Juan Alvarado Valdivia is a Peruvian American writer who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and raised in Fremont, CA. He is the author of ¡Cancerlandia!: A Memoir, which is a 2016 International Latino Book Award Finalist for Best Biography in English. He received his MFA in creative writing from Saint Mary’s College of California. He has been awarded residencies at the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts and The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. For stories, interviews, and more, check out his website.
If someone said I want to do what do you do, what advice would you have for them?
Inside I’d want to laugh thinking, you don’t want this. It’s like a fucking malady. But then I would probably tell them to go for it and shout something like, “YOLO, yo!”
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
In some ways I do and in some ways I don’t.
When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
Oh, man, I basically have a YouTube playlist that can serve this purpose. There’s so many clips and bits that spring to mind, but I’ll go with this video of the brilliant Rémi Galliard doing urban gymnastics. There’s a lot going on in this video. The music itself usually puts me in a wacky-good mood. The wig. The hand powder. Rémi’s antics remind me that, right, This Is All Bullshit, so why not play?
Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?
I admired Encyclopedia Brown, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Def Leppard. When I was a kiddo, I wanted to be either an anthropologist, detective or zoo veterinarian. What’s not so crazy is that—sans the zoo veterinarian (because zoos depress me now)—I think I could have been engaged and relatively content being either an historical detective or present-day sleuth. Now that I’m older, I can see that we can be astoundingly in tune with ourselves when we’re kids. Becoming an adult is what fucks some of us up. Other peoples’ dreams muck up the ones we have imbedded within us.
Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn’t have to be ideal.
I see myself surrounded by towering, nourishing redwoods and douglas firs. I see baths in a river with a bunch of animal friends—squirrels, raccoons, river otters, beavers and some cuddly bears—and we’d share the same bar of soap. Every day for shower time I’d croon Van Halen’s “Jump” and my forest homies would join in for the chorus. In the mornings, there’d be communal nut gatherings with the squirrels. At night, beneath a twinkly blanket of stars I would fry up some cans of chili which would give me explosive gas but I could let it rip because my forest friends would be off dozing and I’d be by myself. Fuck yeah.
Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.
I probably would for free milk or beer. There’d have to be a lot of wiggling. And yo-yo tricks. (This is make-pretend, right?)
What’s wrong with society today?
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
I’d like to see an atheist midget hermaphrodite elected as U.S. President. Now that would be progress. And I’d like to see the human population plummet due to surprisingly sophisticated and affordable sex robots. That would be a hoot.
When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?
When I finish, I like to say, “There ya go!”
What are you working on right now?
What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?
I’ve always admired generalists a little more than specialists. And so, I’ve admired writers and artists who could produce stellar work in multiple genres or mediums. So for writing, before I kick the can, I’d like to be competent in a few genres and styles of writing. I’d also like to direct a documentary film someday.
If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?
I would round up and ship off boatloads of supposedly progressive folks who are unaware of their social privilege within this country. The Bay Area is crawling with them. And they reek in my book.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?
A stadium full of people watching a monkey ride a dog whilst dressed in a cowboy outfit via a Jumbotron. Sometimes you have to marvel at human evolution! (We’ve come a long way.)
What are some of your favorite smells?
I love the scents wafting from donut shops. And taquerias. And freshly made waffle cones. It smells like victory.
If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?
Easy: I’d travel the world for a year. Since Andre the Giant isn’t around (rest in peace, big guy), I’d want Olympic weight-lifter David Katoatau to accompany me as a bodyguard and fellow troublemaker ambassador.