Rummanah Aasi
   As the end of the school year draws near, I'm getting a bit burnt out and frustrated. Projects pile up and deadlines loom over my head. I needed something to inspire me and put things into perspective. I got some clarity after finishing up Liz Murray's biography/memoir Breaking Night.

Description: The stunning memoir of a young woman who at age 15 was living on the streets but survived to make it to Harvard. Murray's story was featured in the Lifetime Original Movie "Homeless to Harvard."

Review: I have heard of Liz Murray briefly on the news many years ago, but I didn't really know the whole story. I knew she was homeless and then got admitted to Harvard, but I wasn't aware of her journey from A to B. Breaking Night is an admirable and inspirational story of hope, struggle, and of forgiveness.
  Murray had an unenviable childhood with drug addict parents living in the decaying Brox, where her parents were more concerned about their next 'hit' rather than putting food on the table or sheltering their children. While Murray's older sister was furious and distant regarding their family situation, the author craved her parents' acceptance that she rationalized their addictions and poverty, even though if that meant she would be grotesquely unkempt and ostracized at school. Much of the Murray's story focuses on her mother, who though loved her daughters couldn't overcome her drug use.  Murray's adolescence becomes increasingly traumatic, as her mother was diagnosed with AIDS and her scholarly yet seedy father becomes her guardian.
  While it is so easy for Murray to become part of her parent's world, she struggles not to and puts her emphasis on education not as a means for success initially but rather a exit out to her nightmarish reality and a step to taking charge of her life:

“Instead, what I was beginning to understand was that however things unfolded from here on, whatever the next chapter was, my life could never be the sum of one circumstance. It would be determined, as it had always been, by my willingness to put one foot in front of the other, moving forward, come what may.” 
 As she grows older, she confronts the reality of her parent's issues. Instead of sitting back and blaming them (which no one would argue that they don't deserve it), she tries to help them. Murray faces obstacles after obstacles, but she continues to fight and finds hope and support from friends. Murray ably captures the fearful, oppressive lifestyle of a homeless teen, constantly hustling for places to stay, and her tale is a disturbing reminder of lives lost to addiction and poverty. Though some of the dialogue can be of kilter, it doesn't diminish the powerful story of survival and hope. It is hard hitting yet uplifting at the same time, showing just want someone could achieve if they genuinely want it.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Strong drug use, allusion to sexual abuse, some language, and few non-explicit sex scenes. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, The Kids Are Alright by Diana Welch, Glass Castle by Jeanette Wells, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
4 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Was this made into a lifetime movie with Thora Birch? The premise sounds really familiar:) I can't even imagine the mental fortitude it would take to overcome what she did and get all the way to Harvard, it's just amazing. Sounds like a brilliant story, thanks for the review Rummanah!

  2. I'm not really one for memoirs, but it's always nice to find one that you can connect with.

  3. Oh I have been wanting to read this book and had completely forgot about it. So glad you enjoyed it. I've been curious about her story. It sounds like she became very wise.

  4. @Jenny: Yep, that's the one! I haven't watched it.

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