The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara

The House of Impossible Beauties

Joseph Cassara

fiction LGBTQIA+
emotional reflective slow-paced
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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 the 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. 

Told in a voice that brims with wit, rage, tenderness, and fierce yearning, The House of Impossible Beauties is a tragic story of love, family, and the dynamism of the human spirit.

What the community thinks

summary of 133 ratings (see reviews)

Content warnings

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Addiction (1 reviewer), Drug abuse (1 reviewer), Drug use (1 reviewer), Terminal illness (1 reviewer), and Transphobia (1 reviewer)


Child abuse (1 reviewer), Homophobia (1 reviewer), Rape (1 reviewer), Sexual content (1 reviewer), and Grief (1 reviewer)


Hate crime (1 reviewer), Incest (1 reviewer), Suicide (1 reviewer), Excrement (1 reviewer), and Vomit (1 reviewer)


emotional 83%
sad 83%
challenging 33%
reflective 33%
tense 33%
dark 16%


medium 83%
slow 16%

Strong character development?

Yes: 66% | It's complicated: 16% | N/A: 16%

Loveable characters?

Yes: 80% | It's complicated: 20%

Diverse cast of characters?

Yes: 100%

Flaws of characters centre-stage?

Yes: 100%

Average rating