HITTING SHELVES: The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara comes out today! It’s a debut novel about the real-life House of Xtravaganza, the first-ever all-Latino house in the Harlem ball circuit in the 1980s. We asked the author how he’s celebrating.

On the actual day, I will sleep in and treat myself to brunch at Leaf Kitchen. Their ham & asiago omelet is so delicious, it should be illegal. Someone once told me that this place was listed on Playboy Magazine’s best brunch places in the entire country, which is plausible, but I’ll also believe anything. I suspend disbelief like it’s nobody’s business. I mean, the food is really that good, but I also took it with a grain of salt because, does Playboy actually do lists like that? I’ve never fact-checked it. And I’m not sure that I’m ready to browse through their archive to actually verify the claim.

Then I will visit the book at the local bookshops. It seems natural because it’s been very cold in Iowa lately and she will probably be lonely. I’ll get a coffee and read the paper, glancing up to check in on her. If I’m feeling motivated, I will go to the gym to lift some weights and cycle. At some point my mother will call and I imagine this phone call will sound just like a happy birthday call, except it is February and my birthday is in June.

That night, I will go for my semi-annual doctor’s visit. I’ll surprise her with a signed copy of the book and hopefully she will be lenient on me for some unhealthy habits. I’ll remind her that I quit smoking and she will be happy, I hope. Since winter is so brutal here, I’m prepared for a lecture on the importance of vitamin D, which I should take, I know I should. I would love for her to tell me—no, order me—to book a vacation somewhere sunny and hot. Then I could do that and use “doctor’s orders” as a legit excuse. Then I will get blood work done and cross my fingers that everything is fine.

The next day is where the real fun is. I will read at Prairie Lights, which is the local independent bookshop in Iowa City. My friends, former classmates, and teachers will attend, so it will feel nice to read from the book that they’ve seen come together during my time in graduate school. Oh, but let’s not forget that before the actual event, we will have drinks and food at an Italian restaurant. I plan on ordering one vesper martini (I really should not have more than one) and an arugula salad because not only does that sound like a classy order, but it also tastes classy. Then afterwards, I will have my second, third, and fourth martinis. There’s a Dorothy Parker poem about martinis that goes, roughly: I like to have a martini / two at the very most / three, I’m under the table / four, I’m under the host. Yes. That sounds fun, doesn’t it?

Joseph Cassara was born and raised in New Jersey. He 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.

Author photo by Amanda Kallis.

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