Wendy Trevino’s 'Cruel Fiction' Gives Us A Blunt Awakening
By Christina Miranda
Listening to continuous news updates on the current immigration debate or on discrimination against women is both frustrating and exhausting, but there is always the smallest hint of comfort in knowing that there will always be a constant push for social justice. There’s also the neverending question that lingers in the back of the mind: wondering when unorganized chaos will come to an end. There’s the overcast of uncertainty in how the rest of the world views another race, whether it be an openly racist opinion or the subtle microaggressions that most don’t even realize they are guilty of. In Wendy Trevino’s poetry collection, Cruel Fiction, frustration, discomfort, rage, and the smallest flares of hope are condensed into three powerful sections, observing social justice, pop culture, and Latinx feminism.
Trevino opens her collection with “From Santa Rita 128-131.” The reader is immediately dropped into a prison facility during the Occupy Movement. Within multiple holding tanks, senses are heightened under 47 hours of fluorescent lights. Stark images of women being reduced to survival instincts such as holding each other for warmth and comfort, and the word “‘OCCUPY’ scratched into the wall of a tank.” Trevino shows these women in a vulnerable state forced upon them by law enforcement.
Throughout the poem, images flash through the narrative of inhumane treatment and harassment such as their fear of being laughed at by the “pigs” on the other side of the cage. The irony of the situation pulls through when the women are treated like animals by the “pigs” themselves, mirroring the anger reflected in most news stories on law enforcement brutality that appear almost on a daily basis. At the same time, there’s unity among women, even in the most hostile of situations. One line that perfectly encapsulates this theme is: “I heard 1 woman sing, ‘One big room/full of bad bitches.’” Trevino forces the reader to look at horrifying images far from fiction to get them to view women as more than just yoga teachers and students, solidifying the connection between them in fighting for a similar cause.
Other pieces that stand out across the collection are “19. For Chinga La Migra,” and “25.” In “For Chinga La Migra,” the psychological brutality that people face while crossing the border is clearly laid out within a short poem. It opens with the question, “If a woman illegally crossing/The US-Mexico border can sing/The Border Patrol agent’s favorite/ Selena song, will he still detain her?” The toying with a woman’s fate by those in power creates a heavy sickness and leaves the image burned in the reader’s memory going deeper into the collection.
“25.” strikes a chord, especially as Trevino relives her time studying poetry and the image of a stereotyped “Mexican woman” projected onto her by her poetry professor. Her situation echoes comparable situations that Latinx scholars face in higher education on a daily basis. She also recreates the memory of her mother’s insult in being called a feminist. In placing the memory towards the end of the poem it seems almost an afterthought, similar to the hesitation some women women of color feel in calling themselves feminists due to their experiences of exclusion from progressive organizations. As a result, Trevino highlights every aggressor’s image and their flaws, in every form, from law enforcement to education.
Cruel Fiction is blunt and unforgiving. Wendy Trevino’s is the kind of work we need right now, calling out oppressive members of society and colonial structures of education and culture. Her evocative anger balances the hopeful gleams of female empowerment and brings poetry properly up to date with its people.