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Joseph Cassara Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The House of Impossible Beauties (2018) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Author Joseph Cassara holds degrees from both the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Columbia University. He was born in New Jersey, the state he grew up in; the author is of Sicilian and Puerto Rican descent. He now lives in Iowa City. He was one of the 2016-17 writing fellows of Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachussetts.

It was not until he changed his major to English while in college and he got to meet people who were actual writers. It was here that he felt that it was something that you could actually do to make money.

John Hersey’s “The Wall” was the first book that made him cry in the seventh grade; he got to know and get attached to so many of the characters that are in the book, and it effected him when each one of them met their fate. Another book he loved was “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” written by Carson McCullers.

He made his fiction debut with “The House of the Impossible Beauties”, which was published in the year 2018 (February sixth to be more precise). It was one of the most highly anticipated books of the year. He says that an editor did not buy it, and told him that he should write a happier ending. She said that readers would need a better sense that a certain character had actually lived a full life. He said to write an ending like that would make things fraudulent, and to miss the point of the rest of the book. To show that her life truly was not fully lived.

Joseph has always loved “Paris is Burning” (it is a documentary film that was released in the year 1991). He wanted the novel to stand apart from the film by making sure you get to know the characters and how they are behind closed doors and not just playing things up for the camera.

While writing the book, he watched “Paris is Burning” for inspiration on the story. To prepare, he watched it many times, and started focusing on certain details shown in the movie, either clothes, some of the speech patterns used by the people, and sometimes the setting itself. The book is based on true events, but certain things are fictionalized.

Two of the characters in the book (who are named Daniel and Juanito) come right from the start of the documentary. There were these two boys that had their arms around each other that stuck with him and he would pictured these two boys while writing Daniel and Juanito.

He wrote the story, because for one: as a gay Latin man, he had no heroes to see on television, movies, or in books. For another: he wanted to tell stories that he cared about, with characters that were emotionally connected to things that he was. Joseph also was imagining some fictional characters of his own that were meeting some people from “Paris is Burning” documentary, and felt a desire to push himself to turn into a novel.

At first, Joseph was writing about white narratives that bored him, because he thought he was supposed to write those kinds of stories. He feels that it was hilarious, looking back, to write parodies of stories that get published in the New Yorker. What could a gay man of eighteen really know of couples getting divorced?

Through writing the book, he just wants queer readers to have access to some stories about people that are queer. These are characters that are rebelling against those that do not want them to be who they are, as they find a place where they can truly be free and be who they are. He also wanted to show his characters having moments where they just live their life (by spending time with one another, like getting ice cream), and not only experience the bad things that happen to them. This way, they truly live a real life and the story does not just become tragedy porn.

“The House of the Impossible Beauties” is the first stand alone novel and was released in the year 2018. New York City during the year 1980. The Harlem ball scene is the only place to show off the glamour and energy of the city. It is here that Angel (age seventeen and also feels that he is a girl trapped in a boy’s body) start to come into her own. She has been burned by a past that has left her traumatized, and she is new to both the ball culture and drag world.

She yearns to help those without a family have some. She quickly falls in love with a guy she meets named Hector, he is a gorgeous man that has a dream to become a professional dancer. The pair decide to form House of Xtravaganza, which is the first all Latino house in the circuit of Harlem ball. Angel has the full responsibility to run the house on her own after Hector dies from complications brought on by AIDS.

She is the mother of the house, and she recruits some people to help out. There is a razor sharp and whip fast trans female that dreams of getting a rich guy to care for her named Venus. Juanito, who is a quiet guy that loves both design and fabrics. Then there is Daniel who is a butch queen that is able to save Venus’ life on accident.

These members of Xtravaganza have to learn to work around addiction, constant abuse, sex work, and lean on one another against a world that does not resists them. Each one is ambitious, determined to control their fate, and resilient. All the while they head towards some awful consequences.

Fans of the novel liked the voice in this as it brims with fierce yearning, wit, tenderness, and rage. The book is a tragic story filled with family, love, and the progression of the human spirit. The book evokes a time, a history, a community, and an era. Some found that this book made them feel things while reading the entire thing. Some are glad that they picked this book up and gave it a chance in the first place. They cannot wait to see what comes next from this author, as he is truly a talent to watch.

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