Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Breaking Night - Murray

Breaking Night: Urban slang for staying up, all night, until the sun rises

If anyone's childhood could be described as 'night', Liz Murray's could.  Born to drug addicted parents who, despite loving their daughters, were incapable of caring for them, Murray and her sister spent their childhoods just trying to survive, even begging or stealing food and sometimes eating nothing more than Chapstick. While Murray's sister thrived in school, utilizing it as an opportunity, Murray was picked on at school for being dirty, bug infested, skinny and unkempt.

Eventually, she stopped attending and found herself thrown into a group home for truancy. At her release, Murray took to the streets in order to avoid being returned to either school or the group home. She scraped by sleeping at friend's homes, on the subway, and pulling scams to earn a few dollars for food. She latched on to boyfriends who seemed able to help her survive, even when it was clear that they too were making choices that were not safe.

Things changed after Murray's mother died of AIDS.  Murray realized that she needed to take control of her life and make changes happen herself. A friend had mentioned an alternative school program where she might succeed, despite years of failure in a traditional school setting. Murray was turned down.  But she continued searching until she found an opportunity, a school that was more than a school. It was a family, of sorts. Though she had to hide her homeless status from them to avoid being returned to the system, she eventually turned eighteen and was able to admit her struggles. 

Her senior year, she was given the opportunity to visit Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She quickly decided that Harvard was the key to her future. She applied and, while first being wait-listed, wouldn't take no for an answer. But she never gave up.  She won a prestigious scholarship from the New York Times that would enable her to pay for the costs of attendance and did everything she could to make her dream a reality.

An exceptional memoir, written with total honesty and openness. A wonderful read for all.
4/5- Great. Push it on your friends and family.

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