Paul, Caroline 1963–
Paul, Caroline 1963–
PERSONAL: Born July 29, 1963, in New York, NY; daughter of Mark (an investment banker) and Sarah (a social worker) Paul. Education: Stanford University, graduated 1986.
ADDRESSES: Home—San Francisco, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, William Morrow & Company, 10 E. 53rd St., 7th Fl., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Writer, novelist, journalist, and firefighter. San Francisco Fire Department, San Francisco, CA, firefighter. Has worked as a whitewater raft guide, a reporter at a radio station, and a private pilot.
Fighting Fire (memoir), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
East Wind, Rain (historical novel), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Memoirist and novelist Caroline Paul is a firefighter and rescue worker with the San Francisco fire department. She grew up in Connecticut, and has long been active in sports and related activities. She is the twin sister of actor Alexandra Paul, who has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies and who is probably best known for her role on the hit TV series Baywatch.
Despite her physical prowess and active lifestyle, Paul did not seek out her position as firefighter; instead, she came to it indirectly, in an almost adversarial manner. While working as a reporter for public radio station KPFA in 1988, Paul took on the assignment of investigating the San Francisco Fire Department. The department has a poor reputation for both sexism and racism, and Paul hoped to produce a report that would expose the organization's faults and lead it to reforming itself. Her investigation revealed no evidence of wrongdoing in the fire department and she dropped the story. She was impressed by what she saw within the department, and instead of penning an expose, Paul instead filled out a job application, taking the fire department entrance exam in 1988. She joined the department in 1989 as one of six female recruits out of a class of thirty, mandated by a U.S. federal court decree.
Paul tells the story of her time with the department in Fighting Fire, a memoir that "offers perhaps the most compelling explanation yet as to why some people actually enjoy the window-shattering, blood-boiling, bone-melting heat of a roaring blaze," commented a reviewer in Entertainment Weekly. She describes the personal battles she faced to prove herself as a woman in a traditionally male occupation, and the resistance she sometimes encountered from other firefighters. She also tells about the emotionally charged rescues, the life-saving efforts, the brutal struggle against relentless flames, the quirky human foibles she encountered on the job, and the camaraderie and support she received from the majority of her male colleagues. Library Journal reviewer Lisa S. Nussbaum called the book a "rare, fascinating look at the inner workings of an urban fire department, with plenty of thrills, adventure, and raw emotion." A Publishers Weekly critic named it a "thrilling, perceptive memoir," while the Entertainment Weekly critic noted it is a "rare glimpse through female eyes into the testosterone-laden world of the firehouse."
Paul's debut novel, East Wind, Rain, is an "authentic and dramatic" historical novel set during the early days of World War II, noted Booklist reviewer Brad Hooper. Based on a true story, the novel centers on the remote, private Hawaiian island of Nihau, sternly governed by the religious but heavy-handed Aylmer Robinson. On December 7, 1941, a lone Japanese fighter pilot, Nishi-kaichi, crash-lands on the island. Because of their remoteness, and because Robinson does not allow newspapers or radio, the residents of Nihau are unaware of the significance of having a Japanese military man drop into their midst, or that World War II has just broken out mere miles from their home. The only two people on the island who can understand the pilot are a Japanese-American couple, ranch foreman Yoshio Harada and his wife Irene. When the Haradas discover Nishikaichi's mission and intent, they are overwhelmed by conflicting emotions tied to the prejudicial treatment they have received as Japanese Americans but tempered by the patriotism they feel as U.S. citizens. They realize that if they don't keep quiet about Nishikaichi's mission, the war will come to their very doorstep. But with war all around them, the secret cannot be kept, and the quiet little island community inevitably feels the throes of war in its own way. With her novel, "Paul offers a refreshing and interesting vantage point from which readers may reconsider this episode in history," remarked a Kirkus Reviews contributor. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that "her debut novel moves slowly, but with a lyricism that contributes to her characters' development. It's a promising performance."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Paul, Caroline, Fighting Fire, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Advocate, June 9, 1998, David Bahr, review of Fighting Fire, p. 71.
Booklist, April 15, 1998, Veronica Scrol, review of Fighting Fire, p. 1401; November 15, 2005, Brad Hooper, review of East Wind, Rain, p. 24.
Entertainment Weekly, May 8, 1998, "Fire Power," review of Fighting Fire, p. 40.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2005, review of East Wind, Rain, p. 1208.
Library Journal, May 15, 1998, Lisa S. Nussbaum, review of Fighting Fire, p. 102.
Publishers Weekly, March 9, 1998, review of Fighting Fire, p. 55; October 24, 2005, review of East Wind, Rain, p. 32.
Stanford Alumni Magazine, November-December, 1998, Cate Corcoran, "Trial by Fire," profile of Caroline Paul.
Caroline Paul Home Page, http://www.carolinepaul.com (April 14, 2006).
HarperCollins Web site, http://www.harpercollins.com/ (April 14, 2006), biography of Caroline Paul.
Matt and Andrew Koymasky Web site, http://andrejkoymasky.com/ (April 14, 2006), biography of Caroline Paul.