February 22, 2013 | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Books: Right place, right time?

‘They Call Me a Hero: A Memoir of My Youth’
By Daniel Hernandez with Susan Goldman Rubin
Simon & Schuster
$17.99
224 pages

They Call Me a Hero, books, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image courtesy of Simon & Schuster)

The event on January 8, 2011 was supposed to be fun and informative.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who loved interacting with her constituents, had planned a meet-and-greet that Saturday afternoon in Tucson. Daniel Hernandez, then 20 and an intern with Giffords’ office, was there to help register attendees and to do light crowd control.

Everything was going well until he heard explosions and one word: “Gun!”

Almost automatically, Hernandez headed for the stage, with Giffords first on his mind. With barely a pause, he pressed his hand against her wound to slow the bleeding, an action that may have saved her life. He comforted her and rode with her in the ambulance to the hospital.

In his new book “They Call Me a Hero” (with Susan Goldman Rubin), Hernandez says there’s nothing heroic about his actions.

Years before, as a child, Hernandez had wanted to be a doctor. He was a good student in school and was teased for his bookishness and for being gay. Undaunted, he stayed true to himself and sought classes and training for a future medical career.

He blames his “obsession” with politics on Hillary Clinton. He became fascinated by her run for the White House and volunteered to work for her campaign, a love that extended to his college years, the friends he sought and, later, to a desire to serve others in a political career that also allowed him to do motivational speaking.

On that January day in 2011, though, Hernandez was just an intern. His future, he hoped, would be spent serving others through volunteering.

But he was destined to become a hero first.

There are a lot of bumps in “They Call Me a Hero,” starting with the subtitle (“A Memoir of My Youth”).

Authors Hernandez and Susan Goldman Rubin don’t include a whole lot about Hernandez’s youth; instead, the vast majority of this memoir is about that one day in Tucson, the whirlwind of media attention afterward and Hernandez’s subsequent political activities.

There’s also an awful lot of back-patting here.

To the good, however, this book may loudly urge teens to give of themselves to better their worlds. With an overwhelming record of achievements, Hernandez is a tornado of service to others and he makes volunteerism seem fun, almost like a community in itself. That may spur young readers to mobilize.

Indeed, the intended audience for this book is 12-to-18-year-olds but there’s certainly no reason adults can’t enjoy it as well. If you can look beyond the bumps and boasting in “They Call Me a Hero,” you may find a hunk of inspiration, too.

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