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What I love so much about this book — the trick of it — is that Widow Basquiat is not only about Jean-Michel. It's also about Suzanne Mallouk's experience of Jean-Michel. In working with Clement, she refuses to spin the requisite mythology and reclaims ownership of at least one part of the Basquiat narrative: her own. And by committing Mallouk's story to paper, Clement sets the stage for Suzanne to be seen and understood as a subject in her own right, an artist digesting another artist, not simply another object of Jean Michel's constant craving. Seen through this lens, Widow Basquiat can be read as a powerful female coming of age story.

In the so-called "memoir," Mallouk is watching Basquiat, yes — and we see him grasp the nettle and release it because he cannot stand the pain, we see him die by his own hand in a battle he thought he could win. We see Mallouk seeing him, but we also see her seeing herself. He loves her, he hates her; he trusts her, he blames her for his pain. He is loyal, he sleeps around; he gives her expensive gifts and then demands them back. But all of this comes from the perspective not of a worshipful acolyte, a writer looking to paint a portrait of a famous man, but of a young woman looking back at a great affair — facing the choices she made to love, to stay, to understand, to grow and, ultimately, to walk away.

Widow Basquiat is a portrait of two artists. Mallouk is one of them, and here Basquiat is her endlessly enigmatic muse. It's a harrowing, beautifully told love story about two seekers colliding in a pivotal moment in history, and setting everything, including themselves, on fire.

Rebecca Walker is the author of Ad: A Love Story.

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