American Sirens: Book summary and reviews of American Sirens by Kevin Hazzard

American Sirens

The Incredible Story of the Black Men Who Became America's First Paramedics

by Kevin Hazzard

American Sirens by Kevin Hazzard X
American Sirens by Kevin Hazzard
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Book Summary

The extraordinary story of an unjustly forgotten group of Black men in Pittsburgh who became the first paramedics in America, saving lives and changing the course of emergency medicine around the world.

Until the 1970s, if you suffered a medical crisis, your chances of survival were minimal. A 9-1-1 call might bring police or even the local funeral home. But that all changed with Freedom House EMS in Pittsburgh, a group of Black men who became America's first paramedics and set the gold standard for emergency medicine around the world, only to have their story and their legacy erased—until now.

In American Sirens, acclaimed journalist and paramedic Kevin Hazzard tells the dramatic story of how a group of young, undereducated Black men forged a new frontier of healthcare. He follows a rich cast of characters that includes John Moon, an orphan who found his calling as a paramedic; Peter Safar, the Nobel Prize-nominated physician who invented CPR and realized his vision for a trained ambulance service; and Nancy Caroline, the idealistic young doctor who turned a scrappy team into an international leader. At every turn, Freedom House battled racism—from the community, the police, and the government. Their job was grueling, the rules made up as they went along, their mandate nearly impossible—and yet despite the long odds and fierce opposition, they succeeded spectacularly. Never-before revealed in full, this is a rich and troubling hidden history of the Black origins of America's paramedics, a special band of dedicated essential workers, who stand ready to serve day and night on the line between life and death for every one of us.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Journalist and former paramedic Hazzard paints a riveting portrait of Freedom House EMS, a pioneering group of Black paramedics in 1970s Pittsburgh...[A] fascinating and deeply rewarding study of triumph in the face of adversity." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Good history and an admirable effort to document the achievements of a pioneering Black organization." - Kirkus Reviews

"A gripping story of the people, places, and times that led to the development of Freedom House Ambulance Service, a Pittsburgh-based group of Black men whose efforts laid the foundation for the emergency medical services we take for granted today. Like many chapters of Black history, American Sirens is equal parts tragic and inspiring." - Damon Tweedy, M.D., New York Times bestselling author of Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine

"A work that a reads like a novel. Hazzard relates how a group of African American visionaries, most of whom had been trapped in menial jobs, saw what health-policy experts did not...After their new discipline proved its value in saving lives, organized emergency care, like so many arenas in US medicine, excluded the Black men who invented it and effaced the history of what all Americans owe them, but this riveting page-turner brings these medical heroes long-delayed acclaim." - Harriet Washington, NBCC Award-winning author of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

"In a quintessentially American story that reads like a novel, Kevin Hazzard crafts an amazing story of an Austrian immigrant, an unlikely group of Black men, and a minority community in Pittsburgh who transformed paramedic and ambulance care throughout the United States...This heart-warming story is not just Black history, but American history, and every American truly owes the medics of Freedom House a debt of gratitude." - Gretchen Sorin, author of Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights

This information about American Sirens was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Kevin Hazzard

Kevin Hazzard is a journalist, TV writer, and former paramedic. His first book, A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back, was published by Scribner in 2016. He now writes for film/TV, with work produced by Hulu, CBS, ABC and Universal. His freelance journalism has been published at 99% Invisible, the Atavist, Men's Journal, Creative Loafing, Atlanta Magazine, and elsewhere. He is also a sought-after voice on emergency medicine. He lives in Atlanta.

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