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Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez
Contemporary fiction

Anita de Monte Laughs Last

Repeat author

Xochitl Gonzalez is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include Olga Dies Dreaming.

by Xochitl Gonzalez

Excellent choice

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Quick take

From campus to galleries, this engrossing tale of two female artists paints a complex portrait of power and privilege.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_80s

    80s

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Nyc

    NYC

Synopsis

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.

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Content warning

This book contains scenes that depict domestic violence.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Anita de Monte Laughs Last.
Anita de Monte Laughs Last

Anita

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 inspire true revelry. Over the years, Philip Glass was replaced with Sun Ra. The “hot new” artists aging into establishment figures or disappearing altogether; replaced by other, younger faces. All the big museum people were always invited, naturally. Tilly enjoyed the thirst shared between those two groups in particular: the haves dangling their opportunities tantalizingly before the have-nots. It created a great “friction in the room,” she’d remarked once. After years where I was the only brown speck in attendance, lately there’d been a noted effort to populate the guest list with more “Third World Artists.” This sudden concern for diversity coinciding with the Met hiring their first Black senior curator. I’m not being cynical, just honest; it would be embarrassing to invite Rory to a party and have her see only white people there. But, outside of that, in all the years of these fetes, very little had changed.

Except, I suppose, for me.

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Why I love it

I’m a complete foreigner to the art world, which initially made me intimidated to pick up Anita de Monte Laughs Last. But I quickly discovered I was in amazing hands. Xochitl Gonzalez, whose debut Olga Dies Dreaming was also a Book of the Month selection, guides readers through the complex world of fine art with ease.

Our window into the art world is Raquel—an Art History student who is an outsider herself. A student of color at an Ivy League school in 1998, she’s surrounded by the privileged (read: the wealthy and white) and works twice as hard to get half as far as the well-connected student body around her. After she starts a relationship with one of these very students, though, she finds herself presented with previously unimaginable opportunities. While rising through the ranks, Raquel discovers Anita de Monte, a fresh new talent in the art world until her untimely death in 1985. As Raquel learns more about Anita and the context of her death, she realizes that in many ways their stories mirror each other.

Anita de Monte Laughs Last is a layered story about the power of legacy and culture and keeps you turning pages with its sharp and emotional writing. I fell in love with Raquel and Anita, strong female characters who relentlessly fight for themselves and what they love. This is a story that will leave you haunted.

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Member ratings (1,946)

  • gretchen w.

    Philadelphia, PA

    Oh! My! Goodness! Incredible parallel stories of two women finding their voices and throwing off the bindings that tie them down. I thought “Olga Dies Dreaming” was incredible. “Anita…” is even better

  • Kyle Q.

    Indianapolis, IN

    “Anita de Monte Laughs Last” is a triumphant read that reminds you your legacy isn’t who remembers you, but how they remember you. Anita and Raquel’s impact will be felt for years thanks to this book!

  • Melissa B.

    Lowell, MA

    Art, love, and heartbreak. I loved reading about the lives of Raquel and Anita and how their stories connected to one another. Both women proved to be clever, strong, and beautiful ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Susana D.

    Mentone, CA

    Amazing book that resonated with me on a personal level. Anita’s story is based on artist Ana Mendieta. Raquel’s POV as a first generation Latina navigating college life in the 90s hit close to home.

  • carlee w.

    Williamsport, PA

    Few books have ever made me grab a highlighter. I highlighted many quotes throughout this novel. Being in a minority community, albeit not Latina, has glued me to Gonzalez’s words. Universal feelings.

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