Daniel Hernandez Jr. makes an outstanding role model for young Hispanics, LGBT youth and all youth in general – even though he doesn’t want to be.
His memoir is called They Call Me a Hero: A Memoir of My Youth (Simon & Schuster) because of the response he received for his actions at a 2011 event in which a gunman began shooting at U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others at a public event in Tucson, Ariz.
Six people died and Giffords was shot in the head. Giffords was saved thanks to the help of Hernandez, a 21-year-old intern at her office, who drew on his first aid studies he learned in high school to help control her bleeding.
Hernandez was besieged with interviews and awards. He later was lauded at the 2011 State of the Union address and threw the ceremonial first pitch at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game later that year.
But Hernandez thought he would have done what anyone else would have done.
“I didn’t expect to be a poster boy for all the groups I happen to represent – Hispanics and people in the LGBT community. I never imagined that I would become a role model; this concept seemed foreign to me, because I was so used to not getting any attention. … As I told a reporter, whether I’d acted as I had during the shooting because I’m Latino or I’m gay or that I happened to be there on January 8 didn’t really matter. I’m not a model Latino or a model member of the LGBT community. The best way I knew to be a role model was by focusing on being the best Daniel Hernandez I could be.”
The book, co-authored by Susan Goldman Rubin, is a quick read and the first part of the book, which describes the shooting and aftermath, is riveting. The book, written in a conversational tone, then delves into Hernandez’s childhood and how he became politically active.
But keep in mind that the book was written for middle school students and older. I had to remind myself of this when the text seemed too simple or there was more telling than showing. The book could have used more anecdotes to tell the story better.
I also felt the book didn’t say enough about Hernandez’s life as a gay man. Hernandez also doesn’t mention Arizona’s anti-immigrant policies and ban on ethnic studies – but, again, this is a book for teenagers.
Still, this book could inspire youth to become more active their community. Hernandez’s work ethic is relentless and his passion of community service is tremendous. He drafted and helped pass a bill that gave college students time off from class to vote, managed an election for an Arizona state representative and was appointed to serve to the City of Tucson commission on LGBT issues – all before he could drink alcohol legally.
And if a young person isn’t inspired to volunteer for their community, this book could help them take pride in just being themselves. As Hernandez says:
“I was always different from most kids, and I was okay with it. I wasn’t very concerned with how others perceived me. I just wanted to be myself.”
Hernandez, who graduated from the University of Arizona in 2012, was elected to serve on the Sunnyside School Board. He also serves as a motivational speaker.
Source: I purchased this book through Amazon.com.