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.