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The House of Impossible Beauties (Paperback)
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The House of Impossible Beauties (Paperback)

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Paperback 416 Pages / Published: 04/10/2018
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Waterstones Says

Joseph Cassara’s rightly acclaimed debut plunges readers headlong into the heady underground world of 1980’s Harlem, crafting a tragic, but ultimately uplifting, story of community bonds and personal triumph.

One of the most eagerly-anticipated debuts of 2018, Joseph Cassara’s gritty and gorgeous novel is inspired by the real House of Xtravaganza made famous by the seminal documentary Paris Is Burning.

'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.' - Esquire

It's 1980 in New York City, and nowhere is the city's glamour and energy better reflected than in the burgeoning Harlem ballroom scene, where seventeen-year-old Angel first comes into her own. 

Burned by her traumatic past, Angel is new to the drag world, and has a yearning to help create a 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 ballroom circuit.

Into the house come Venus, a whip-smart 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' life. The Xtravaganzas must learn to navigate 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 with wit, rage, tenderness, and fierce yearning, The House of Impossible Beauties sings with the authentic voices of 1980’s New York LBGT underground scene. Bringing together a community of individuals forged on mainstream society’s periphery, Cassara blends tragedy and hope in a story of love, family, and the dynamism of the human spirit.

Publisher: Oneworld Publications
ISBN: 9781786074409
Number of pages: 416
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 29 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

'The House of Impossible Beauties tells of a search not only for respect but, above all, love in a time and place that seeks to starve its characters of both... From these threads of fact and myth, Cassara runs up a fictional ensemble that craftily stitches glamour and grit.' - The Financial Times

'Gritty, fiercely impressive... Joseph Cassara has written a lithe, fiery and incredibly authentic story. A future queer classic.' - Attitude 

'Vivid and engaging... The novel feels like an anthropological plunge into another era, enhanced by rhythmic, urban prose littered with slang and Spanglish.' - The Economist 

'Vibrant... The House of Impossible Beauties is especially strong at detailing the sadness of queer life... This is not a bleak novel, however - far from it. The scenes of love and support between the characters have a kindness that more than matches the sadness, and the dialogue, peppered with early 80s disco or TV references and "Spanglais" dialect, is frequently hilarious... [offering] a convincing insight into the world in which they lived.' - The Guardian

'Cassara's "beauties" actually does the impossible. It cuts bone deep into a scene that's all surface, mines the grit that produces glitter, and finds burning life in this lost generation of beautiful and damned. The novel strikes a flame the way a character strikes a pose - equal parts attitude, intelligence and eyeliner.' - Marlon James, Man Booker Prize-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

'Vividly imagined... Riveted by their stories, you are so struck by the Xtravaganza's strength and determination, by their vibrant spirits and humour, by their creativity, by their sensitivity to beauty and their capacity to give and receive love.' - New York Times Book Review 

'My favourite book of this year is a fictional imagining of the back stories of the House of Xtravaganza, the subject of Jenny Livingston's peerless voguing documentary, Paris Is Burning.' - Paul Flynn, The Evening Standard

'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.' - Esquire

'Fabulous...a grand, beautiful tale of art, love and the human spirit.' - Elle

'A must for fans of RuPaul's Drag Race, this novel is inspired by the characters who inhabited the dizzying world we first saw in Paris Is Burning, the 1990 documentary.' - Metro

'This is a definitive LGBTQ family story, of the sweep and intimacy that's typical in family sagas while also steeped in the trauma and sass specific to its milieu.' - Entertainment Weekly

'A heartbreaking novel that burns brightly.' - Buzzfeed 

'A marvelously serious, deep, artful, humane read... There's so much downright gorgeous prose here.' - Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers

'Fierce, tender, and heartbreaking.' - Kirkus 

'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... A compassionate story, which is altogether moving and unforgettable.' - Booklist

'Passionate...empathetic and vibrant.' - Entertainment Weekly

'An exceptional first novel... The writing is erotically luscious, lyrically intense, forthrightly in your face, and pitch-perfect in the dialog.' - Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal 

'Cassara writes of a community that glitters in the face of an ugly world. Joy and loss clutch hands in The House of Impossible Beauties. It is a tragic book, a lyrical book, a defiant book, and ultimately a loving book. The heroines and heroes hold fast to love and Cassara clearly has deep love for every character who struts across these pages.' - Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You 

'It's impossible to not feel utterly transported, to feel the hum of the music in your cells, to vibrate with the energy of the time and place, with all its attendant exhilarating highs and devastating lows.' - Nylon Magazine

'Intimate and dazzling...a novel full of desire and suspense and heartbreak.' - Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy 

'In Joseph Cassara's powerful story about the scene in New York in the 1980s, it is full of vivid characters and wonderfully authentic dialogue that reminded me of the period I spent working in the city during that time. For me, it was especially gratifying to see how important Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey -- those two giants of American Contemporary Dance - feature in the life of the fabulous Xtravaganzas.' - Stuart Hopps, choreographer

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