In this debut collection, a poet investigates the "cruel fiction" of borders—between nations, races, genders, and other identity markers—and what it means to engage in politics and social activism at a particularly fraught moment in U.S. history.
There’s nothing flashy or exciting about the language. It’s simple and mundane, not trying to get in the way of itself. She’s not trying to entertain or manipulate the reader. She just wants to tell you what she remembers. It’s mostly horrific...at times tender...at times exciting...and occasionally funny ... she emphasizes the dailiness and almost ordinariness of anti-fascist action here ... It can be exciting but it’s not exceptional and that’s not a bad thing. We do it every day. We’ll keep doing it ... I think it’s intelligent and effective that Cruel Fiction, a book that aims to speak to leftist activists who come from differing backgrounds, talks about popular culture. It’s common ground ... The poems in Cruel Fiction have me asking questions. Sometimes they’re complex. Sometimes they’re simple. Sometimes they’re sad. Sometimes they’re funny. What connects them all is that they encourage me, and me as an activists and not necessarily as a poet, to question the cruel fiction of a government that insists on basing itself on hierarchical thinking and exploitation. Trevino’s new book helps leftist activists explore the context for our rage so our rage doesn’t destroy us, but helps us fight back.
Trevino’s new collection of poems...is not a sentimental celebration of abstract unity, nor a daydream about an undefined different world lurking within our own. Rather, it’s the expression of hope for concrete social movements through which the specifics of a different world could be imagined ... The declarative, documentary style of the lines helps Trevino avoid the kind of overly poeticized hubris that finds a transcendently human commonality between all the incarcerated; instead, the relations— though full of potential for future comradeship—are for now situational, tactile and borne of shared captivity ... It might seem like Trevino is pulling together these strands to make a sweeping critique of life under capitalism, and to some extent she is, but the anecdotes are so unreservedly autobiographic, the diction is so colloquial and the arguments with other thinkers are so particular that the poems remain grounded; even at their most polemical, they are not generalizing. Trevino is not launching another critique of ideology, nor an analysis of structures of feeling: she’s attempting to write through what those structures of feeling actually feel like.
Trevino powerfully argues that 'poetry is not enough' in a sharp debut that recognizes the limits of art as a political antagonist ... Trevino’s work goes beyond mere sloganeering; for her, poetry is inseparable from the world in which it’s made: 'I can see why/ People have compared it to dance, but have you ever/ Danced in the streets? It’s better not to do it by yourself.'