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

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

4.1 184
by Liz Murray
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

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 manySee more details below

Overview

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 when her family finally unraveled. 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.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Juliet Wittman
Education was the miracle that saved Murray's life. She discovered a special high school created by a passionate teacher and a visionary union official. This school, coupled with her own extraordinary determination, allowed Murray to win admission to Harvard. Her story is inspirational, and her description of the school, and its role in her life, should be read by everyone concerned about education.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
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. (Oct.)
Robert Redford
“Liz Murray shows us that the human spirit has infinite ability to grow and can never be limited by circumstance. Breaking Night is a beautifully written, heartfelt memoir that will change the way you look your community, the obstacles in your own life and the American Dream. An inspiration, a must read.”-- (Robert Redford)
Andrew Bridge
“[Liz Murray] reminds us that the greatest acts of love and failure can occur side by side; that isolation and loss can give way to accomplishment and promise. She offers the awesome hope that, regardless of its past, a life can go beyond endurance and reach for triumph. She leave us with the memory of a child who clung to and refused to surrender the dignity of her soul.” (Andrew Bridge, author of the New York Times bestseller Hope’s Boy)
Haven Kimmel
“As much as it is a memoir, Breaking Night is a primer on how poverty and drug abuse create a heartbreaking underclass of children, one that goes largely unnoticed. By the truly uplifting ending, Liz Murray has shown us the worst, and the very best, of America.” (Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch)
Tara McKelvey
…reads more like an adventure story than an addiction-morality tale. It's a white-knuckle account of survival, marked by desperation, brutality and fear, set in the wilds of the Bronx…[Murray] showed uncanny maturity, even as a child, and later managed to avoid that malady of teenagers and memoir writers, self-pity…Murray's stoicism has been hard-earned; it serves her well as a writer…Breaking Night…is full of heart…and deeply moving.
—The New York Times
From the Publisher
"From runaway to Harvard student, Murray tells an engaging, powerfully motivational story about turning her life around.... 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."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)"

Truly uplifting ... Liz Murray has shown us the worst, and the very best, of America."—Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch"

The admirable story of a teen who overcame homelessness through sheer grit and the kindness of friends ... An uplifting story of survival."—Kirkus Reviews"

Breaking Night reads more like an adventure story than an addiction-morality tale. It's a white-knuckle account of survival. . . . By age 6, Murray knew how to mainline drugs (though she never took them) and how to care for her strung-out parents. She showed uncanny maturity, even as a child, and later managed to avoid that malady of teenagers and memoir writers, self-pity. . . . Murray's stoicism has been hard-earned; it serves her well as a writer. Breaking Night itself is full of heart, without a sliver of ice, and deeply moving."—The New York Times Book Review"

Education was the miracle that saved Murray's life. . . . Her story is inspirational, and her description of [her high school], and its role in her life, should be read by everyone concerned about education."—Washington Post Book World"

Liz Murray shows us that the human spirit has infinite ability to grow and can never be limited by circumstance. Breaking Night is a beautifully written, heartfelt memoir that will change the way you look at your community, the obstacles in your own life, and the American Dream. An inspiration; a must-read."—Robert Redford

The New York Times Book Review
"Breaking Night reads more like an adventure story than an addiction-morality tale. It's a white-knuckle account of survival. . . . By age 6, Murray knew how to mainline drugs (though she never took them) and how to care for her strung-out parents. She showed uncanny maturity, even as a child, and later managed to avoid that malady of teenagers and memoir writers, self-pity. . . . Murray's stoicism has been hard-earned; it serves her well as a writer. Breaking Night itself is full of heart, without a sliver of ice, and deeply moving."
Washington Post Book World
"Education was the miracle that saved Murray's life. . . . Her story is inspirational, and her description of [her high school], and its role in her life, should be read by everyone concerned about education."
Kirkus Reviews

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.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781401396206
Publisher:
Hachette Books
Publication date:
09/07/2010
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
27,172
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Videos

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Murray tells an engaging, powerfully motivational story." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >