Friday, October 8, 2010

Breaking Night

Breaking Night by Liz Murray is an inspirational memoir. Liz grew up in a home where both parents were drug users and there was no consistency in her life. She often went without food, and rarely bathed or washed her hair. From an early age Liz learned to fend for herself. Liz continued to love her parents, who tried their best despite their own enormous set of problems to raise Liz and her sister, Lisa. Liz's mother, Jean, also suffers from schizophrenia, which she is hospitalized for repeatedly and is eventually diagnosed with HIV. It is no surprise that Liz's parents split up. Lisa moves with her mother into Jean's boyfriend's house, while Liz remains with her father. Life continues along the same path. Liz is taken into custody when her truancy from school catches up with her. When she returns home she also returns to her old ways and eventually ends up homeless when her father is unable to pay the bills. By the time Liz realizes this all of her possessions and memories are gone.

Liz did not enjoy school while growing up and found every reason not to attend. Her home life was so chaotic that survival took all her energy. Yet somehow, despite all of this, at the age of seventeen, Liz manages to see into her future and become aware of what is in store for her without an education. While it is never meant to look easy, Murray does not profess to be brilliant as she worked to get a high school diploma and get accepted to Harvard. Because she lacked a school background, there was much she had to teach herself and a great deal of catching up to do.

Several years ago I read another memoir similar to this about a homeless child growing up to attend Harvard. While alike in many ways, Murray's homelife seems a much larger obstacle to overcome than the previous account I read.

I love memoirs, and I especially love memoirs that are inspirational. After reading of everything that Murray accomplished despite the odds stacked against her, it truly makes me appreciate the childhood I had and the home I was raised in. It is also a testament to the human spirit and the will to succeed.

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