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This Brutal House

This Brutal House

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By Niven Govinden

Set across the arc of an active protest and the lives behind it – a group of silent Mothers, and one of their charges now working for the city – This Brutal House explores a group’s resilience, trauma, and determination to hold truth to power.

Shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize 2019

Publication Date: August 1, 2023

Paperback: 9781646052677

eBook: 9781646052882


On the steps of New York's City Hall, five ageing Mothers sit in silent protest. They are the guardians of the Ballroom community - queer people who opened their hearts and homes to countless lost children, providing safe spaces for them to explore their true selves.

Through epochs of city nightlife, from draconian to liberal, the children have been going missing, their absences ignored by the authorities and uninvestigated by the police. In a final act of dissent the Mothers have come to pray: to expose their personal struggle and commemorate their loss until justice is served. Watching from City Hall's windows is city clerk Teddy. Raised by the Mothers, he is now charged with brokering an uneasy truce. Set across the arc of the Mothers' protest and the lives behind it, This Brutal House explores a group's resilience, trauma, and determination to hold truth to power. 

With echoes of James Baldwin, Marilynne Robinson and Rachel Kushner, Niven Govinden asks what happens when a generation remembered for a single, lavish decade has been forced to grow up, and what it means to be a parent in a confused and complex society.

Biographical Information

Niven Govinden is an award-winning writer of five novels. He was long-listed for the Jhalak Prize, and short-listed for the Gordon Burn Prize (2019) and the Polari Prize (2020) for his most recent novel, This Brutal House. His last novel, Diary of A Film, was released in the UK by Hachette in 2021 and in the US by Deep Vellum in 2022 to great acclaim.


"[S]tructurally bold." Kirkus

"This Brutal House leaves its reader full of a powerful, protesting energy." Irish Times

"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. . . Govinden’s novel serves are a reminder to readers that the trans community today are still in need of more protection." —Catherine Muxworthy, For Reading Addicts