The Big Issue: Review of This Brutal House by Niven Govinden

Shunned youngsters are rescued by stand-in mothers in this troubling novel. Dani Garavelli finds there can be no winners.

The glitzy, bitchy sub-culture of the black and Latino vogue balls, with their fiercely contested “walks” and caricature of glamour, frequently lends a touch of exoticism to the mainstream, most recently in the TV series Pose.

But Niven Govinden’s challenging novel This Brutal House turns the camera away from the costumes and the catwalk, focusing instead on loving-yet-sometimes-oppressive family realness in the culture’s mainstream-apeing ‘Houses’, led and controlled by ‘mothers’.

On the steps of New York’s City Hall, five ageing ‘mothers’ mount a silent protest against the authorities’ lack of action over the disappearance of many of their ‘children’ – queer waifs and strays they have rescued from unaccepting homes.

Gripped by a religious fervour, the gay male elders gather their remaining children – now grown-up – like Jesus on the Mount of Beatitudes; although these are reluctant disciples, torn between gratitude
and embarrassment.

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