June 24, 2018

BOOK OF MONTH: THE HOUSE OF IMPOSSIBLE BEAUTIES BY JOSEPH CASSARA



  
Ecco/ Harper Collins
It was the kind of freedom you felt
when someone was looking at you and
finally saw what others couldn’t see
because it had been bottled away for so long.
---Angel



The Latina Book Club congratulates author Joseph Cassara on his brilliant debut, and we are pleased to choose THE HOUSE OF IMPOSSIBLE BEAUTIES as our Book of the Month for Pride Month.

Inspired by the documentary Paris is Burning, and because he never found any books with “real” gay Latino characters, Cassara wrote his own story.  Set during the 80s and 90s when disco and AIDS reigned supreme, THE HOUSE OF IMPOSSIBLE BEAUTIES is the story of four Latino gay / transgender youths looking for the freedom to be true to themselves.  Angel, Venus, Juanito and Daniel become a family against all odds. Life is hard for them, but amid the abuse, violence and addiction, they find strength in each other.

We love that THE HOUSE OF IMPOSSIBLE BEAUTIES is about Latinos, that they speak Spanglish, that they live, love, laugh, dance, and while there’s not a happy ending --- sorry about the spoiler – this novel is a triumph for the LGBT community and all families of the heart.  Bravo, Cassara!


Book Summary:  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 dancer, the two decide to form the House of Xtravaganza, the first-ever all-Latino house in the Harlem ball circuit. But when Hector dies of AIDS-related complications, Angel must bear the responsibility of tending to their house alone.

As mother of the house, Angel recruits Venus, a whip-fast 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’s life. The Xtravaganzas must learn to navigate sex 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.  

About the Author:  Joseph Cassara was born and raised in New Jersey. He holds degrees from Columbia University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He was a 2016-17 writing fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. His debut novel, titled The House of Impossible Beautieswas chosen by Barnes & Noble as a Discover Great New Writers selection. He is an assistant professor of creative writing at California State, Fresno.  Visit him at www.josephcassara.com.


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