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America Backstage

Thanks to Penguin Random House Audiobooks, the sixth week of this year’s SYNC collection of free audiobooks takes us backstage at two dramatic turning points in the history and culture of both the United States and the world. These nonfiction audiobooks provide teens and others with well researched accounts of events and the people who featured in them. Each audiobook is performed by a narrator who has won numerous accolades as a voice actor and who makes 20th-century history relevant to 21st-century lives.

From left: author Albert Marrin and narrator Jason Culp

First up is Albert Marrin’s A TIME OF FEAR: America in the Era of Red Scares and Cold War, narrated by Jason Culp. The Soviet Union’s dictator Josef Stalin and U.S. presidents John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan are among the sources author and narrator quote directly, giving listeners first-hand access to source material the historian used to make his case. Join the exploration of the mid-20th-century international scene that gave rise to sophisticated spying and overly zealous accusations that caused a secondary panic for Americans already fearful of open nuclear warfare. Let Jason Culp introduce you to what makes this era of history great storytelling as well as important information to understand in our own era of international armed struggle:

American sports, like American statecraft, can reveal a connection between past events and current culture. Biographer Andrew Maraniss investigates the role of one man whose story does just that. Narrator Kevin R. Free engages listeners with SINGLED OUT: The True Story of Glenn Burke quickly and completely in his reading of outfielder Glenn Burke’s short Major League Baseball career with the L.A. Dodgers and then with the Oakland Athletics. Burke might have had a brief career, but he left behind a couple of achievements that still resonate today: He was out and gay at the very beginning of the Pride movement, and he developed the high-five to signify congratulations or athlete-to-athlete greeting.

From left: author Andrew Maraniss and narrator Kevin R. Free

Taken together, this week’s free audiobooks suggest a wide range of discussion topics about identity, suspicion, and acceptance. Culp and Free are masters of their craft of audiobook narration, so beyond teens interested in sports, spies, or popular or political culture, drama students will want to take some cues from these performances. Culp and Free share the authors’ informative perspectives on the recent past with pacing and intonation that quickly connect listeners to understanding the links between history and the present. Be sure to download the week’s free audiobooks before 11:59 PM, Eastern Daylight Time, on June 8.

Photos of authors and narrators courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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