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Symphony for the City of the Dead
Cover of Symphony for the City of the Dead
Symphony for the City of the Dead
Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad
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A 2016 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults FinalistNational Book Award winner M. T. Anderson delivers a brilliant and riveting account of the Siege of Leningrad and the role...
A 2016 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults FinalistNational Book Award winner M. T. Anderson delivers a brilliant and riveting account of the Siege of Leningrad and the role...
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  • A 2016 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist

    National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson delivers a brilliant and riveting account of the Siege of Leningrad and the role played by Russian composer Shostakovich and his Leningrad Symphony.

    In September 1941, Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht surrounded Leningrad in what was to become one of the longest and most destructive sieges in Western history—almost three years of bombardment and starvation that culminated in the harsh winter of 1943–1944. More than a million citizens perished. Survivors recall corpses littering the frozen streets, their relatives having neither the means nor the strength to bury them. Residents burned books, furniture, and floorboards to keep warm; they ate family pets and—eventually—one another to stay alive. Trapped between the Nazi invading force and the Soviet government itself was composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who would write a symphony that roused, rallied, eulogized, and commemorated his fellow citizens—the Leningrad Symphony, which came to occupy a surprising place of prominence in the eventual Allied victory.

    This is the true story of a city under siege: the triumph of bravery and defiance in the face of terrifying odds. It is also a look at the power—and layered meaning—of music in beleaguered lives. Symphony for the City of the Dead is a masterwork thrillingly told and impeccably researched by National Book Award–winning author M. T. Anderson.

About the Author-

  • M. T. Anderson is an accomplished author of a wide range of titles, including works of fantasy and satire, for readers of various ages. He studied English literature at Harvard University and Cambridge University and went on to receive his MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University.

    M. T. Anderson is known for challenging readers to look at the world in new ways. "We write because we can't decipher things the first time around," he says. His previous books include Thirsty, a vampire novel; Burger Wuss, a revenge story set in a fast-food emporium; and Feed, a futuristic satirical novel widely lauded as one of the most important and pioneering works of the recent dystopian craze. A finalist for the National Book Award, Feed received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize or YA fiction in 2003 and a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor.

    The author's passion for history and classical music were inspirations for his sophisticated and much-lauded epic The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation,Volume I: The Pox Party, a National Book Award Winner, and Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves. The two novels, both Michael L. Printz Honor recipients, trace the story of a fictional slave in pre–Revolutionary War Boston — a time when American Patriots rioted and battled to win liberty, while African slaves were entreated to risk their lives for a freedom they would never claim.

    M. T. Anderson's work may be best known for its sophisticated wit and storylines, highlighting his belief that young people are more intelligent than some might think. When asked why he gives so much credit to his young audience, Anderson says that "Our survival as a nation rests upon the willingness of the young to become excited and engaged by new ideas we never considered as adults."

    M. T. Anderson was an instructor at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he now serves as a board member. From 2003–2012, he also served on the board of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance, a national nonprofit organization that advocates or literacy, literature, and libraries. He has published stories for adults in literary journals such as the Northwest Review, the Colorado Review, and Conjunctions. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 29, 2015
    Anderson’s ambitious nonfiction hybrid strives to meld the history of the bloody events of Russia from the 1917 Revolution through its transformation into the Soviet Union to the atrocities of WWII with a biography of prolific Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975), who was both a victim and a hero of the times he lived in. Anderson has clearly done his research, much of it original, and some of the strongest chapters—especially one on starvation and cannibalism in Leningrad during the winter of 1942—are filled with gruesome details from primary sources. But his treatment of Shostakovich’s life and character is often speculative, failing to richly evoke the composer’s passion and talent for music. In some heavily historical chapters, Shostakovich is only a minor presence. With numerous anecdotes incorporating language like “apparently,” “supposedly,” and “may have,” Anderson draws attention to the difficulty of verifying source material from this historical period in Russia, even questioning one of the major sources on Shostakovich’s life. A fascinating, if uneven, examination of an important musical figure living in a time of extraordinary political and social turmoil. Ages 14–up.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from September 1, 2015

    Gr 9 Up-This ambitious and gripping work is narrative nonfiction at its best. Anderson expertly sets the scene of the tumultuous world into which Dmitri Shostakovich was born in 1906 and traces his development as an artist and a public figure. He also tells the story of the composer's beloved Leningrad, focusing on the creation and legacy of the symphony written in its honor at the height of World War II. In his author's note, Anderson poses an intriguing question: "How do we reconstruct the story of someone who lived in a period in which everyone had an excuse to lie, evade, accuse, or keep silent?" The compelling, well-researched narrative relates what is known of Shostakovich's story, what is speculation, what is revisionist history, and what new sources have revealed. The chilling details of the Stalin regime and the plight of the Russian people even before the Germans arrived will be eye-opening to many teen readers. The book has all the intrigue of a spy thriller, recounts the horrors of living during the three year siege, and delineates the physical oppression and daunting foes within and outside of the city. This is also the story of survival against almost impossible odds. Through it all, Anderson weaves the thread of the composer's music and the role it played in this larger-than-life drama. VERDICT A must-have title with broad crossover appeal-Luann Toth, School Library Journal

    Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from July 1, 2015
    The epic tale of the siege of Leningrad and its native son, composer Dmitri Shostakovich, whose seventh symphony comforted, consoled, and rallied a population subjected to years of unspeakable suffering. Anderson vividly chronicles the desperate lengths residents went to, including acts of cannibalism, to survive the Wehrmacht's siege, a 3-year-long nightmare that left more than 1 million citizens dead. The richly layered narrative offers a keen-eyed portrait of life in the paranoid, ruthlessly vengeful Stalinist Soviet Union, its citizens living under a regime so capriciously evil that one could be heralded a hero of the motherland one day and condemned as a traitor the next. The storytelling is captivating, describing how Shostakovich began composing the symphony under relentless bombardment in Leningrad and later finished it in Moscow, its triumphant performance in Leningrad during the siege, and how it rallied worldwide sympathy for Russia's plight. Music is at the heart of the story. As Anderson writes in the prologue, "it is a story about the power of music and its meanings," and he communicates them with seeming effortlessness in this brilliantly written, impeccably researched tour de force. A triumphant story of bravery and defiance that will shock and inspire. (photos, author's note, sources notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 14 & up)

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad
M. T. Anderson
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