoria and camaraderie among the area's prominent LGBT population. The House of Impossible Beauties follows the often complicated lives of several homogeneous characters from their confused, abused, traumatic childhoods to the magnificent heydays of t...
  • Sara
    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Cassara has managed to capture a snapshot of hedonistic 80s culture, richly steeped in beautiful creatures and intricate backstories that interweave to create a wonderful story about an underground community that many of us knew nothing, and still know, little about. The characters have been carefully crafted with obvious love and attention to detail in order to recreate a tale full...
  • Eric Anderson
    RuPaul's Drag Race has found a global audience in recent years and I've been a huge follower of it since the third season. It's still one of the highlights of my life hearing RuPaul praise my blog on his podcast. (You can listen to the audio of this at the bottom of my intro page here.) The widespread fandom of this show has popularised drag as an art form again so it seems like the right time to look back at some of the most significant drag mov...
  • shady boots | #TeamMizCracker
    Before I share my thoughts on this book, if you enjoyed it or if you're interested to know more about ball culture, I STRONGLY IMPLORE you to watch the documentary Paris Is Burning if you haven't already. It gives a more in-depth look at the ballroom scene of 80's New York, and also introduces you to the real people behind the characters of this book, as well as many other legendary queer pioneers. It's available on YouTube here.It is important t...
  • Neil
    First of all, a bit of history and context because I, for one, was not aware when I started this book that it is based on fact. I discovered this after about 50 pages or so when the story encouraged me to Google something and then, an hour later, I was more aware of the historical context. The book is set in New York in the period from the late 1970s through to the early 1990s.Lifted from Wikipedia:Composed primarily of African American and Latin...
  • Doug
    3.5, rounded down.Like most first novels, this suffers from being a tad overwritten and under-edited. It could have easily lost 100 superfluous pages or more, which would have improved the pacing. A couple of other things that bugged me were a lack of any real plot (it just seemed like a bunch of random vignettes from the NY gay/drag scene, ca. 1976-1993, with no real through-line); the constant interjection of random Spanish words and phrases, t...
  • Christopher Alonso
    Review forthcoming, but all I'm gonna say is wowowow this hurt me, and I encourage everyone to read it.
  • Elizabeth☮
    I don't even know where to begin in my review of this one. The world Cassara has created is just mind-blowingly good. This takes place in New York during the 1980's. Our narrators are all boys that have been marginalized in their own homes and find their way to the streets. Each story is unique yet there is a common thread of displacement and misunderstanding.Once the boys make a home for themselves in the houses that host balls that gave these m...
  • Jessica Sullivan
    I wanted to love this so bad, I really did! It's about the queer ball scene in New York City in the 1980s, as documented in the popular film Paris Is Burning. Wonderful subject matter that had the potential to be so riveting and affecting.The main problem with this book is that there are too many shifting perspectives and not enough focused character development. With the exception of a few sections that are notably strong, Cassara relies heavily...
  • Gabriella
    Joseph Cassara has written an insular, (relatively) low-glitz, immensely tragic account of queer and trans Latinx youth in 1980-90s New York. I struggle to call it “accurate” or “authentic” because like Cassara, I am not a member of the House of Xtravaganza, the first Latinx house in the Harlem ball circuit, and wasn’t alive during the AIDS epidemic, which snakes its way through this book every time you start to believe in a happy endin...
  • Emily May
    “We dance for the memories of things we dread to remember,” Katya said as the rest of the class went into position, raising their legs up, then beyond the head. “We dance for the things we wish to forget.” 3 1/2 stars. The House of Impossible Beauties is almost amazing. Cassara has created several memorable characters, drawn scenes with luminous writing, whilst also introducing many readers to a relatively unknown area of modern history: ...
  • jo
    Το “The house of impossible beauties” είναι το ντεμπούτο μυθιστόρημα του συγγραφέα Joseph Cassara. Η ιστορία του διαδραματίζεται την δεκαετία του ’80 στην Νέα Υόρκη με κεντρικούς ήρωες λατινοαμερικάνες και αφροαμερικάνες drag queens, trans women και γκέι άντρες. Με φόντο την HI...
  • Laura
    How badly I wanted to love this book. How disappointed I was. I was planning on loving it: a book about queer and trans street kids finding family with each other in the underground ball scene of the 1980s. The novel is based on the real House of Xtravaganza, one of the more famous houses of ballroom culture, founded in 1982 by Hector Xtravaganza. Many of the characters in this novel (including Hector and the house mother, Angel) are based on rea...
  • Teresa
    THIS. BOOK. I literally cried for about 3/4 quarters of this was heart breakingly beautiful. Joseph Cassara writes without abandon; I was so wrapped up in Angel, Venus, Daniel and Juanito's lives that my life was placed on hold for about 3 days. Cassara weaves a gorgeous but gritty story of a house of "misfits". All thrown together because their families don't agree with how they have chosen to live their lives. I feel in love with all ...
  • Matthew
    4.5 stars.Author Virginia Postrel once wrote that “glamour is an imaginative process that creates a specific emotional response: a sharp mixture of projection, longing, admiration, and aspiration.” Contextually Postrel was unlikely speaking of the halcyon days of glitz and glamour that made up the Harlem ball scene in the 80s and 90s, but she may as well have been. I’d be hard pressed to find a better example of Postrel’s definition of gl...
  • Greg
    "Men come and go, I always say that. Maybe love is shorter than it should be, but hot diggity damn, Chanel is fuckin' forever" says one character. And so it goes, Chanel and rather restrained and multiple sexual encounters until an explosive, explicit scene wraps it all up in drugs and broken hearts and pain and a future filled with early deaths. This story deserves a better telling, and since there is nothing new under the sun, it is ALL in the ...
  • Al
    I haven't even finished this book; I still have a fourth left to go, and even now I can say that this is the most haunting, yet glamorous, book I have ever read. The entire cast is diverse, both racially, sexually, and gender-wise. There isn't a dull moment in this book. It's laugh-inducing, it makes you love the world and then hate it again with the turn of a page, and it's extremely tear-jerking; still not forgiving Joseph Cassara for making me...
  • Rachel Elizabeth
    A big part of me wants to sweep this book up into my arms and give it a hug. At the risk of sounding like a stereotype, for as long as I can remember I've always felt invigorated by LGBT communities. The humor, emotional expansiveness, and, finally, the sense of freedom I saw in friends who've come out. The creativity and energy of the drag shows I attended first in college - where I saw a queen perform Bjork's "Oceania", and have not forgotten i...
  • Nikola
    4.5 starsYou can also find this review plus my Q&A with Joseph on my book blog. The House of Impossible Beauties is one of those books you stumble upon once in a while that leave a mark on you. What first attracted me to this book was the topic it deals with plus it being a LGBTQ book it was an immediate add to my to-be-read shelf. What awaits you inside is a story filled with courage, hope and suffering but above all that what this book carries...
  • Aaron Elliott
    This book is lucky to have been green-lighted due to the popularity of "RuPaul's Drag Race", but is in essence a fanboy retelling of the documentary "Paris is Burning". The author doesn't even try hard to mask the names of characters, using the same names from "Paris is Burning"...or bring something fresh to this beautifully tragic group of gay men and trans women who perform within the Harlem Ballroom Circuit during the mid to late 80s.The resea...
  • Holly
    🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟6 stars. This book.This book is gorgeous, and funny and transcendent and heartbreaking. The definition of sweeping and epic. It tells the fictionalized story of a group of transgender friends from the legendary House Of Xtravaganza (made famous in the Paris is Burning doc) through the 80's and 90's. I devoured this in less than 24hrs and it had me a sobbing mess at work. I'll never forget their story. Read. This. Book. #be...
  • Ismail Elshareef
    Could have been amazing!”I will tell her to look at my face—no lines, no wrinkles, no bags. She can stare at my youth—and suffer.”I was almost transported to an era of which I know very little: the gay ball scene of 1980s NYC. Some of its infamous glam and gloom came through the characters, but still left me wanting more. I didn’t get enough from the story to connect with those characters. I loved the sass, but Charisma, Uniqueness, Ner...
  • Jody
    I was...underwhelmed and occasionally bored. With this particular story I definitely feel like that should not have been the case.
  • Joseph Crupper
    I don’t know if I can be the one to give a definitive rating to this book, just since I am such a huge fan of Paris is Burning. I idolize the real life people that Cassara’s characters are based on. The prose in this novel is tight, and readers who don’t know the real-life fates of Hector and Venus and Angel (Angie) will still enjoy it. Cassara portrays the world and experiences of his characters with the most realistic wonder and social di...
  • ElphaReads
    I first saw PARIS IS BURNING in college, as part of required viewing for a class. I've always liked this documentary, in part because of its importance to the LGBTQIA community and the history of the Ball Culture in NYC, but also because the subjects within it were all such engrossing people. When Alicia's reading status alerted me to the existence of THE HOUSE OF IMPOSSIBLE BEAUTIES by Joseph Cassara, I knew that I had to read it. In the early 1...
  • Neville Longbottom
    The House of Impossible Beauties is a character driven story about the House of Xtravaganza, the first all Latinx house in the Harlem ball scene of the 1980s. The story is triumphant and tragic, following the stories of gay and trans characters through a very tumultuous time for the LGBTQ+ community. I really enjoyed this book and came to care deeply about all the characters, even if at times the story seemed to drag a little bit. One aspect of t...