Working Fire by Zac Unger
The Making of an Accidental Fireman

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Synopsis

A remarkable memoir, by turns funny and deeply moving, of one man's coming into his calling and his transformation from ambivalent Ivy League grad to skilled and dedicated firefighter.

Zac Unger didn't feel like much of a firefighter at first. Most of his fellow recruits seemed to have planned for the job all their lives; he was an Ivy League grad responding to a help-wanted ad at an Oakland bus stop. He couldn't keep his boots shined, and he looked horrible in his uniform. Working Fire is the story of how, from this unlikely beginning, Zac Unger came to feel at home among this close-knit tribe, came to master his work's demands, and came to know what it is to see the city of Oakland through a firefighter's eyes.

From the materials of his day's work-the harrowing calls and the hilarious, the moments of triumph and of grief-Zac Unger has forged a timeless story of finding one's path. He never takes himself too seriously, but he comes to take his job very seriously. Because he tells his story with such extraordinary empathy and wit, his fierce passion for his work, his comrades, and the city he protects becomes our own.
 

About Zac Unger

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Zac Unger is a firefighter and paramedic in Oakland, California. He has written about his life and work for the online magazine Slate. He is a graduate of Deep Springs College, Brown University, and UC Berkeley.
 
Published March 8, 2004 by Penguin Press HC, The. 272 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Unger, a well-off Jewish kid with Ivy League schooling, isn’t exactly sure what a good firefighter is supposed to be when he spots a recruitment ad in a downtown Oakland bus station, and he’s even less sure he has what it takes to make it in gritty, big-city fire department.

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Publishers Weekly

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Expanding on a Slate diary he wrote in 2001, Unger delivers a crisply written, somewhat gripping narrative of a rookie's life in the Oakland Fire Department.

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Entertainment Weekly

The book is filled with revelatory nuggets (''We are engaged in eating, getting ready to eat, or recovering from eating for a solid nine hours every day'') that refreshingly humanize these courageous warriors.

Mar 12 2004 | Read Full Review of Working Fire: The Making of a...

About.com

Working Fire is the story of how Zac Unger came to feel at home among this close-knit tribe, came to master his work's demands, and came to know what it is to see the city of Oakland through a firefighter's eyes.

Apr 21 2004 | Read Full Review of Working Fire: The Making of a...

About.com

I don't know if Unger's writing would shine as brightly outside of the memoir genre, but for what it is, Working Fire is an honest and riveting tale of the human race, and why through all the global wars and street crimes, we are still worth saving.

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