Natalie Diaz’s debut collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, foregrounds the particularities of family dynamics and individual passion against the backdrop of the mythological intensity of tribal life and a deeply rooted cultural history. In these distinctively voiced poems, a sister struggles with a brother’s addiction to meth, while everyone, from Antigone and Houdini to Huitzilopochtli and Jesus, is invited to hash it out. By turns darkly humorous and sensual, Diaz’s poems gather imagery and language as readily as they illuminate the intimate and engage the communal. Whether Diaz tells of a son stealing the family’s lightbulbs, a father pushing his Sisyphean heart to jail to post bail yet again, or a woman inhabiting the embrace of her lover, When My Brother Was an Aztec marks an exciting poetic debut.
“This debut collection is a fast-paced tour of Mojave life. In darkly humorous poems, Diaz illuminates far corners of the heart.” —Publishers Weekly
“In her first collection… Natalie Diaz writes with heartfelt grandeur—and occasional needling wit.” —Library Journal
“When My Brother Was an Aztec reads with an undoubtedly earnest voice and illustrates Diaz’s capacity for language and metaphor, while still heeding her personal experience.” —Coldfront