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Breaking Night
Cover of Breaking Night
Breaking Night
A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard
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In the vein of The Glass Castle, Breaking Night is the stunning memoir of a young woman who at age fifteen was living on the streets, and who eventually made it into Harvard. Liz Murray was born to...
In the vein of The Glass Castle, Breaking Night is the stunning memoir of a young woman who at age fifteen was living on the streets, and who eventually made it into Harvard. Liz Murray was born to...
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  • In the vein of The Glass Castle, Breaking Night is the stunning memoir of a young woman who at age fifteen was living on the streets, and who eventually made it into Harvard.
    Liz Murray was born to loving but drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. In school she was taunted for her dirty clothing and lice-infested hair, eventually skipping so many classes that she was put into a girls' home. At age fifteen, Liz found herself on the streets. She learned to scrape by, foraging for food and riding subways all night to have a warm place to sleep.
    When Liz's mother died of AIDS, she decided to take control of her own destiny and go back to high school, often completing her assignments in the hallways and subway stations where she slept. Liz squeezed four years of high school into two, while homeless; won a New York Times scholarship; and made it into the Ivy League. Breaking Night is an unforgettable and beautifully written story of one young woman's indomitable spirit to survive and prevail, against all odds.
 

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About the Author-

  • Liz Murray was left homeless at age fifteen after her mother's death from AIDS. She fended for herself on the streets, eventually returning to high school. She was accepted into Harvard, where she attended college classes for three years before taking time off to help her father, who died of AIDS. She returned to college, and is now taking graduate courses at Harvard. Liz gives speaking engagements around the country. A movie about her life, Homeless to Harvard, was made by Lifetime in 2003, and airs frequently.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 9, 2010
    From runaway to Harvard student, Murray tells an engaging, powerfully motivational story about turning her life around after growing up the neglected child of drug addicts. When Murray was born in 1980, her former beatnik father was in jail for illegally trafficking in prescription painkillers, and her mother, a cokehead since age 13, had just barely missed losing custody of their year-old daughter, Lisa. Murray and her sister grew up in a Bronx apartment that gradually went to seed, living off government programs and whatever was left after the parents indulged their drug binges; Murray writes that drugs were the "wrecking ball" that destroyed her family— prompting her mother's frequent institutionalization for drug-induced mental illness and leading to her parents inviting in sexual molesters. By age 15, with the help of her best friend Sam and an elusive hustler, Carlos, she took permanently to the streets, relying on friends, sadly, for shelter. With the death of her mother, her runaway world came to an end, and she began her step-by-step plan to attend an alternative high school, which eventually led to a New York Times scholarship and acceptance to Harvard. In this incredible story of true grit, Murray went from feeling like "the world was filled with people who were repulsed by me" to learning to receive the bountiful generosity of strangers who truly cared.

  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2010

    The admirable story of a teen who overcame homelessness through sheer grit and the kindness of friends.

    Murray's memoir of extreme poverty and eventual academic success begins with her unenviable childhood, during which her parents were drug addicts living in the decaying Bronx of the 1980s. While Murray's older sister was furious and distant regarding their life circumstances—which included a ritualized dependence on "check day"—the author so desired her parents' acceptance that she rationalized their addictions and poverty, even though it resulted in her being grotesquely unkempt and ostracized at school. Much of the narrative focuses on her mother, who "became giddy setting up their 'works' while she waited for Daddy to get back with the drugs." Murray's formative years become increasingly traumatic, as her mother was diagnosed with AIDS and then left her scholarly yet seedy father, who had served time in prison in the '70s for an elaborate prescription-forgery ring. Meanwhile, her disintegrating family's encounters with the state, including a stint in a group home for truancy, convinced the author that she would be better off homeless. "I had been inching my way onto the streets all along," she writes, "through my every run-in with premature independence." Murray left her mother's surly boyfriend's cramped apartment at age 15 and stayed in a motel with her first love, whom she eventually realized was a violent drug dealer and user. Despite her precarious circumstances, following her mother's death, the author re-engaged with the educational process at an alternative high school and received a prestigious New York Times–sponsored scholarship and acceptance to Harvard. Murray ably captures the fearful, oppressive monotony of being a homeless teen, constantly hustling for places to stay, and her tale is a disturbing reminder of lives lost to addiction and poverty. However, the narrative's effectiveness is undermined by a plodding pace and by reconstructed dialogue that feels artificial and unconvincing.

    An uplifting story of survival, often marred by maudlin writing.

    (COPYRIGHT (2010) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Booklist

    August 1, 2010
    While reading Murrays memoir, you cant help but continuously wonder how the young woman narrated on the page could be the same woman who survived to become her author. In the harrowing tale of her childhood in the Bronx, Murrays straightforward and no-frills prose hits hard. These are the facts, and they are not pretty: Murray watched her parents mainline cocaine at the kitchen table from before she could speak, and the family often spent 25 days a monththe time after her parents blew the welfare check to feed their blazing drug habitstarving. Regarding her parents addiction with the utmost benevolence, Murray tells of bearing the weighty burden of young protector to her obviously flailing parents, and eventually living on the streets when it was less unhappyand perhaps saferthan staying at home. With no resources to speak of, she ultimately commits to high school and finds her prospects can be great. Neither sensationalizing nor soliciting pity, Murrays generous account of and caring attitude toward her past are not only uplifting, but also a fascinating lesson in the value of dedication.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2010, American Library Association.)

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Breaking Night
Breaking Night
A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard
Liz Murray
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A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard
Liz Murray
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