What makes Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music, and Family is not the quality of the writing or the organization, which is mediocre, but the person at the center of the story, opera singer Ryan Green, who is African-American, a rarity in white-white operatic circles, and who was raised in a trailer park and a juvenile facility. The story is told in ponderous counterpoint (pun intended), contrasting his difficult upbringing with his artistic successes, which makes it sound like a cheap tabloid, but it’s possible to forget the form and concentrate on the miracle of how Green beat the heavy odds to make it in the notoriously competitive world of classical music. The portraits of the teachers who helped him along the way are particularly touching, starting with a tough elementary school teacher who saw beyond his rage.
Beside a less lurid exposition, one would wish for some photos to illustrate the narrative. The tiny childhood snapshot on the cover is it.