The House of Impossible Beauties – Joseph Cassara
Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Angel runs the Xtravaganza house, a collection of gay and transgender people hustling their way through New York City in the ’80s. She is an outrageous den mother to Venus, Juanito, and Daniel. They work the streets at night, teaching each other the ins and outs of keeping themselves safe when hopping in and out of strange men’s cars. During the day, they dream of extravagant fashion and prepare for their walks in drag balls. Each of the characters is running away from something, but they’ve truly found themselves in the glittered streets of NYC. The bright-eyed, sassy group has huge dreams, and even bigger hears, but their life is a constant gritty struggle, made only harsher by the blossoming AIDS crisis.
This book shredded my entire heart to scrappy little tear-soaked pieces. Angel, Venus, Juanito, and Daniel are the most beautiful family. Where their own flesh and blood met them with ridicule, violence, misunderstanding, and fear, they find bottomless depths of love in each other. The characters are endlessly quick-witted and hilarious. I haven’t read such a compassionate band of characters in a very long time. I feel deeply, deeply in love with their bond, and my heart burst when the vast struggles of life began to get in their way.
The book is interlaced with Spanish. I have a supreme amount of admiration for bilingual people. As a white American, I speak English and only English (regrettably), and I can’t imagine the work it takes to be fluent in more than one language. Every time a friend or coworker switches languages, I’m amazed and captivated like it was a magic trick. For this reason, the bilingual nature of the book intrigued me in such a big way.
I don’t have words for how much I cherished this story. It is funny, compassionate, charming, and absolutely heart-breaking. It teaches us an incredible amount of lessons about love, acceptance, and dreams. It is about Latino culture, gender diversity, poverty, sex positivity, and human equality. It does all this, but it comes bundled in a package of masterful storytelling.
Let this book teach you about love. Let this book show you human kindness. Let this book tell you about how we treat one another. Take this book and scream from the rooftops that Venus, Angel, Juanito, and Daniel deserved better. Let this book break your heart.