When the Category 5 Hurricane Maria devastated his home of Puerto Rico in 2017, Salvador Gómez-Colón ’21 had to act. Founding “Light and Hope for Puerto Rico,” an online crowdfunding campaign, Gómez-Colón aimed to help local communities deprived of clean water and electricity. Set to be released in early August of 2021, “Hurricane: My Story of Resilience,” Gómez-Colón’s memoir, narrates his experience living through Hurricane Maria.
Gómez-Colón will launch his memoir with W. W. Norton & Company, as part of the publisher’s new middle-grade nonfiction series, “I, Witness.” When the company reached out to Gómez-Colón, asking if he would be one of the featured authors, he agreed immediately.
“The reason I said yes is because there is such a need for stories to be out there. I think the best thing you can do to affect change, especially in the environmental climate change aspect is through stories, and there’s nothing more powerful than that. If my story can serve as a way to motivate other young people to take action and move past ideas, then I would take it, a hundred percent,” said Gómez-Colón.
The memoir details Gómez-Colón’s life from September 2017 to May 2018, when the “Light and Hope” campaign focused on distributing solar-powered lamps and hand-powered washing machines to vulnerable communities in Puerto Rico. After achieving double his initial goal of $100,000, Gómez-Colón has expanded his campaign to support and fundraise for global communities affected by natural disasters, such as in the Bahamas, the Philippines, Indonesia, and more.
“The book details my observations of living through Hurricane Maria not only in my home but also what I was seeing beyond me, then launching ‘Light and Hope’ and how arduous the process was, especially as a 15-year-old, and it sort of ends there… We kept it open to the reader to want to join that journey—not necessarily my journey, but rather on a journey of their own and seeing how your journey… can be so fruitful for others,” said Gómez-Colón.
This is not the first time Gómez-Colón’s story has been celebrated in the media. Marvel’s Hero Project featured Gómez-Colón’s relief efforts in 2019, sharing his narrative in both comic book and episode form.
Given that “Hurricane: My Story of Resilience” is targeted towards middle school students, Gómez-Colón hopes that his memoir can instill change in a community of younger readers.
“I think that being an activist has been a lot about speaking with my voice and using my actions, but the cool thing about this book is that it’s something permanent, in writing… The key point of the story is to inspire middle-grade readers to feel that passion—the flame. I was in ninth grade when I started ‘Light and Hope’ for Puerto Rico, but I also have met many other activists and people like that who were twelve, eleven when they first started. So really, you can’t be too young to create a positive impact,” said Gómez-Colón.
A friend of Gómez-Colón’s, Abdu Sahibousidq ’21, found that even though he is older than the target reader age group, he appreciated and found importance in the message of the memoir.
“Salvador’s book provides an easily digested recounting of a dramatic turn of events from his youth. Although the story upon which he reflects is a dark one (in both a literal and figurative sense), he provides a hopeful outlook on the state of his island and the world,” wrote Sahibousidq in an email to The Phillipian.
On becoming a published author and working with a publishing company for the first time, Gómez-Colón described that despite the intricate, sophisticated process involving countless rounds of editing, the experience was very exciting and pleasant.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into writing and publishing a book, for both the publishing houses and writers. However, it’s very gratifying, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity of being able to share my story,” said Gómez-Colón.