Praise for American Sirens
“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
“Anyone who has ever had a relative, friend, or co-worker in need of an ambulance or has needed one themselves must read this book. 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. The incredible resilience of African Americans in the face of crushing discrimination reminds us that heroes are not just on the battlefield. There are many unsung heroes whose stories need to be told. 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
“An amazing book: a forgotten story about real life health care heroes inseparable from the ongoing tragedy of racism in America. Kevin Hazzard has performed a national service by writing American Sirens. Innumerable Americans are now alive due to the ripple effects of work done by the men of Freedom House, the highly-trained Black Pittsburgh paramedics who made emergency medicine real.”
–Theresa Brown, RN, New York Times bestselling author of The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives
“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: Pre-hospital care was scarce, disorganized, and the key to survival for common emergencies like stroke, heart attack, and diabetic crises. The urban healers’ reaction was bold, effective, and shocked the city’s healthcare system. They doggedly obtained the training and that enabled them to bring advanced cardiac life support and other technical care to all in Pittsburgh's Freedom House ambulance project, including the chronically underserved of their own neighborhoods. 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
"Kevin Hazzard's revelatory American Sirens is a rich, vibrant and deeply human look into the wild journey of American innovation. Hazzard's exacting and expansive research is deeply present on every page, yet it feels invisible, as this electric story pulses, engages, and surprises like a great novel. Each chapter unlocks a new and important angle of this almost forgotten story, which makes it almost pathologically compelling to read. American Sirens brings a necessary spotlight to a fascinating, near-forgotten, and uniquely American tale."
–Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, New York Times bestselling author of Dr Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine
"In this brilliant narrative, Kevin Hazzard leads us on a tour through the history of jazz, baseball, and the misnamed “urban renewal,” to set the stage for Freedom House, a Pittsburgh ambulance service staffed by Black men, that birthed the emergency medical services we all rely on today."
–Julie Holland, MD, bestselling author of Weekends at Bellevue: Nine Years on the Night Shift at the Psych ER
Praise for A Thousand Naked Strangers
“No one has a closer view into our fearful hearts than the paramedic, and no one writes it like Kevin Hazzard. He's given us a deep intimate portrait of the toll it takes to every day witness our most vulnerable moments. Some nights it's the best job in the world, and some nights the worst, all in the same last breath.”
Joe Connelly, author of Bringing Out the Dead
"Reading this book was like watching The Matrix. Hazzard slows down the chaos and danger to allow himself (and the reader) to experience it. A paramedic's life is the closest thing to combat in the civilian world. To paraphrase a line from The Bridge at Toko Ri, 'Where do we get these guys?' This book is one long rush."
Phillip Jennings, author of Nam-A-Rama and Goodbye Mexico
“Hazzard excels at the small yet unforgettable details: what appears in the tread of his shoe, what scatters onto the floor of his ambulance. You’ll begin this journey as a guilty voyeur, seeing things you really shouldn’t, but, by the end, be transformed into a respectful witness of a remarkable profession.”
Katrina Firlik, author of Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside
“Hazzard observes keenly, remembers faithfully, but also struggles to analyze his motives for loving those crazy nights on the bad side of town when the universe slips a gear and all hell breaks loose. A Thousand Naked Strangers is a brilliant delineation of what attracted him to the madness of his underpaid, under-appreciated paramedical work and why it ended.”
J. Michael Lennon, author of the authorized biography Normal Mailer: A Double Life
"A former EMT details his action-packed tenure in the field. Journalist Hazzard's (Sleeping Dogs, 2002) near decade spent as an Atlanta-area paramedic serves as prime fodder for episodes illuminating the stressful and often perilous life of an emergency medical professional. The author's interest in the vocation surfaced in his mid-20s after a career as a reporter in post-9/11 America didn't deliver the "pressure of life-and-death moments" he was craving. The EMT certificate program offered him the classroom time to "get hip-deep in the things that matter," while the intensive, frenetic hands-on experience prepped him for the real work ahead. With blunt language and a raw narrative tone rich with gruesome detail, Hazzard immerses readers in the bloody, hardened reality of an emergency response team racing to accident scenes and overdoses and the personal panic over a dangerous needle stick. The author pairs his exquisitely queasy collage of bloody vomitus, severed toes, miscarriages, and other medical injustices with profiles of a hodgepodge of able work partners of varying skill levels and personalities who ride alongside Hazzard in the ambulance. Conveyed through anecdotes both thrilling and startlingly gory, it's clear the author indeed became intoxicated by the adrenaline, the rush, and the rhythm of emergency rescue life and the need to be present "for the blurry and frantic moments right after the injury." His adventures also illuminate the many desperate people in need of assistance. Yet after years on a beat rife with stressful urgency and hierarchal politics, his career crested and waned, followed by a complete burnout. With frayed nerves, exhausted patience, and a renewed focus on his own family, Hazzard ended his paramedical livelihood with a hard-won mixture of appreciation and relief, but his stories, immortalized here in compelling detail, remain. A vivid, pummeling ride-along with an emergency paramedic."
Kirkus Reviews, October 2015