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Sing for Your Life : A Story of Race, Music, and Family
by Daniel Bergner


Overview - A New York Time s bestseller

A New York Times Notable Book

A Washington Post Notable Book

A Publishers Weekly Book of the Year

As seen on CBS This Morning, NPR's Fresh Air , and People Magazine

A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Library Journal Nonfiction Pick of September

The New York Times bestseller about a young black man's journey from violence and despair to the threshold of stardom.  Read more...


 
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More About Sing for Your Life by Daniel Bergner
 
 
 
Overview
A New York Times bestseller

A New York Times Notable Book

A Washington Post Notable Book

A Publishers Weekly Book of the Year

As seen on CBS This Morning, NPR's Fresh Air, and People Magazine

A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Library Journal Nonfiction Pick of September

The New York Times bestseller about a young black man's journey from violence and despair to the threshold of stardom. "A beautiful tribute to the power of good teachers."--Terry Gross, Fresh Air


"One of the most inspiring stories I've come across in a long time."--Pamela Paul, New York Times Book Review

Ryan Speedo Green had a tough upbringing in southeastern Virginia: his family lived in a trailer park and later a bullet-riddled house across the street from drug dealers. His father was absent; his mother was volatile and abusive.

At the age of twelve, Ryan was sent to Virginia's juvenile facility of last resort. He was placed in solitary confinement. He was uncontrollable, uncontainable, with little hope for the future.

In 2011, at the age of twenty-four, Ryan won a nationwide competition hosted by New York's Metropolitan Opera, beating out 1,200 other talented singers. Today, he is a rising star performing major roles at the Met and Europe's most prestigious opera houses.

SING FOR YOUR LIFE chronicles Ryan's suspenseful, racially charged and artistically intricate journey from solitary confinement to stardom. Daniel Bergner takes readers on Ryan's path toward redemption, introducing us to a cast of memorable characters--including the two teachers from his childhood who redirect his rage into music, and his long-lost father who finally reappears to hear Ryan sing. Bergner illuminates all that it takes--technically, creatively--to find and foster the beauty of the human voice. And Sing for Your Life sheds unique light on the enduring and complex realities of race in America.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780316300674
  • ISBN-10: 0316300675
  • Publisher: Lee Boudreaux Books
  • Publish Date: September 2016
  • Page Count: 320
  • Dimensions: 9.55 x 6.25 x 1.05 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.15 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Composers & Musicians - General
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Cultural Heritage
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Entertainment & Performing Arts - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-06-27
  • Reviewer: Staff

In 2011, Ryan Speedo Green won a national competition sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Yet, as journalist Bergner (God of the Rodeo) points out in this gripping and inspiring mix of biography and cultural history, Green’s journey to international acclaim as an opera star was not an easy one. Raised in a home marred by domestic violence and his father’s abandonment of the family, Green grows up being shuttled from a trailer park to a shack in a neighborhood riddled with drugs and violence. He has difficulties in school and grows more and more unruly, until the moment he threatens his mother with a knife. Transported to a juvenile psychiatric detention center so he won’t be a threat to others or himself, Green discovers music as the force that calms his anger. When he returns to high school, he enrolls in the music program, meeting up with a teacher who takes him under his wing and helps Green develop his vocal talents. On a class visit to the Met, Green declares to his teacher that he’s going to sing there one day. Bergner chronicles the auditions and vocal contests as well as the struggles Green faces as a black man entering a musical world that is mostly white, delivering a moving portrait of a young man who succeeds, along with the help of encouraging teachers. (Sept.)

 
BookPage Reviews

An opera star's rise against the odds

You don’t have to be an opera fan to enjoy Sing for Your Life, but if you are, prepare for a feast. Daniel Bergner seats you in the front row of the Metropolitan Opera, and his larger-than life subject, African-American singer Ryan Speedo Green, keeps you there. A study in discipline and artistry, musical agility, opera itself and the role that race has played in all of it, this would be an enlightening read even without Green. His story makes it unforgettable.

Bergner tracks Green’s rise from an impoverished, shattered family to a career as a globally acclaimed bass-baritone, alternating past and present dramas with scenes of the daunting work going on backstage at one of the world’s iconic opera houses. Green’s mother is a constant, mostly malevolent force. His father leaves, his brother goes to prison and 12-year-old Green falls apart at a juvenile detention facility.

How Green grows from there is as captivating as any opera. There’s the teacher who saves his sanity and the facility staffer who gives him a radio; the football coach who makes his players take a music class; the principal who gives Green a chance at his school for the arts, even if he can’t sing; and YouTube, where Green mimics opera stars singing in Italian and German, though he doesn’t understand a word.

Always backlit by racial prejudice—its hazy history in opera and the shadow it continues to cast—the story has moments that bristle, as when Green is expected to sing “Ol’ Man River” at a party hosted by Met benefactors. He feels “reduced, confined, simplified, compressed, concealed” by the expectation the he will “sing woefully about the oppression of black people while taking care not to make white people uncomfortable.” Yet finally, recalling Paul Robeson, who “insisted on adding dignity” by changing some of the words, he sings “with almost enough beauty to crack the wall in front of him and make it disintegrate.” You can almost hear it happen.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews