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Willy Lizarraga



I was born and raised in the southernmost city of Peru and arrived in San Francisco as a teenager. Something big was lost in the transition. Something equally monumental was gained. There was a time when I thought I would never be able to write in any language but Spanish. Now I write mostly in English and can’t fathom living without Portuguese. You could say I've grown fond of belonging to as many sides of as many borders as I can, including the one dividing tragedy from comedy, probably because I like both to cry and laugh, mostly at my expense.



Willy Lizarraga

"La Más Chingona," New South Journal, Spring/Summer 2008

You know how it is when you start to write a story and you realize that you need to do some research, learn how to play the piano or skydive in order to get a grip on your subject? Well, when I began to think about writing a book about Alberto, I knew I couldn’t even write the first word without meeting Laronda. I also knew that once I met her, I would have no more excuses and would have to put it down on paper --my fellow pescaítos fritos wouldn’t let me off the hook. So I kept procrastinating until one day I got on BART at 16th Street and got off at downtown Oakland, which might as well be a foreign country since I hardly ever get out of the Mission anymore. My plan was to visit Ruben at...

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"Frida & Diego, or Among Musicians Only," ZYZZYVA, Winter 2010

The sound of a Safeway rolling down the empty streets of a sleeping city lost in the fog; a white silhouette pushing the cart with the urgency of a homeless bride in a hurry to get to her midnight wedding; the rattling of the cart drilling a hole into the heart of our collective memory; the floating wake of her white dress guiding us as we persisted in getting close to her, as close as one can get to an urban legend in the making, a myth soon to be rooted in the most inhospitable alleys and hours of the Mission —La Llorona, The Boogie Man’s Bride, Frida La Loca, a spooky, elusive specter condemned to push her cart full of brushes and paint cans in penance for our sins...

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"True Artists Only Have Impossible Loves," Arroyo Literary Journal, Spring 2012

By the time Anaisneris arrived in El Castillo, we had seen Alberto go through enough deaths and resurrections (all of them over sentimental matters) to be keenly aware of a manic self-destructive/ self-reinventing pattern that offered very little hope of ending in any other way but tragedy. There was really nothing new about Alberto and Anaisneris’ orgasmic upward trajectory and dysfunctional fall from grace. Yet we did notice something ominously stubborn (in a new way) in how he clung to her when she no longer wanted him, something perhaps too overtly masochistic (suicidal if you wish) about his determination to bring upon himself the maximum amount of pain. We couldn't blame...

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"Black and White Doesn't Mean Gray," Reed Magazine, Summer 2018

Back and forth. The ball. Bounce and rebound. Fast because it is against a wall and it’ll return everything you throw at it. It’ll defeat you no matter what, although it will always leave it up to you to decide when to walk away. I was at that point. Actually, I was past that point. My arm and wrist had already given up. I wasn’t going to quit, though. This girl at the other end of the wall had been at it when I arrived and was still going strong. I kept eyeing her. She wasn’t even sweating. She mixed up her shots with absolute control: forehands, backhands, serves, volleys, always hitting the wall at exactly the same spot, right between the

bathroom door and its only window...

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"Mientras Elena en su lecho" (novela), University of Miami, 1995, Premio Letras de Oro

Mientras Charly dormía, Elena se desvestía. Aunque la mayoría de las veces  Charly simplemente se hacía el dormido y Elena se desnudaba igual, sabiendo que  él  la miraba, anticipando que en el mejor de los momentos los pasos de alguien los interrumpirían. Mientras Elena se deshacía de sus prendas, Charly gradualmente se hacía el que salía del sueño más profundo hasta quedar mágica y totalmente despierto (erecto sería la palabra más indicada) en el preciso momento en que ella quedaba total y mágicamente desnuda...


Willy Lizarraga

"The Worlds Within the Border," The Museum of California, Oakland Museum, Fall 1992, Vol. 16, N. 4

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"The Murals of Balmy Alley," The Museum of California, Oakland Museum, Spring 1993, Vol. 17, N. 2

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"Havana Dreams," San Francisco Bay Guardian, January 28, 1998

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The Birth of Carnaval on the Streets of San Francisco," published on FoundSF.org, May 2010

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Street Art San Francisco, Mission Muralismo, Precita Eyes, Abrams Books, NY 2009

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Videos/Special Projects

Video of "The Oral History of the S.F. Carnaval," De Young Museum of S.F., Feb. 2010

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Video of "Frida & Diego," reading at Pegasus Bookstore, Berkeley, Jan. 2011

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Video of Milvia Reading at Berkeley City College, February 8, 2019


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