Friday, September 2, 2016

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson by Pam Muñoz Ryan


It amazes me how this famous opera singer never graces the pages of history books in terms of historical and remarkable tale of overcoming struggles in the United States. I remember vividly reading this book in my civics class and being enchanted by the story, how relatable Marian Anderson is, and how I never came across her name before reading this book. I couldn't believe this story to be true and I wish they would make a movie out of her character. If they could cast anyone for the role of Marian hands down I have to say Audra McDonald. 

Audra McDonald has the looks, the talent, and the capability of tapping into Marian and bringing her story to life and definitely Oscar-Winning performance. Marian predates Martin Luther King Jr. and yet both their performances have changed a nation. I applaud the author of writing this story and beautiful illustrations to make the story colorful and relevant in the 21st century. 

We meet Marian Anderson who has the natural gift to sing. She grows up in the church and as time passes she dreams of being a singer particularly an Opera Singer. The only exception is she's poor and sadly black in the early 20th century. It was never heard of a black person to sing Opera let alone sell sold out concerts between the prejudice they suffer both professionally and in society. Marian is desperate to accomplish her dreams and yet they seem so far away from accomplishing.

No teacher wants to accept her to a music school because of the color of her skin, she has to work to support her family since her father passed away early in her life, and luckily the church will pay for her private lessons because they believe in her dreams and are willing to donate to the church. I've never seen that religious experience before and regardless whether you are religious or not I believe we need that in our community. We should take care of our own and help others to aspire to their dreams especially children.

Then the magical event happens is when she discovers a famous opera singer who is accepting students for private lessons and she is granted the opportunity to work with him and she trains hard to become the singer she is meant to be. After two years of lessons she is prepared to make the next move and that means to travel to Europe where it's easier to land roles and feel free of living in a country and not worry about the color of your skin.

She becomes a overnight sensation in the opera world and decides to make the passage back to the States and immediately she suffers the consequences of racism in America. No hotels would allow her to check in, concert halls refuse to accept her, and she has to perform separate concerts for whites only and then for the color people.

One event that help fuel the fire allowed her to get press coverage and the chance of the lifetime to perform a concert at the Lincoln Memorial. The President of the United States and the 1st lady gave the permission to allow this event. This was never heard of in history which is part of the reason Dr. King used the venue during the civil rights moment and thousands show up to witness Marian Anderson. Everyone of every color and race show up to this event and she makes history. Years later she will break another record as the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera.

This book gave me all the feels the first time I read it and reading it for the second time I felt the same magic again. It always fascinates me when obstacles are presented to some people and how they careful analyze their choices and pick the different path that will help them achieve their dreams and more. In the beginning you connect with Marian and believe it's not possible for her to accomplish her goals and more and yet fate would present itself and by making the right connections at the right time, new doors of opportunities opened themselves up and allowed Marian to become an Opera Singer. Her goal was to just perform opera and yet she broke records never heard of in history and people should know about her and her story.

I cannot rave enough about this book and I suggest everyone to check out this book and read it! Cannot wait for the day when they turn her story into a movie...


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