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

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


This review originally appeared on

I heard about Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music, and Family on a recent episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. But before that, I went to my first opera in Vienna to see a majestic performance of Carmen. From that experience, I've become enraptured with wanting to see more opera, so when I heard about this book about Ryan Speedo Green a rising opera singer from New York I went on Audible and picked up the audiobook. 

From the opening sentence I was enraptured in Ryan's plight. His upbringing is anything but conventional when it comes to opera singers. Daniel Bergner the biographer writing about Ryan's life does a great job of weaving his past and present to bring together a truly enriching story. Ryan started his life in a broken home, in and out of jail, and starting his life as far away from the opera as possible.

It wasn't until a couple, one his elementary teacher, and her husband a music teacher took Ryan under their wings, pushing Ryan to break free of the chains of his upbringing. The stories of his childhood set right next to the vast differential of his present is stark. Stories of a broken family, a brother who lives with his father, while he was brought up in a violent home with his mother. Probably the most profound stories are of Ryan in an institution in his early teens where he was sent after threatening to kill his mother. 

I loved every moment of Sing for Your Life, but it felt like it might have been written ten or fifteen years to early. Beginning to hear about Ryan's breakthroughs in Vienna and New York were incredible but I think the story has more to tell. However, to this point Daniel Bergner put together an incredible story and one that made me jump on YouTube right after I finished the book to hear some of Ryan's brilliant singing.

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