BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Casssara [in Library Journal]

Emulating the larger-than-life characters in Joseph Cassara’s debut novel, narrator Christian Barillas’s gender-defying performance vacillates smoothly from sass to introspection, rage to desperation, elation to detachment. During the 1980s New York City ball scene, the House of Xtravaganza was the first Latinx house, later made famous by the award-winning 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning.

Too young to have witnessed the extravagance firsthand, Cassara adapts, transforms, and honors real-life House founders Angie and Hector Xtravaganza and their chosen family, as he creates loosely historical fiction richly embellished with invented backstories and imagined intimacies.

Here Angie becomes Angel, a Puerto Rican transgender teen who falls in love with dancer Hector, loses him to AIDS, and fulfills their dream of establishing a safe home for a family of her own. Her vibrant, vulnerable sidekick Venus still longs for her white-picket-fenced dream house, risking her hard-won sisterhood to sell her heart to the wrong man. Daniel and Juanito, grateful to call Angel “mother,” share a love story of their own – until it isn’t. Barillas’s empathic narration brings the vast, Xtravagant cast hauntingly alive.

Verdict: Libraries working to increase meaningful LGBTQ acquisitions should consider Beauties in all formats.

Review: “Audio,” Library Journal, May 1, 2018

Readers: Adult

Published: 2018


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