A world-bending, lyrically rich poetry collection that reimagines the U.S.-Mexico border as both a real place and a living simulation—and tells the story of a pair of siblings trapped between the two
“Word coyote Gabriel Dozal is crossing borders with this story. It’s his job: narrative poetry discovering a new language.”—Sandra Cisneros, author of Woman Without Shame
“This crosser is a possession that someone wants but we’re not sure who and the crosser must often possess themselves. In perpetuity”
In Gabriel Dozal’s debut collection, the U.S.-Mexico border is redefined as a place of invention; crossing it becomes a matter of simulation. The poems accompany Primitivo, who attempts to cross the border, an imaginary boundary that becomes more real and challenging as his journey progresses; and his sister, Primitiva, who lives an alternate, static life as an exploited migrant worker in la fabrica.
The tech world and bureaucracy collide, with humanity falling by the wayside, as Primitiva endures drudgery in la fabrica. “In the past our ID cards were decorative. Now we switch off with someone else, another worker who will wipe the serenade from our eyes.” With no way to escape the simulation, Primitivo and Primitiva must participate in it, scheming to gain its favor. To win, you must be the best performer in the factory, the best imitation of a citizen, the best machine.
Featuring a bilingual format for English and Spanish readers, The Border Simulator explores physical and metaphysical borders, as well as the digital divide of our modern era. With inventive imagery, spirited wordplay, and thrilling movement, these energetic poems oscillate between the harrowing and the joyful, interrogating, innovating, and ultimately redefining binaries and divisions.
About the Author
Gabriel Dozal is from El Paso, Texas. He received his MFA in poetry from the University of Arizona. His work appears in Poetry magazine, Guernica, Bomb Magazine, The Iowa Review, The Brooklyn Rail, The Literary Review, Hunger Mountain, The Volta, Contra Viento, and more.
“Word coyote Gabriel Dozal is crossing borders with this story. It’s his job: narrative poetry discovering a new language. We, the readers, are the customs agent. Will we let it cross? It’s the poet’s job to smuggle this story to us, to issue it papers, without us realizing it. ‘Language is expensive, / silence is expensive.’ In the end, Dozal’s poetry asks: Which side of the fence are you on?”—Sandra Cisneros, author of Woman Without Shame
“A new technology altogether—one that undoes the fabrication of the border so that we may see clearly all its violences & stories & teeth . . . Dozal’s poems are urgent/insurgent & will stick with me for a long time.”—José Olivarez, author of Promises of Gold
“This multilingual romp that Dozal and Tiniacos have given us is so smart and savvy in its multivalent, trailblazing, translational forms, so adept in its deadly playful linguistic experimentation, in its many genres of detainment. This book is a one-of-a-kind stunner.”—Daniel Borzutzky, National Book Award–winning author of The Performance of Becoming Human
“Brilliant, ambitious . . . This collection goes far beyond reimagining the U.S.-Mexico border and asks us to reckon with how technology simulates a border between insiders and outsiders, gamifying our distrust. . . . A wild Choose Your Own Adventure for the twenty-first century.”—Leigh Stein, author of What to Miss When
“Finally, an epic, capable of detecting the minutest spectral workings of border history in the making, stands before us. . . . A masterpiece of structurally interlocking new fables . . . It is a literary spectrometer of social possibilities. As Dozal puts it, ‘Where’s the pastfuture border?’”—Rodrigo Toscano, author of Explosion Rocks Springfield