cover image Anita de Monte Laughs Last

Anita de Monte Laughs Last

Xochitl Gonzalez. Flatiron, $28.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-78621-0

Gonzalez (Olga Dies Dreaming) takes inspiration from the mysterious 1985 death of Cuban American artist Ana Mendieta for this astute account of an art history student who researches the circumstances of a similar tragedy. Award winning Cuban artist Anita de Monte, who is married to successful minimalist artist Jack Martin (a stand in for the sculptor Carl Andre), mysteriously plummets to her death from the window of their 33rd-floor apartment in New York City. Gonzalez then jumps to 1998, when third-year Brown University art history student Raquel Toro is on the brink of starting her senior thesis on Martin. Raquel begins a coveted summer internship with Belinda Kim, an acclaimed Asian American feminist curator opposed to the “art for art’s sake” philosophy trumpeted by Raquel’s white thesis adviser. Under Kim’s tutelage, Raquel learns of de Monte’s mysterious death, propelling her research on Martin in an unexpected direction. Her own life begins to resemble de Monte’s when she falls for a Brown classmate, a wealthy white up-and-coming artist with ties to the New York art world. Just as de Monte played second fiddle to Martin during their marriage, Raquel’s boyfriend downplays her research, and both relationships fray due to the men’s deceitful and manipulative behavior. In addition to the intrigue generated by Raquel’s search for answers about de Monte’s death, 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. Agent: Mollie Glick, CAA. (Mar.)