cover image Bad Mexican, Bad American

Bad Mexican, Bad American

Jose Hernandez Diaz. Acre, $17 trade paper (82p) ISBN 978-1-946724-73-1

Hernandez Diaz’s reflective debut engages with themes of identity and cultural hybridity, interrogating the concept of self-awareness against the perceptions of others. Three of the collection’s four sections consist of prose poems that take the reader on surreal journeys through whimsical reflections. “Broken” tackles issues of language, cultural expectations, and familial dynamics as the speaker’s father urges him to abandon Spanish in favor of English: “My father tells me we need to stop speaking Spanish./ He says my Spanish is trash and we should focus on English./ He says a doctor told him the problem with my bipolar/ is due to the fact that English-only was not enforced in our home.” Hernandez Diaz skillfully portrays the conflict between preserving one’s cultural identity and conforming to societal norms. The prose poem “The Rebel” introduces a character, a misanthropic “man in a Mars Volta shirt” who skateboards and finds solace in creative activities but struggles with social connections: “They say when he stared women in the eyes, he was irresistible. Yet he was afraid of eye contact.” Revealing how past experiences, dreams, and personal interactions shape one’s sense of self, these varied poems resonate. (Mar.)