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.
Joseph Cassara, an American writer much too young to know first-hand the scene he resurrects, pitches his debut novel as a period piece that rescues a lost world from condescension, contempt or outright oblivion ... For all his immersion in the ball scene of the 1980s, Cassara never overdoes the period costumery of sequins, glitter and gold lamé.
The House of Impossible Beauties is a work of unrestrained passion, a novel both unabashedly queer — flamboyant and proud, built out of chosen families, pulsating with club vibes whilst clouded in the haze of trauma — and unmistakably Latin ... Stylistically, the novel is a glorious mess: It swerves with melodramatic prose, and finds easy opportunities for exposition in its straight-talking queens. To be sure, the book is hardly perfect, at times galumphing in its story movements. But those rough edges might just be the key to The House of Impossible Beauties.’ enthralling, invigorating success.