Home » Newpages Blog » Book Review :: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Book Review :: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Review by Kevin Brown

Xochitl Gonzalez’s second novel, Anita de Monte Laughs Last, tells two parallel stories about women in the art world. The titular Anita de Monte is a Latina artist on the rise in the middle of the 1980s, but she’s married to Jack Martin, a well-established, minimalist artist known as much for his affairs as his art. Raquel Toro is a college student at Brown University in the late 1990s, just beginning work on her undergraduate thesis, which will focus on Jack Martin. Her experience as a Latina in a white-dominated university and department has led to her alienation, both from those around her and from her culture and background.

Anita disappears from art history after her death until Raquel, with guidance from Belinda—the director of the Rhode Island School of Design’s gallery, as well as another woman of color—rediscovers Anita’s work, as well as more details about her death. Raquel’s life had already begun to mirror Anita’s, as she begins dating Nick, a graduating senior with a promising art career before him, though it’s driven more by connections than talent. Though Nick is not a mirror for Jack, he is an echo, a reminder of the men who have tried to control female artists and the narrative of art history.

Raquel’s discovery of Anita de Monte not only resurrects Anita’s reputation, but also helps Raquel begin to discover who she is and who she can be. Through her two main characters, Gonzalez crafts realistic portrayals of the challenges women have and continue to face, along with the importance of role models as one means of pushing through those struggles.

Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez. Flatiron Books, March 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite

Spread the word!