“Vivid prose reinventing ideas of motherhood, belonging and taking us into the community of drag balls and protest, both personal and political.”


Niven Govinden’s This Brutal House is a novel set in New York’s Ballroom community. Five ageing vogue house mothers sit silently on the steps on City Hall, mourning the loss of children who had once been part of their family. These absences have been ignored by the authorities and univestigated by the police so the mothers have reached their final resort; prayer and a silent protest to commemorate their loss until justice is finally served.

Goviden’s novel is told through the eyes of three different voices; the mothers, Teddy (one of their children who now works within City Hall), and a vogue caller. The writing in this book is not that of a traditional novel but more poetic, in particular the passages from the vogue caller which mimics the continuous beat and call of an emcee at a vogue ball.

This Brutal House is an emotive tale of chosen family in the LGBTQIA+ community and the safe spaces created and provided by the house mothers within the ballroom community. The novel also asks what happens when a generation known for lavish extravagance are forced to grow up and play the role of parent to a new generation of lost children.

What’s more, Niven Govinden’s novel serves are a reminder to readers that the trans community today are still in need of more protection. Despite the passing of many years and the advent of many changes in society – since the disappearance of these fictional children from this 90s set novel – trans people are still significantly more at risk that their other LGBTQIA+ siblings.

This is a novel that leaves you feeling as though you as a reader have lost something, reflecting the loss of the house mothers who are still searching for their missing children.


Reviewed by:

Catherine Muxworthy, Booksbirdblog

Added 16th July 2021

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Catherine Muxworthy