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Reviews of Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Anita de Monte Laughs Last

A Novel

by Xochitl Gonzalez

Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez X
Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Mar 2024, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Danielle McClellan
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About this Book

Book Summary

New York Times bestselling author Xochitl Gonzalez delivers a mesmerizing novel about a first-generation Ivy League student who uncovers the genius work of a female artist decades after her suspicious death

1985. Anita de Monte, a rising star in the art world, is found dead in New York City; her tragic death is the talk of the town. Until it isn't. By 1998 Anita's name has been all but forgotten—certainly by the time Raquel, a third-year art history student is preparing her final thesis. On College Hill, surrounded by privileged students whose futures are already paved out for them, Raquel feels like an outsider. Students of color, like her, are the minority there, and the pressure to work twice as hard for the same opportunities is no secret.

But when Raquel becomes romantically involved with a well-connected older art student, she finds herself unexpectedly rising up the social ranks. As she attempts to straddle both worlds, she stumbles upon Anita's story, raising questions about the dynamics of her own relationship, which eerily mirrors that of the forgotten artist.

Moving back and forth through time and told from the perspectives of both women, Anita de Monte Laughs Last is a propulsive, witty examination of power, love, and art, daring to ask who gets to be remembered and who is left behind in the rarefied world of the elite.

NEW YORK CITY • FALL 1985

If it weren't for what happened later, everyone would have forgotten that night entirely. It wasn't like the '70s, you know? Nights when you never knew what could happen; what to expect. No, by 1985, the parties in New York were all the same. One night, one party, bleeding into the next. Nothing specific or momentous enough to press itself into your memory. The guests, the conversations, the taste of the fucking wine on your lips, all more or less the same. Especially Tilly's parties. Formulaic; interchangeable. Some felt that's what made them work, but for me? It depressed me—that impossible distinction of the passage of time.

The drinks were always set in her claustrophobic galley kitchen. To force intimacy. The food—what little there was—WASPs hate feeding people—set atop the piano in the center of her massive loft. The poor young artists hovering while it lasted. The music just loud enough to soften silences, but too muted to ...

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Reviews

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In Xochitl Gonzalez's second novel, Anita de Monte Laughs Last, readers are in for another thrilling ride. Again, the author delivers a satisfying, propulsive story as she relates the sometimes-parallel experiences faced by two Latina women who, a decade apart, must each navigate elitist, alien environments. As her characters confront the mores and expectations of the New York art world and Ivy League academia, Gonzalez points a high beam into the shadows to locate the traps of race, gender and class that undercut her main characters at every turn. In so doing, she once again deftly incorporates into her fiction the piercing social critique that readers have come to admire...continued

Full Review Members Only (766 words)

(Reviewed by Danielle McClellan).

Media Reviews

BookPage (starred review)
Part campus novel, part ghost story, Xochitl Gonzalez's second novel fearlessly takes on racism and misogyny in the rarefied world of fine art and art history...Anita de Monte Laughs Last boldly questions the choices behind what we are taught and demands that the complete story be disclosed.

The Washington Post
Anita de Monte Laughs Last is a cry for justice. Writing with urgency and rage, Gonzalez speaks up for those who have been othered and deemed unworthy, robbed of their legacy.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
An uncompromising message, delivered via a gripping story with two engaging heroines.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Gonzalez crafts excoriating and whip-smart commentary on the art world's Eurocentric conceptions of beauty and the racism faced by first-generation students of color. This is incandescent.

Author Blurb Ana Castillo, author of So Far From God
Bravo! A remarkable story about reclaiming what has been erased. Reader, enjoy!

Author Blurb Reese Witherspoon
Anita De Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez asks some big questions, like who in art or history is remembered, who is left behind or erased and WHY. I have goosebumps just talking about this story.

Author Blurb Robert Jones, Jr., author of The Prophets, a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction
Funny, piercing, and full of moxie, Anita de Monte Laughs Last is unsparing in its assessment of what goes on behind the castle walls, the price people pay to be accepted into those hallowed halls, and what it takes to liberate oneself from the dangers that lurk within. Really, what Xochitl Gonzalez has written is an affirmation for anyone who's ever had to 'work twice as hard to get half as much.' Anita de Monte Laughs Last is rollicking, melodic, tender, and true. And oh so very wise.

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Beyond the Book

Artist Ana Mendieta

Exhibition cover for Ana Mendieta exhibitionThe title character in Xochitl Gonzalez's Anita de Monte Laughs Last is closely based on the artist Ana Mendieta. Although Mendieta's shocking death at the age of thirty-five has overshadowed her artistic legacy in the public imagination, Mendieta was a rising star at the time of her death, and her creative work continues to hold relevance today.

Born in Cuba in 1940, Ana Mendieta was the second of Ignacio and Raquel Mendieta's three children. In 1952, Ana, age 12, and her sister Raquelin, 14, were sent to America as part of a program known as the Peter Pan Project. In the years immediately following the Cuban Revolution, Cuban children were sent alone to America by parents panicked over erroneous reports that the new Castro ...

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