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Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard Hardcover – September 7, 2010


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Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard + Homeless to Harvard - The Liz Murray Story
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Product Details

  • Series: AWARDS: ALA: Youth Media Award Winners 2011
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786868910
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786868919
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (655 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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

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Customer Reviews

Thank you Liz Murray for sharing your story.
Deneen Vastano
An inspiring story that was very well written and very easy to read.
Kristin Jordan
I found this book easy to read and hard to put down.
Donna Gilbert, Ms

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

119 of 121 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on September 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In an unusual transition, this true story went from a made-for-TV in 2004 to an enthralling memoir in 2010. "Homeless to Harvard" was the descriptive title of the movie and it is incorporated into the book title. Liz Murray's grandfathers were abusive alcohols who made the streets seem safer than home. The parents of Liz Murray were baby-boomers who grew up in the '60's and were drug addicts in the '70's. It was Liz Murray who has broken the generational pattern of violence, of substance abuse and of homelessness. She is all of thirty now.

This autobiography is a can't-put-down page turner describing the crazy life of having indiscriminating drug addicts for parents (all drugs were good, but cocaine was always better). Having worked for many years with children and teenagers with lives similiar to the author, her story rings true with its harrowing details of survival (which seemed normal to her, having nothing else to compare it to). Her prose is simple and straight forward as she describes her journey from darkness to light (hence the title).
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By JaneMancini on September 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been waiting for this book to come out for a while.
Really enjoyed the movie, but the book has so much more detail about what Liz had to endure on her journey.
It is an amazing story and one that I will never forget.
The book is very well written - you kind of get swept up into her daily life growing up ..
Anything I'm up against in life, it will most likely pale in comparison to what Liz had to deal with on a daily basis as a child - and reading about the hard road she travelled is an inspiration. Thanks Liz ~ !!
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By MarvelousMarla VINE VOICE on October 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Breaking Night is gripping story about the child of two chronic drug abusers and how she managed to finally break the cycle of dysfunction that turned her life into a nightmare of hunger and homelessness. Despite the bleakness of her upbringing, Liz Murray, much like Jeannette Walls in The Glass Castle, does not play the victim card. In fact, it's not until she is finally safe in her own apartment and about to enroll in college does Liz allow herself to fully grieve over the way she was raised.

Liz Murray was saved by school. The young girl who hated the institution and became a truant finally realizes at age 17 that the only way for her to improve her circumstances is through getting an education, but arriving at that conclusion was no easy task. Liz and her older sister Lisa were raised in abject poverty in the Bronx. Their parents would routinely leave them alone in their apartment while they were out all night scoring drugs. Their mother Jean was legally blind and received government assistance, but as soon as the monthly checks arrived they would be spent on drugs. The girls were so hungry that they ate mayonnaise sandwiches and cherry Chapstick. But Liz still loved both of her parents and even tried to shield them from Lisa's critcism.

Things go from bad to worse after Liz' mother leaves her father to move in with another man who has a job and lives in a better neighborhood saying that it's the only way that she can stay off drugs. Liz refuses to leave her father and is placed in a group home because of truancy and is later released into the custody of her mother's boyfriend. This marks the beginning of a downward spiral that leads to Liz living on the streets and stealing to survive.
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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful By book worm on November 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book clearly illustrates how children need good role models.
During the first 2/3 of the book Liz herself makes bad choices. One after another as she finds it easier to survive by dropping out. Her life is horrible and she has no reason to believe it will ever be anything else. It is hard to blame a child who is hungry, dirty and no has support for failing.

It is the last third of the book when Liz somehow summons the courage/determination to finish high school that makes the book worth reading. Finally a few decent people, hard work, some good choices and a great deal of luck give Liz the chance she needs and this becomes an inspirational story.

Her devotion to her parents is perplexing but a very important part of her ability to move forward. She avoids the pity parties and blame game and is able to take advantage of opportunity when it come along. A life witout blame to cloud her thinking is key to her success.
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Format: Hardcover
"For years, maybe for my whole life, it felt as thought there was a brick wall down the middle of everything... On one side of the wall there was society, and on the other side there was me, us, the people in the place I came from. Separate... The feeling in my heart was of the world being divided into an `us' versus `them,' and everyone on the other side of the wall felt like `those people.' The everyday working people on the train, the smart students who raised their hands in class and got everything right, the functional families, the people who went away to college --- they all felt like `those people' to me. And then there were people like us: the dropouts, welfare cases, truants, and discipline problems. Different."

Sure, "tortured souls" memoirs are a dime a dozen these days. The more harrowing the author's story, the more accolades the author gets from the press and the longer the book stays on bestseller lists. Are all of these sagas worth reading? Not by a long shot. It's not to say these writers with unfortunate backgrounds are milking their situations (except, of course, when they are), or that their stories don't deserve to be told (except when the book's purpose seems to be a self-pity party or a PR stunt). But there needs to be some sort of distinction between a run-of-the-mill woe-is-me story and a book that is well-thought out, well-crafted, and well-deserving of respect and praise. Liz Murray's memoir BREAKING NIGHT is an example of the latter.

The now-29-year-old author's story is certainly shocking.
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