- Series: AWARDS: ALA: Youth Media Award Winners 2011
- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Hachette Books; First Edition edition (September 7, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780786868919
- ISBN-13: 978-0786868919
- ASIN: 0786868910
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 910 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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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
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What saddened me more than reading this Memoir, were the negative comments. I do believe, without a shadow of a doubt, Ms Murray had, and still has, strong emotions regarding her life. She chose to try to write an inspirational book. Depressing? Yes, if you can't handle the reality of many children. I think reading the back cover would give a clue on the contents. When surrounded in such dysfunction, one would be emotionally delayed. Emotions can crop up many years after the actual situation. Her life was more of a daily battle zone. Survival mode does not give one much time to analyze feelings. Her forgiveness of her parent's are amazing, though those thoughts may change as she ages, and perspective sets in. Eating chapstick is hardly conducive to proper nutrition, or stimulating the brain cells. Neither is being born crack addicted. I suppose the 80's were different, though I cannot fathom why Social Services did not remove her from the hospital. I commend those who actually did help and guide her.
It appears many simply ignored the situation. No family members involved? The breakdown of our society. I would like to see her write a second book. An update, if you will. More on Lisa. More on her emotions, even if it offends those who were depressed by the contents. No judgements from me. None. God has truly walked with these two sisters. May they continue on a path of peace. Thank you for writing this Liz.
I had the privilege of hearing Liz Murray speak at a Commencement Ceremony for the University of Utah. She told her story of going from being homeless to getting an education at Harvard. After hearing her speak, I knew I had to read more about her story.
Liz Murray grew up in a family with parents who were drug addicts. At a young age she knew how to set up the paraphernalia for her parent’s big night of drug binges. Her father was a very smart man who never went to college or fulfilled any of his dreams. Her mother was legally blind and her monthly disability check was all the family had to live on. After they picked up the check the family ate well for a few days until all the money had been used for drugs and alcohol. Liz’s sister was always telling her parents to take care of her children and not do drugs. Liz was the advocate for her parents and lookout so she could tell her parents to hide the drugs from her sister.
Liz and her sister grew up with never enough to eat, no clean clothes, and no one to tuck them in at night. Their living conditions were unsanitary with a bathtub that wouldn’t drain and the water had gone rotten, making the apartment smell bad. Liz started skipping school while still in elementary school so she could spend time watching game shows with her parents. She only went to enough school to pass her tests and move on to the next grade level. As a teenager, her parents separated and she lived with her mom and a new boyfriend for a while then went back to the apartment until her father turned her in to protective services. Liz was so afraid of going back into custody she lived with friends, sleeping under their beds and eating and showering only when the parents went to work.
Liz wanted to go back to school and make a life for herself, but the kids she hung out with seemed to be having too much fun. She finally went to high school and studied in the empty hallways of apartment buildings, because it was quiet. She was so far behind in school that she had to take four years of high school in two years.
This is a wonderful story of strength, commitment and fulfilling your dreams. You really don’t want to miss this book. It has come out in movie form as well as the Liz Murray Story.