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, Glbt, Queer, Historical, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Adult, Adult Fiction, Novels, Did Not Finish

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...
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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 ...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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 ...
  • 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...
  • Jody
    I was...underwhelmed and occasionally bored. With this particular story I definitely feel like that should not have been the case.
  • Ailsa
    It’s difficult writing a fictionalised account of real people. You have to do them justice, and I don’t know how historically accurate this book is but I do know that it’s heartbreakingly moving. Centred around the legendary House of Xtravaganza made famous in Paris Is Burning this book follows the lives of Venus and Angel, two transgender teenagers in NYC in the mid-80s. (You rarely read the word transgender however - the term in ball cult...
  • Matthew Sciarappa
    I received an ARC of this title from work, so that I may read it and then sell it, or at least discuss it, to/with customers.Ultimately, I wanted to enjoy this book more, but I am very glad I read it.If I manage to collect my thoughts properly, I will review it on my channel. Until then, I encourage every single person to give this book a chance when it comes out. It’s an important piece of fiction.
  • 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...
  • Billie
    I wanted to love it and I did love the characters, but for a novel supposedly about participants in New York's drag ball scene, there was very little mention of or time spent at the actual balls. There were also some mis-used words that took me out of the story for a moment. (Sorry I don't have any examples. I have the choice of either trying to lose myself in the story, or reading with post-its and pen and I choose the former.) There is a lot of...
  • Lauren (lozreadsbooks)
    “Before there was Dorian and before there was Hector, there was 1980—the year that things began to change.”The House of Impossible Beauties is set in the drag queen ball scene of New York from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. It centres on the legendary House of Xtravaganza, made famous in Jennie Livingston’s documentary Paris Is Burning, and follows the semi-fictionalised life of Angel Xtravaganza and her house children as they come to...
  • Katy
    Set in queer 1980s New York, this is a poetic, multi-perspective novel with compelling characters who I felt for. It focuses on cross-dressing and transgender characters of color as they traipse through the city looking for love, family, and respect. I wish I’d watched the documentary Paris is Burning before reading this book since it’s a fictionalized account of Harlem ball culture and its historical figures like Angie Xtravaganza. The heart...
  • Katie
    I did really like this book a lot. It all felt really authentic. However, it felt a little like tragedy-porn to me. Bad thing after bad thing kept happening. Every character is faced over and over again with death and addiction and pain. You know how a lot of people felt like A Little Life was too much (I wasn't one of them)? I felt like this was too much. Too much pain heaped on to three characters, all undeserving.
  • Robert
    Reading is fundamental.
  • Lea
    you know that feeling when you freely admit a story had some faults but my god you're glad it exists in this world? that's me.
  • Erin Tuzuner
    I feel this is a book for straight people who have never seen/heard of Paris is Burning. The baby gays coming up on RuPaul's Drag Race who speak exclusively in "gagged, tea, shade" should definitely give this a perusal, but as many novels inhabiting the nascent AIDs ruination of New York this feels very incomplete.
  • Jess
    My heart was filled and broken between the covers of this book. Every other metaphor falls short. This amount of depth and electricity comes from a debut author? Joseph Cassara, I will read everything you publish.I have rarely encountered the pull of a place in a novel. Setting has always been tangential, necessary for plot, but contextually unimportant. When booktalking this title, I've remarked upon being thrust into 1980s New York City, seeing...
  • Dan Radovich
    Joseph Cassara has created a masterpiece in capturing a generation he is too young to have experienced. His prose is brilliant, glittering as dazzling as the mirror balls and lights in the clubs of the ball circuit found in the story. For those that know this portion of history, Cassara pulls no punches, spares no one from the reality of the time. Devastating honesty. The Beauties you meet will affect you, Cassara sees to that. You may not relate...
  • Kathleen Gray
    A beautiful book about the family we choose and the people we really are. Cassara has written a novel ostensibly about club kids in 1980 Harlem but all of these kids are so special not just because they are transgender but also because of how they walk through the world. This was a tough time for the community and Cassara doesn't pull his punches. This is an emotional, heartfelt love story for the city, the scene, but most of all these people. If...
  • Autumn
    Very happy to have read this vibrant literary fanfiction of my favorite heroic pantheon. Honestly, I quit reading after (view spoiler)[ Venus Exxtravanganza died >, but I will probably pick it back up again to at least see how Dorian Corey wraps it all up. (hide spoiler)]