Allison Brooks was not your typical African-American young woman growing up on the mean streets of Compton during the eighties and nineties. She loved her music, probably more than anything else, but she knew she had to find a job that paid well and offered job security. Despite the paucity of woman fire fighters at the time, Allison set her heart on earning a permanent place on the professional fire fighting staff of Compton (L.A.). Based on true-life events, but fictionalised, From Hell to Fire, author Allison Brooks tells her story of prejudice, chauvinism and downright meanness she would face as one of the few woman professional fire fighters in the Mid 1990’s. Allison quickly discovered that politics and sex were two of the biggest components of a professional fire fighter’s life. Daily she would confront the outright sexism and unfairness a woman in that position was subjected to. This story is book one of the Allison Brooks story, with no doubt, much more to come.
From Hell to Fire is a no-holds barred look at life in a tough profession, at the best of times, but as a woman, even tougher. Allison Brooks tells the story in the vernacular of the street and doesn’t pull any punches, both as a professional fire fighter and as an African-American woman living in Compton. This hard-edged style certainly gave the story the “street credibility” it probably needed. What I particularly liked about the story was that interspersed among the tales of daily life in the fire station were some absolute philosophical gems expounding on the authors views on men, women, music, sexism, unfairness and life in general. Her explanation of the six types of women out there was both funny and insightful. There was a strong vein of self-doubt running through the entire book, which contrasted greatly with the self-assured professional that Allison portrayed to the outside world, especially to her colleagues in the Fire Department. This definitely gave the main character (the Shero, if you will) a much warmer edge than may otherwise have been the case. As a first novel (cum memoir) this was a solid first effort. I look for more depth and tightness in the sequel.