Once in a while you find a book that calls to you. The cover, the back cover description, they say to you; "Hey, you might like taking a glance". That is how I felt when I saw the cover for The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara. The colors, the woman pictured, all made it appealing to me. Then when I read the back cover, I knew I had to read it.
The House of Impossible Beauties, is set in 1980's New York City and deals with the lives of hispanic teens that are gay and/or transgender. The book is divided into three parts and covers about 20 years of the characters lives. One of the main characters in the story is Angel, a puertorrican boy who from a young age realizes that he is stuck in the wrong body and waits for his mom to be out of the house to dress like his true self. Angel falls in love with Hector and together they dream of owning their own house of drag for hispanic kids that runaway and are living on the streets. They form the House of Xtravaganza and Angle finds their first child, Venus. Angel is forced to continue the house alone, after Hector passes away from AIDS.
During the course of the story you get to know more about Venus, and the two other kids that make House of Xtravaganza; Juanito and Daniel. This is not a happy read. The teens in this story must learn to navigate a world that doesn't understand them or accept them. They deal with sex work, rape, drugs, and HIV. Each of these characters life story is full of ambition, resilience, but also it's fair share of questionable decisions and sorrow.
This book deals with a lot of issues, and really puts these issues in the front of the readers mind. Yes, we are no longer with an AIDS epidemic and transgender people are more widely accepted than in those times, but there are so many things that are still the same. Issues of race, inequalities, lack of opportunities, drug abuse and rape, those are all real things that this community still suffers.
This book was a personal favorite for a few reasons: first; the characters were hispanic, which we don't see a lot of, second; the characters were not stereotypical or necessarily likable, and lastly; the characters had spunk. Any time you are cross the lines of what society deems normal, you are bound to have a hard time, but if you are a person of color doing this, you are guaranteed an even harder time, and I think it's great that this book acknowledges that. This story is not only about being transgender or gay, it's about being a person of color that is transgender or gay.
I will say that there are certainly a few chapters that you get the sense that you missed something between one chapter and the other, like maybe something got cut or just wasn't highlighted in transition. Regardless of those few instances, I enjoyed my overall experience with the book. Its a welcomed addition to the shelves of diverse authors and diverse characters stories.