Download The House of Impossible Beauties: A Novel Audiobook

The House of Impossible Beauties: A Novel Audiobook, by Joseph Cassara Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Joseph Cassara Narrator: Christian Barillas Publisher: HarperAudio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2018 ISBN: 9780062797926
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A gritty and gorgeous debut that follows a cast of gay and transgender club kids navigating the Harlem ball scene of the 1980s and ’90s, inspired by the real House of Xtravaganza made famous by the seminal documentary Paris Is Burning

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.  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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Passionate…empathetic and vibrant.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Propulsive and profound.”


  • “The novel feels like an anthropological plunge into another era, enhanced by rhythmic, urban prose littered with slang and Spanglish.”

    Economist (London)

  • “Downright gorgeous prose…[with] many beautifully and precisely observed images, subjects, emotions.”

    Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers

  • “Narrator Christian Barillas’ respectful performance successfully navigates a potential obstacle course of stereotypes, starting with his authentic-sounding Spanglish and Puerto Rican accent, which solidly place this heartrending story in the Latino community. In addition, he deftly sidesteps cartoonish inflections while infusing the characters’ dialogue with an outward sassiness and a hint of their deep vulnerability. Listeners will long remember the experiences of these young people who are uncomfortable with the expectations of their birth gender or sexual preference and who want nothing more than acceptance and love. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”


  • “The writing is erotically luscious, lyrically intense, forthrightly in your face, and pitch-perfect in the dialog…A grittily gorgeous work for readers who don’t go for cozies.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “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…Moving and unforgettable.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Presents a wide-lens view of the joys and sorrows of a culture created by racial and sexual minorities…Fierce, tender, and heartbreaking.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “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

  • “In a voice both intimate and dazzling, Cassara allows his readers to experience these tumultuous lives. The result is a novel full of desire and suspense and heartbreak.”

    Margot Livesey, author of Mercury

  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A Wall Street Journal Pick of Most Anticipated Novels of 2018
  • An Entertainment Weekly Pick of Most Anticipated Books of 2018
  • An Esquire Magazine Pick of Most Anticipated Books of the New Year
  • Bustle Pick
  • A Southern Living Magazine Pick of Most Anticipated Books of 2018
  • A Pick of Most Anticipated Books of 2018
  • Winner of the 2018 Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction

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About the Author

Joseph Cassara holds degrees from Columbia University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been a writing fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

About the Narrator

Christian Barillas is an Earphones Award–winning audio narrator and actor based in Los Angeles with credits in theater, film, and television. His professional career began with Center Theater Group’s A Very Old Man with Enourmous Wings, a short story by Gabriel García Márquez. He then appeared in several productions in and around Los Angeles including As You Like It, Sonia Flew, and A Christmas Carol. On television, he is perhaps most recognizable as Ronaldo on Modern Family, where he appears opposite Tony winner and Emmy nominee Nathan Lane.