In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Memoir of Courage (Paperback)
February 2022 Indie Next List
“In the Shadow of the Mountain intertwines the lives of sexual assault survivors with Vasquez-Lavado’s experience leading these survivors to summit Mount Everest. A collective story of perseverance, community, and healing.”
— Clancey D'Isa, Seminary Co-Op Bookstores, Chicago, IL
“In climbing the Seven Summits, Silvia Vasquez-Lavado did nothing less than take back her own life—one brave step at a time. She will inspire untold numbers of souls with this story, for her victory is a win on behalf of all of us.”—Elizabeth Gilbert
Endless ice. Thin air. The threat of dropping into nothingness thousands of feet below. This is the climb Silvia Vasquez-Lavado braves in her page-turning, pulse-raising memoir chronicling her journey to Mount Everest.
A Latina hero in the elite macho tech world of Silicon Valley, privately, she was hanging by a thread. Deep in the throes of alcoholism, hiding her sexuality from her family, and repressing the abuse she’d suffered as a child, she started climbing. Something about the brute force required for the ascent—the risk and spirit and sheer size of the mountains and death’s close proximity—woke her up. She then took her biggest pain as a survivor to the biggest mountain: Everest.
“The Mother of the World,” as it’s known in Nepal, allows few to reach her summit, but Silvia didn’t go alone. She gathered a group of young female survivors and led them to base camp alongside her. It was never easy. At times hair-raising, nerve-racking, and always challenging, Silvia remembers the acute anxiety of leading a group of novice climbers to Everest’s base, all the while coping with her own nerves of summiting. But, there were also moments of peace, joy, and healing with the strength of her fellow survivors and community propelling her forward.
In the Shadow of the Mountain is a remarkable story of heroism, one which awakens in all of us a lust for adventure, an appetite for risk, and faith in our own resilience.
About the Author
Silvia Vasquez-Lavado is a humanitarian, mountaineer, explorer, social entrepreneur, and technologist living in San Francisco. In 2014, she launched Courageous Girls, a nonprofit that helps survivors of sexual abuse and trafficking with opportunities to find inner strength and cultivate their voices by demonstrating their physical strength. Courageous Girls has had projects in Nepal, India, the United States, and Peru. Vasquez-Lavado was recognized by Fortune magazine as one of the Corporate Heroes of 2015. CNET named her one of the 20 Most Influential Latinos in Silicon Valley. She has also been recognized by the Peruvian government as one of the “Marca Peru” ambassadors (country brand ambassadors). She is a member of the Explorers Club and one of the few women in the world to complete the Seven Summits.
"Silvia Vasquez-Lavado is a warrior. Her incredibly warm voice reveals how she rose from the darkest moments of her life to become an inspiration and advocate for others. This book is a testament to the power of extraordinary vulnerability, empathy, and selflessness and a reaffirmation of the healing that comes from building a community. I'm in awe of her strength and courage that she has captured so beautifully in this memoir."
“Silvia Vasquez-Lavado is a woman possessed of uncommon strength, rare compassion, and a ferocious stubbornness to not allow the trauma of her childhood to destroy her life. In climbing the Seven Summits, she did nothing less than take back her own life—one brave step at a time. She will inspire untold numbers of souls with this story, for her victory is a win on behalf of all of us.”
"Vasquez-Lavado understands that 'we do not conquer Everest, just like we do not conquer trauma. Instead, we must yield ourselves to the chasms and unexpected avalanches.' And herein lies the wisdom of this work, aptly subtitled 'A Memoir of Courage': In a world that demands us to harden, to tell stories of strength and triumph, the bravest act can be embracing our inner child, our fears, our truths."
— Qian Julie Wang, author of New York Times bestseller Beautiful Country, for The New York Times
"The first openly gay woman to complete the Seven Summits and the first Peruvian woman to summit Everest — Vasquez-Lavado’s memoir is many things. It is an adventure saga of her ascent of Everest; a vulnerable meditation on her childhood in Peru; and the tale of an immigrant’s journey to the United States. Above all, the book is Vasquez-Lavado’s reclamation of the truth behind the stories and secrets she had to learn to bear early."
―The New York Times
"The climax of the book — and Vasquez-Lavado's voyage up the mountain — brings a moment of resolve to all three battles at once in a tear-jerking, Hollywood ending."
"The book’s chapters alternate between her enthralling life’s journey and a nail-biting Mount Everest ascent."
— The Washington Post's "10 noteworthy books for February"
"It's that drive to escape, to defy, that eventually pushes her up the macho corporate ladder at Silicon Valley start-ups, into alcoholism, and then across continents as a thrill-seeker breaking boundaries with her bare hands."
"This inspirational memoir about navigating trauma, healing relationships, finding community, and achieving self-acceptance delivers a raw and riveting reading experience."
—Booklist (Starred Review)
"'In the Shadow of the Mountain' has all the elements a great memoir requires — a strong voice, cinematic prose, a hero to root for — in essence, an extraordinary story about an extraordinary woman’s life."
— The San Francisco Chronicle
"Complex and compelling, Vasquez-Lavado’s quest to heal herself from the deep wounds of patriarchy is also a vibrantly feminist celebration of female resilience."
"Unlike mountaineering memoirs that celebrate the ego of the individual climber, Silvia Vasquez-Lavado’s story is intimately collaborative."
— Catherine Hollis for BookPage
"Vasquez-Lavado details the child's perspective and the roots of her trauma with extraordinary clarity."
–CBC Sports Book Review
“This is a truly invigorating and compelling story of a heroic healing journey to base camp at Mt. Everest.”
“[Silvia’s] personal story of the palliative effects of mountain climbing, which helped her rise above abuse, addiction, and marginalization, is a must-read. . . . She has written an inspiring manifesto for the women’s empowerment movement worldwide.”
—Hap Klopp, CEO and founder of The North Face
"In Vasquez-Lavado’s debut memoir, the narrative of her life—from horrific sexual abuse to immigration and professional success in San Francisco—beautifully mirrors her arduous but rewarding trip up each mountain. It’s a testament to the power of high altitudes to help heal trauma, and a pretty great story to boot."
"Making history is nothing new for adventurous mountaineer, explorer, entrepreneur, author, and activist Silvia Vasquez-Lavado"
“Silvia Vasquez-Lavado’s story gripped my heart. . . . What a beautiful and urgent offering.”
—V (formerly Eve Ensler)