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When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz
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When My Brother Was an Aztec

by Natalie Diaz

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Showing 5 of 5
This was terrific. I don't read poetry with the same kind of critical filter that I do prose, but I really appreciate when a poem or collection knocks me sideways, and this one did. Compelling work about the Native American experience, addiction, love, and loss, with wonderful use of language and imagery. This was a library book but I'm tempted to buy a copy so I can go back to the well, because a lot of this was just brilliant. ( )
1 vote lisapeet | Feb 8, 2019 |
Heartbreaking and heartrending and utterly, utterly compelling. So smart, so referential, so filled with metaphors that perfectly describe pain and longing and regret and wishes and sadness and loss ... and beauty and lust and love. Some poems I particularly enjoyed or found moving: "Why I Hate Raisins," "Tortilla Smoke: A Genesis," "The Facts of Art," "Prayers or Oubliettes," "I Watch Her Eat the Apple."

Tremendous book. I wish there were more Natalie Díaz books out there for me to read. ( )
  SuziSteffen | Feb 20, 2018 |
Really wonderful first book of poems, including a series centered on life on the Mojave Reservation in Arizona, and a series about the poet's brother's meth addiction and its effects on her family. That second series is pretty heartbreaking. I was interested in the intersections between Native and Chicano identities in the book. In fact, I had assumed from a single poem and the author's name that the poet was Chicana, only to be surprised that she identifies as Native. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
I love how honest this book is with regards to being in a family where there is addiction. She writes her poetry with a raw, blunt edge. Some of the poems are hilarious, in spite of the serious themes. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, one of the best collections of poetry I've ever read. ( )
  RaincloudPress | Jul 15, 2014 |
When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz, published by Copper Canyon Press and ordered for me by my local bookstore Novel Places, is a culture clash of Native Americans integrating into mainstream society and the struggles the children of these family have reconciling their home lives with the differences they find at school and among their new childhood friends and society. The narrator battles with her mother about why she cannot have a sandwich like the white kids rather than raisins, and insinuates that she’d rather be like the white kids. By the same token, the narrator experiences first hand the bullying of the white kids in her neighborhood because of her ethnicity — a dichotomy that resurfaces throughout the collection.

“The Red Blues” (page 11-13) is a creative look at a young girl’s blossoming into womanhood, getting down to the gritty reality of menstruation.

Read the full review: http://savvyverseandwit.com/2012/08/when-my-brother-was-an-aztec-by-natalie-diaz... ( )
  sagustocox | Aug 15, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 155659383X, Paperback)

"I write hungry sentences," Natalie Diaz once explained in an interview, "because they want more and more lyricism and imagery to satisfy them." This debut collection is a fast-paced tour of Mojave life and family narrative: A sister fights for or against a brother on meth, and everyone from Antigone, Houdini, Huitzilopochtli, and Jesus is invoked and invited to hash it out. These darkly humorous poems illuminate far corners of the heart, revealing teeth, tails, and more than a few dreams.

I watched a lion eat a man like a piece of fruit, peel tendons from fascia
like pith from rind, then lick the sweet meat from its hard core of bones.
The man had earned this feast and his own deliciousness by ringing a stick
against the lion's cage, calling out Here, Kitty Kitty, Meow!

With one swipe of a paw much like a catcher's mitt with fangs, the lion
pulled the man into the cage, rattling his skeleton against the metal bars.

The lion didn't want to do it—
He didn't want to eat the man like a piece of fruit and he told the crowd
this: I only wanted some goddamn sleep . . .

Natalie Diaz was born and raised on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation in Needles, California. After playing professional basketball for four years in Europe and Asia, Diaz returned to the states to complete her MFA at Old Dominion University. She lives in Surprise, Arizona, and is working to preserve the Mojave language.


(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:50 -0400)

"In When My Brother Was An Aztec, Natalie Diaz examines memory's role in human identity. Each section filters memory through specific individuals and settings. The first concentrates on a diabetic grandmother without legs and the landscape, tangible and intangible, of a Native American reservation. The second engages a brother's strife with drug-use and his unraveling of the family, the home. The third grapples with war as a character and its tattering of individuals, families, and communities. Bigotry against Native Americans is confronted throughout the collection, and the speaker's wrestling with identity is carefully woven into each poem. Faithfulness to and departure from tradition and culture are ever-present. Each poem is stitched into the reservation's landscape, while many consider Christian identity. Natalie Diaz experiments with form, from couplets to parts, lists to prose poems, and explores the terrain of poetic predecessors, yet strikes out into new territory, demonstrating her adventurous spirit."--Publisher's description.… (more)

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