For this climber, Everest is a challenge and a path to peace

Memories of Courage
By Silvia Vasquez-Lavado

In her powerful memoir, In the Shadow of the Mountain, Silvia Vasquez-Lavado takes the reader from Silicon Valley to Mount Everest. Both are men’s spaces where conquest is valued. Vasquez-Lavado sublimated both. And yet, she commented: “Everybody – most of me – likes to say that fighting makes you strong. I lived, and in fact died, because of the qualities that must be overcome in order to survive. But over and over again, the mountain has shown me that strong is not the opposite of soft. They are symbiotic”. Indeed, it was in his testosterone-soaked spheres that Vasquez-Lavado regained community and vulnerability, strong traits often seen as feminine.

Like its author — a former eBay executive, the first openly gay woman to complete the Seven Summits, and the first Peruvian woman to summit Everest — Vasquez-Lavado’s memoir is very many things. It’s an adventure story as she ascends Everest; a vulnerable meditation on her childhood in Peru; and the story of an immigrant’s journey to the United States. Above all, the book is Vasquez-Lavado’s re-enactment of the truth behind the stories and secrets she must learn to endure early on.

The memoir opens by putting readers directly into action, as Vasquez-Lavado navigates a trail on Everest. Cinematic work – I fight the wind, squinting at the iridescent snow. I couldn’t help gripping the page like a belt as Vasquez-Lavado wondered, “What if I stopped? Just lay back and let go now? Rushing into space with ice and screens? “

The story then cuts back to Vasquez-Lavado’s childhood home, where her father ruled with screams and beatings. There, Vasquez-Lavado faced a more painful kind of action: sexual abuse, which she first encountered at the age of 6 and endured for many years. The abuser is a trusted family friend known only as “J” who watches Vasquez-Lavado while her mother goes out, we later learn, to visit her children secretly her other. The details are cold. “Beep. Silent game. A girl’s choking was eased by a hand. “

These two timelines alternate and reinforce each other, like the twin ropes of a knotted rope. There are plenty of lively adventure scenes, as Vasquez-Lavado tries to avoid frostbite, works with limited oxygen and even, in a hilariously unexpected scene, fights off sudden defecation.

But if adventure is the book’s inspiration, Vasquez-Lavado’s origin story is its lifeblood. For Vasquez-Lavado, moving to the United States was an obvious escape from her childhood. There, she joined the world of Silicon Valley startups, where she first came to terms with her sexuality before succumbing to alcohol abuse, one-night stands and overwork. “If I could be the chief executive officer,” Vasquez-Lavado wrote, “I could lift my wounded little daughter on my shoulder where nothing could ever touch her again.” That salvation, however, is only an illusion, shattered by her alcoholism, the death of her first love, and the disapproval of her mother, who refuses to accept her sexuality, and who never returns. recovered after learning of the abuse she had endured.

The healing didn’t begin until, in an ayahuasca vision, Vasquez-Lavado saw her childhood self among the mountains. The Tibetan name of Mount Everest, Vasquez-Lavado reminds us more than once, is Chomolungma: Mother of the World. So it’s fitting that that’s where she goes to heal her mother, to navigate the depths of sexual abuse and deviant behavior.

At the beginning of my journey, Vasquez-Lavado was always with the Nepalese women trafficked as children, voices that I wish would be more present throughout the book. It was in this sisterhood that Vasquez-Lavado found safety in surrender, overcoming what she and many of the survivors faced: “Tenderness is dangerous, too dangerous for some. “.

However, Mount Everest, that Great Mother, forced her to give in. Patriarchal societies champion journeys to the top as stories of conquest. But Vasquez-Lavado understands that “we have not conquered Everest, just as we have not conquered trauma. Instead, we must yield to abysses and sudden avalanches.” And herein lies the wisdom of this piece, aptly subtitled “Memoirs of Courage”: In a world that demands our efforts, telling stories of strength and victory, The bravest action possible is to embrace our inner child, our fear, our truth.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/01/books/review/in-the-shadow-of-the-mountain-silvia-vasquez-lavado.html For this climber, Everest is a challenge and a path to peace

Fry Electronics Team

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