Dear Reader

For The Lost Women in Art History

Xochitl Gonzalez on writing a book commemorating the stories of women in art history that are often forgotten.

Mar 5, 2024

Watch The Video

Early in the pandemic, when time and place seemed abstract concepts, a friend made a joke over text that triggered a memory. It was something about art and commerce, and I found myself suddenly transported back in time to the Art History lecture hall where I’d spent so much of my time in the ‘90s while an undergraduate at Brown University. I’d been obsessed with art history and packed my schedule with as many classes as I could, memorizing the impressionists and post-impressionists and abstract expressionists and minimalists. But, looking back, it stung fresh that in all that time, I’d hardly studied any women at all, and certainly, none with backgrounds like mine.

Embarrassing as it sounds, it wasn’t until my senior year that I realized people like me were making beautiful art at all. A friend gifted me a book on Caribbean art, and on those pages, I saw works I’d never encountered before in the classroom or a museum. That book included the work of Ana Mendieta, the Cuban-American artist whose life was tragically cut short in her prime. And, in the summer of 2020, I found myself thinking about her again, wondering how my time at Brown—and even my life—might have been different had I discovered her art legacy sooner.

I quickly sketched an outline for what would eventually become ANITA DE MONTE LAUGHS LAST weaving the life of Raquel, a college student navigating her first love and academic ambitions, with that of Anita, an artist whose life, like Mendieta’s, ends all too soon.

The book would, I thought back then, tackle the question of who, exactly, gets to have a legacy. But, when I sat down to write it, nearly two years later, the novel quickly became about so much more. Through the stories of these two women, I found myself considering questions about power—in institutions, yes, but also in the realm of love and relationships. Raquel and Anita’s stories forced me to consider questions of lineage and sisterhood and what it means to truly be remembered. And, of course, what it means to put art out into the world.

It might be surprising to hear then, after reading the above, that I didn’t set out to write such a personal novel. And yet, here we are: a little bit of me built into every woman I wrote into this book. I hope something about each of them resonates with you, and gets you thinking and feeling and also laughing, sometimes, too.

Join the Newsletter

Dive into the latest from Reese's Book Club

© 2024 Reese‘s Book Club LLC. All Rights Reserved.


Privacy Policy|Terms & Conditions|