Natalie Diaz’s book of poems, When My Brother Was an Aztec, is heavy with figurative devices that lend to a magical and sensual reading experience. Diaz’s collection bravely and mercilessly explores the trials of dealing with a brother dragged into dark depths by a crystal meth addiction. The text is additionally shot through with social and cultural meaning via the recurring motifs of poverty, reservation life, and Mojave identity and history. In its love poems, the book rises to brighter waters; yet the love poems maintain Diaz’s fearless and biting imagery found throughout. Diaz accomplishes vivid storytelling that isn’t merely intellectual entertainment. It is a visceral experience felt in the skin and a reminder of the power of words, when those words are chosen with precision, and the stories conveyed with imagination.
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