Latina and Mojave American Poet Natalie Diaz Wins Pulitzer Prize

Natalie Diaz Pulitzer BELatina Latinx
Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Natalie Diaz’s list of accolades seems to go on and on. The Latina and Mojave American professor and poet has become the first Latina to win the Pulitzer Prize for her second book of poetry, Postcolonial Love Poem.

“I was very emotional with this award, and I think part of it is because when I set out to put the book together, I knew I wanted to be at stake,” Diaz told The Arizona Republic after the prizes were announced. 

“And when I say that, I mean, I knew that I knew that I wanted my body, the places I’ve come from, the people I come from, to be of consequence to the world and to kind of bring our perspectives and conversations to bear in our larger national conversations.”

Born in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, Natalie Diaz is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community.

She attended Old Dominion University, where she played point guard on the women’s basketball team, reaching the NCAA Final Four as a freshman, and the Sweet Sixteen picture her other six years.

After playing professional basketball in Europe and Asia, she returned to her alma mater to complete a master’s degree in poetry and fiction in 2006.

Diaz is also the author of When My Brother Was an Aztec (2012), which New York Times critic Eric McHenry described as an “ambitious and beautiful” book. She is the recipient of the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Award for Poetry, the Louis Untermeyer Fellowship in Poetry from Bread Loaf, the Narrative Poetry Prize, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship.

In 2018, Días received a MacArthur “genius” fellowship. Her latest collection of poems, Postcolonial Love Poem, is considered a landmark in American literature, where the author intertwines her identities as an Indigenous and Latina woman with the injustices experienced by racialized communities in the U.S.

Postcolonial Love Poem focuses on the colonial violence faced by Native Americans but also navigates desire, pleasure, and the Native experience.

As The Arizona Republic explained, Diaz has used her identity throughout her career to shed light on the tragedies and triumphs of her people.

“The word I use often is the book to me feels like a constellation,” Diaz said. “It’s able to pool a lot of different communities together. I, of course, have an Indigenous lens, but yet I think that Indigenous lens is extremely important to non-Indigenous peoples. We’re all fighting for our water. We’re all fighting for this Earth, for one another against injustice.”