Books distributed by the Chicago Distribution Center

82 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2024

ISBN (pbk): 978-1-946724-73-1

ISBN (ebook): 978-1-946724-74-8

Published March 2024

Bad Mexican, Bad American


Jose Hernandez Diaz

In Bad Mexican, Bad American, the minimalist, working-class aesthetic of a “disadvantaged Brown kid” takes wing in prose poems that recall and celebrate that form’s ties to Surrealism. With influences like Alberto Ríos and Ray Gonzalez on one hand, and James Tate and Charles Baudelaire on the other, the collection spectacularly combines “high” art and folk art in a way that collapses those distinctions, as in the poem “My Date with Frida Kahlo”: “Frida and I had Cuban coffee and then vegetarian tacos. We sipped on mescal and black tea. At the end of the night, following an awkward silence during a conversation on Cubism, we kissed for about thirty minutes beneath a protest mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros.”

Bad Mexican, Bad American demonstrates how having roots in more than one culture can be both unsettling and rich: van Gogh and Beethoven share the page with tattoos, graffiti, and rancheras; Quetzalcoatl shows up at Panda Express; a Mexican American child who has never had a Mexican American teacher may become that teacher; a parent’s “broken” English is beautiful and masterful. Blending reality with dream and humility with hope, Hernandez Diaz contributes a singing strand to the complex cultural weave that is twenty-first-century poetry.

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About the Author

Jose Hernandez Diaz is the author of The Fire Eater and the forthcoming book The Parachutist. A 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow, he has had work appear in American Poetry Review, Border Crossing, Cincinnati Review, Circulo de Poesia, the Hooghly Review, Huizache, Iowa Review, the London Magazine, Missouri Review, the Moth, the Nation, Poetry, Poetry Wales, the Progressive, Southern Review, TriQuarterly, Witness, Yale Review, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He teaches generative workshops for Hugo House, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, The Writer’s Center, and elsewhere. He serves as a poetry mentor in the Adroit Journal’s Summer Mentorship Program. He lives in Norwalk, California.


Photo Credit: Veronica Navarro

Praise for Bad Mexican, Bad American

It is not easy to take a slice of the human soul and unroll it like wallpaper, so that readers might engage with the duality of experience lived as Mexican and American. The simulcast of the poems within Bad Mexican, Bad American present the complex dynamic of this dual identity as easily as the morning sun rises, caresses the sky, then transits to its daily, twilight retreat.
New York Journal of Books

Hernandez Diaz’s reflective debut engages with themes of identity and cultural hybridity, interrogating the concept of self-awareness against the perceptions of others. . . Revealing how past experiences, dreams, and personal interactions shape one’s sense of self, these varied poems resonate.
Publishers Weekly

“The publication of Jose Hernandez Diaz’s first full collection of poems is cause for celebration. He is a gifted poet always ready to delight with outstanding song and poetry. Bad Mexican, Bad American is the best book I’ve read in a long time from a young poet who holds no punches. Hernandez Diaz’s inspiration comes from daily life, from family, from a rich cultural tradition that make every every poem in this collection shine with great empathy and humanity. I love how much the poet respects the sacrifices his parents made. I hear the plight of a young artist moving the reader with powerful and well-crafted poems. I am proud to call Hernandez Diaz one of the best poets of his generation, and certainly a poet who walks daily with Lorca’s Duende and we are given the gift of his very best in this collection.
Virgil Suárez, author of Amerikan Cheronobyl and The Painted Bunting’s Last Molt

“In Jose Hernandez Diaz’s Bad Mexican, Bad American, the prose poem reigns, along with the jackal tattoo, the Rage Against the Machine T-shirt worn to a job interview, and graffiti painted by ‘first-gen guys from the neighborhood growing up like me, between cultures, between poverty and wealth’ guys with names like Gato, like Chaos. The poems arise from the kingdom of the grand in-between, this ‘library of forgotten saints on the other side of heaven,’ this location of ‘broken languages’ that sound like a Neruda poem, like prayer, of ‘broken people’ who transform into surrealists, insomniacs, magicians, ghosts, and poets. These are poems of mystery and charm, in which a rooster tattoo on a shoulder in L.A. unfolds into a dream about a rooster in the family’s rancho back in Mexico—icon, dream, and memory in an everlasting blood tie—and ‘a man in a Chicano Batman shirt [rides] a lowrider bicycle on the ocean waves,’ neither Jesus nor demon, hologram nor myth, good Mexican nor good American, but like this exhilarative collection, a literal miracle.”
—Diane Seuss, author of Modern Poetry and frank: sonnets

“Jose Hernandez Diaz has written a new place into existence. It is disorienting, jarring, fantastical, nonsensical, and mesmerizing. . . . I found myself immersed in a place where I could send my lover flowers from the grave, where I could talk to a man with a lizard head or Quetzalcoatl at Panda Express, or listen to a skeleton in a sombrero playing guitar. I was completely absorbed and loving my new surroundings. What a delight to read this collection, to experience this strange new voice. What a singular city Jose Hernandez Diaz has invited us to visit. This a rewarding and must-read debut.”
—Rodney Gomez, author of Arsenal with Praise Song

[I]f you don’t want a collection of poetry that grabs and transports you, effectively [and] creatively straddles time and place, and unapologetically but inventively confronts you with questions that artfully speak to issues of race, class, and identity, then skip Jose Hernandez Diaz’s Bad Mexican, Bad American. If, however, you welcome such a challenge and a literary treat, then pick up this revelation of a book. You won’t regret it.
The Adroit Journal

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