"Breaking Night: A Memoir Of Forgiveness, Survival, And My Journey From Homeless To Harvard"
Biblio File column
"I envision my mother," Liz Murray writes. "The symmetry of our lives has become clearer to me lately. She was homeless at sixteen too. Ma also dropped out of school. Like me, Ma made daily decisions between hallway or park, subway or rooftop. The Bronx, for Ma, also meant wandering through dangerous streets, through neighborhoods with lampposts littered with flyers of police sketches and sirens blaring at all hours of the night."
Born in 1980 to drug addicted parents, Murray found herself on the streets after her mother died of AIDS and her father, HIV positive, moved to a men's shelter. Her harrowing childhood, the subject of a Lifetime movie, is told in the chilling and challenging "Breaking Night: A Memoir Of Forgiveness, Survival, And My Journey From Homeless To Harvard" ($26 in hardcover from Hyperion; also in paperback and ebook editions).
Murray was the scheduled keynote speaker for the Jesus Center's spring luncheon at the California Park Lakeside Pavilion, on Saturday, March 25.
As a homeless teen she bounced from friend to friend. "Sometimes we would stay out until the dark sky grew light again—what we in the Bronx called 'breaking night.'" Drugs and booze were plentiful, though, she writes, "I was repulsed by drugs and alcohol and didn't go near either of them." She remembers something her mother said as she was coming down after shooting up: "Lizzy, don't ever get high, baby. It ruined by life. You'd break my heart if you ever got high."
Something inside made her imagine other possibilities; she completed alternative high school, received a New York Times scholarship, got into Harvard after being waitlisted, and graduated in 2009.
She realized that just as her "homeless friends were once certain that there was simply 'no way out' … homeless person or business person, doctor or teacher, whatever your background may be, the same holds true for each of us: life takes on the meaning you give it … the only time to embrace life fully is now."
Copyright Chico Enterprise-Record; used by permission