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When My Brother Was an Aztec Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Devouring her words with the eyes is no less delicious.
This collection is an explosion of color and fruit juice.
It's a feast you'll want over and over in all ways, always.
Drawing on Aztec imagery, Diaz is able to captivate her audience with the personal struggles her family, and her brother faced in the titular poem. Envisioning her brother as the Aztec god Huizilopochtli, a “half-man half-hummingbird” while her parents repeatedly sacrifice themselves to his drug addiction, painting a hellish picture and the cost of drug addiction. Such lines as, “They fed him crushed diamonds and fire. He gobbled the gifts. My parents / begged him to pluck their eyes out” showcases the troubling plight of enabling addiction and gives you just a taste of some of the amazing imagery in store for you. Poems such as: “How to Go to Dinner with a Brother on Drugs”, “My Brother at 3 A.M.”, “Downhill Triolets” also examine Diaz’s relationship with her brother, her family, addiction and spirituality as well in the process.
While most of the poems in this collection are quite serious and tackle harsh realities, Diaz also delves into her more humorous and lighter side with such poems as: “The Gospel of Guy No-Horse” and “The Last Mojave Indian Barbie”. The latter showcasing some of her more fantastical imagery while also taking on a more prose like form. It imagines what a Mojave Barbie would be like in the plastic Dream House world with Ken and Skipper, and all the trouble she would get into. “The Last Mojave Indian Barbie” was one of my favorite poems in this collection for its humor, and its ability to illuminate and make fun of stereotypes.
The imagery in this collection is definitely one of its greatest strengths. Yes, there are a lot of dark poems in this collection, but they are well crafted and filled with beautiful imagery. This darker imagery might turn some away, but it is pertinent and justified in getting Diaz’s themes of family and identity across. The collection is not without its flaws though as, When My Brother Was an Aztec accessibility is entirely dependent on the level of the readership and their investment in the work. Diaz makes use of three different languages in her poetry, with Mojave, Spanish and English respectively being those languages. I believe this as strength for her writing style, I also believe that more casual audiences will be turned off by the perceived difficulty in translating languages they might be unfamiliar with. It is not written for a younger audience, or a casual audience, and that is perfectly okay. It is mainly written for her own self as a way of dealing with those struggles she was presented with at that moment in time. I believe that poetry lovers that are willing to invest their time will come out rewarded with a different perspective than what is typically found in the canon of American poetry.
I believe that Natalie Diaz’s work is fantastic and When My Brother Was an Aztec is a great start to her career as a poet. Readers who are seeking diversity from the common canon of writers and or the perspective of a Native American poet would be wise to read Natalie Diaz’s work. Overall, When My Brother Was an Aztec marks a high-level debut for a new poet, who can utilize the Mojave and Spanish languages succinctly with English to create intense imagery that captivates.
ABECEDARIAN REQUIRING FURTHER EXAMINATION OF ANGLIKAN SERAPHYM SUBJUGATION OF A WILD INDIAN REZERVATION
Angel's don't come to the reservation.
Bats, maybe, or owls, boxy mottled things.
Coyotes, too. They all mean the same thing -
death. And death
eats angels, I guess, because I haven't seen an angel
fly trough this valley ever.
Gabriel? Never heard of him. Know a Gabe though -
he came through here one powwow and stayed, typical
Indian. Sure he had wings,
jailbird that he was. He flies around In stolen cars. Wherever he stops,
kids grow like gourds from women's bellies.
Like I said, no Indian I've ever heard of has ever been or seen an angel.
Maybe in a Christmas pageant or something -
Nazarene church holds one every December,
organized by Pastor John's wife. It's no wonder
Pastor John's son is the angel - everybody knows angels are white.
Quit bothering with angels, I say. They're no good for Indians.
Remember what happened last some white god came floating across the ocean?
Truth is, there may be angels, but if there are angels
up there, living on clouds or sitting on thrones across the sea wearing
velvet robes and golden rings, drinking whiskey form silver cups,
we're better off if they stay rich and fat and ugly and
`zactly where they are - in their own distant heavens.
You better nope you never see angels on the rez. If you do, they'll be
marching you off to
Zion or Oklahoma, or some other hell they've mapped out for us.
The title of this collection suggests that we are going to hear a lot about Diaz' brother, and we do. A fragment of a longer poem follows:
3. aka delusional parasitosis
Dope is what my dad calls it. He never says meth.
And the dope always has my brother. It's that dope,
my dad sighs, that dope's got him.
My dad once took us to the railroad tracks,
gave each of his nine kids a penny to set on the rusted rails.
My brother wanted a dollar, not a penny.
Because it's hard to turn a firstborn son away, he got it,
shoved it down into his pocket, walked away from us.
We placed our pennies along the rails he balanced on,
his heels squeaked against the metal, arm stretched
out on each side. I knew that he'd do it. He'd crucify himself
one day, just like that day - arms nailed to a horizon of salt cedars,
date palms, the purple mountains behind him sharp as needles.
These two samples, seductive though they are, represent only a glimpse at the wealth of philosophy and poetry and social comment that lies within. Natalie Diaz is a poet to heed, to read, to remember, to follow. Brilliant! Grady Harp, July 12