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Sing for Your Life
Cover of Sing for Your Life
Sing for Your Life
A Story of Race, Music, and Family
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A New York Times bestsellerA 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 MagazineA New York...
A New York Times bestsellerA 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 MagazineA New York...
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Description-

  • 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.

About the Author-

  • Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. With a specialty in Sleep Disorders, Dr. Breus is one of only 163 psychologists in the world with his credentials and distinction. Dr. Breus pens a monthly column in WebMD magazine, "Sleep Matters" and writes regularly for WebMD, The Huffington Post, and Psychology Today. He is the author of The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan and Beauty Sleep.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 27, 2016
    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.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2016
    The biography of an emerging African-American opera singer who overcame a tough Southern childhood.New York Times Magazine contributor Bergner (What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, 2013, etc.) details the life of Ryan Speedo Green, who rose to performance prominence after a harrowing childhood in southeastern Virginia. Described as a physically imposing figure at 6 feet 5 inches and over 300 pounds, Green grew up with little adolescent ambition, raised by a largely absent part-Seminole bodybuilder father and an Air Force veteran mother who grew as abusive and violent to her children as her own romantic partners were to her. Life in their low-income housing project became troublesome for the young, increasingly uncontrollable Green, who, at age 12, pulled a knife on his brother and his mother and was sent to a juvenile detention facility. During his high school years, the family lived in similar squalor, but as Green was steered toward chorus classes to obtain easy high school credits, he ended up uncovering his truest voice. Bergner captures the essence of his subject's desperate childhood even though Green terminated many interviews due to the still-palpable pain and misery of his past. Running alongside Green's childhood is the story of his more recent ascent up the ranks of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions competition; the author spotlights both the struggles and the triumphs associated with Green's exhaustive vocal training. The interweaving of both eras of Green's life doesn't always cohere, causing a meandering narrative. Bergner works hard to establish momentum during Green's tumultuous childhood--and finds some success--but when coupled with the details of his opera aspirations, the effect is jarring. Still, as Green's past and present finally meet in conclusion, his prideful performance at the Met (with his father in joyful attendance) seemingly trumps a good portion of childhood trauma. A disjointed structure occasionally hobbles this swiftly written life story of music, forgiveness, and resilience.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    April 15, 2016
    Ryan Speedo Green had a hard upbringing, spending time in juvenile detention, but pulled his life together and was so floored by a performance at New York's Metropolitan Opera that he decided to become an opera singer. Now he strides the Met's stage. Not just for opera fans.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • New York Times Book Review Deeply moving.... A testament to the limitlessness of the human spirit, even in the most forlorn and unexpected places.... This is a book of great compassion that traces the contours of a single remarkable life. But Bergner is also doing something more expansive, examining the long and tormented history of black involvement in an elite artistic tradition and in society at large. Ultimately, this is the story that captures the most inexplicable thing—the human will itself.
  • -Tracy Kidder, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Soul of a New Machine and Mountains Beyond Mountains Sing For Your Life is certain to be billed as a book about race. And it is that, and also a book about art and hope and resilience. But this is not a book about abstractions. It's a story that is suspenseful in the deepest sense, and very moving - a story about a fascinating human being. I am grateful to Mr. Bergner for having introduced me to him.
  • Jeff Hobbs, author of New York Times bestseller The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace Sing for Your Life is a generous book, filled with complicated, compassionate characters, written with great journalistic skill but also empathy. The passages on opera read like superb sports writing. The passages on family illuminate the deeper reaches of identity, race, judgment — and love. To read the story of Ryan Speedo Green is to be troubled, confused, heartbroken, thrilled, hopeful, proud, and ultimately, perhaps, changed.
  • Alex Kotlowitz, author of National Bestseller There Are No Children Here Daniel Bergner writes from the heart. Night after night, I stayed up late reading, entranced by this tender, unflinchingly honest, beautifully told story. Ryan Speedo Green. His voice, his journey, his exuberance will stay with me.
  • Library Journal (starred review) A masterly crafted and unique portrait...While fans of opera will find this to be a captivating biography of one of the most decorated bass baritones, this highly recommended narrative is also about a man who conquers his personal demons and limitations to break racial barriers in one of the oldest cultural institutions in the world.
  • Peter Gelb, General Manager, Metropolitan Opera A thrilling and authentic work of art, this is the unlikeliest of portraits of an artist who against-all-odds rises from the ashes of rural black poverty, a broken home, child abuse and the edges of madness to vault to the threshold of opera stardom.
  • Roxane Gay, author of the New York Times bestselling Bad Feminist and An Untamed State In Sing For Your Life, Daniel Bergner beautifully tells the story of what it means for a young man to, quite literally, find his voice. In this chronicle of the life of Ryan Speedo Green, we see how a young black man can rise, and hold onto hope, despite all the forces working against him. We see how a young black man can sing for his life and find triumph in the most unexpected of places.
  • Publishers Weekly, starred review Gripping and inspiring...Bergner chronicles the auditions and vocal contests 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.
  • Joy-Ann Reid, National Correspondent for MSNBC and author of Fracture In Ryan Speedo Green we see a microcosm of American's own struggle to throw off the shackles of our troubled racial legacy... His story, expertly told by Daniel Bergner, is proof of the possibility of all of our redemption.
  • O, The Oprah Magazine A true-life rags-to-Wagner story.
  • Atlanta Journal-Constitution Bergner richly weaves Green's rising stardom with scenes from a daunting childhood.... In less skilled hands, Sing For Your Life might mimic a cliched rag-to-riches fable.... Instead, Bergner presents a far more nuanced and rigorous examination of the institutional forces that shape Green's life.... It's Green's sense of pride, of his connection to his history, to his heritage, that Bergner so delicately captures in this melodious nar

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