From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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.
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While reading Murray’s memoir, you can’t 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, Murray’s 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 month—the time after her parents blew the welfare check to feed their blazing drug habit—starving. 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 unhappy—and perhaps safer—than 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, Murray’s generous account of and caring attitude toward her past are not only uplifting, but also a fascinating lesson in the value of dedication. --Annie Bostrom