The Book Reader: ‘Firefight’

Patrik Henry Bass of Essence Magazine reviews Ginger Adams Otis’ “Firefight: The Century-Long Battle to Integrate New York’s Bravest” in The Book Reader.

Every now and then a book arrives at the perfect time to help us all better understand imperfect societal issues. “Firefight: The Century-Long Battle to Integrate New York’s Bravest” is that book.

Firefight is, in a word, phenomenal. Firefight is also unexpectedly poignant. Credit intrepid New York Daily News staff writer Ginger Adams Otis for this remarkable feat of commentary that never lapses into sentimentality.

Indeed, one of the major strengths of the narrative is the author’s inspired choice not to reduce this already engrossing story into a good guys versus bad guys epic. Besides, the truth, as we know it, is always far more complicated. And so are many of the fearless players who drift in and out of this fast-paced panorama that takes us inside many of our city’s greatest civic and cultural institutions—from fraternal societies to historic neighborhoods.

It is within these hallowed halls and walls that the seasoned City Hall writer sensitively brings the men and women who were proud to wear their FDNY uniforms to stunning life in multi-dimensional portraits. Through their eyes and through their stories we have a better understanding of the undeniable bond that unites those who are called to risk their lives every day in neighborhoods we cherish.

In addition, it is through Firefight’s pages that we are reminded that even against the insurmountable odds that the only way to cope with change is to create it—from within. Just ask Regina Wilson, only the twelfth African-American woman to join the FDNY in 1999, who became the first female president of the legendary Vulcan Society earlier this year.

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