New York writer tells inspiring story of opera singer

David Bergner, a contributing writer for The New York Times and the author of three other nonfiction books, will discuss “Sing for Your Life,” from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. Thursday in the Lago Vista Gallery. The event is part of Richland’s “Common Book reading”program.

“Sing for Your Life” is the inspirational life story of Ryan Speedo Green, a young black man who had a traumatic upbringing in southeastern Virginia. Living in a trailer park with an absent father and an abusive mother and later in a bullet-riddled house across the street from drug dealers, Green rose from solitary confinement in a juvenile facility to stardom. Bergner’s story gives readers a glimpse into his transformation into a successful opera singer.

“We have this amazing writer of national recognition coming to our college to talk about Green and chronicle his journey,” Dr. Sobia Kahn, English professor, said.

Kahn said she spoke with Bergner, a journalist and nonfiction writer, over the phone and he said he was eager to share how he was able to write the story about Green.

“I think it is a moving story and a story that resonated with me as a student,” Kahn said.  “I wish I had heard more of these stories of inspiration while I was a student.  It’s lyrical.  It’s a good, easy read. It goes fast.”

Bergner introduces some of Green’s most memorable characters in his path toward self discovery, shows how he redirected his rage through music and tells how his long-lost father re-appeared in his life once he became famous.

  Kahn said the language of the book is very clear, simple and easy to follow.  What really impressed her was Green’s story of how he overcame obstacles and how teachers and an educational institute helped him reach his dreams and hopes.

“That’s what inspired me,” she said.  “He [Green] is an opera singer.  He didn’t even know he was an opera singer until he came into contact with teachers and mentors and those who encouraged him, supported him in multiple ways and fostered this love of opera singing.”

Bergner’s work has appeared in the The Atlantic, Granta, Harper’s, Mother Jones, Talk and The New York Times Book Review.  He will also speak with creative writing students about “The Art of Writing” from 12:30 to 1:50 p.m. in the Lago Vista Gallery. Copies of the book are available in the Richland library.