FROM THE WINNER OF THE 2021 PULITZER PRIZE IN POETRY
When My Brother Was an Aztec is a work of courage and invention – one that foregrounds the particularities of family dynamics and individual passion against the backdrop of Western mythologies and a deeply rooted cultural history. Natalie Diaz’s arresting debut explores a brother’s addiction and its devastating effects on a household, while offering a political critique of our nations and their pasts. It acknowledges absences and uncomfortable silences, as well as conjuring vivid voices and presences, from Antigone and Houdini to Huitzilopochtli and Jesus.
Stolen cowboy boots, violins on fire; a mariachi band playing in the bathroom, a black bayonet carried between the shoulder blades; the beauty of busted fruit, the sight of hellish visions – Diaz both revels and reveals through her distinctive use of language and imagery, bringing to life every intimate and communal encounter, blooming abundance from scarcity. The result is a wrenching portrayal of sacrifice, want, despair and fortitude that feels truly transformative.