A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard
By Liz Murray
(Hyperion, Hardcover, 9780786868919, 352pp.)
Publication Date: September 1, 2025
In the vein of The Glass Castle, Breaking Night is the stunning memoir of a young woman who at age fifteen was living on the streets, and who eventually made it into Harvard.
Liz Murray was born to loving but drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. In school she was taunted for her dirty clothing and lice-infested hair, eventually skipping so many classes that she was put into a girls’ home. At age fifteen, Liz found herself on the streets when her family finally unraveled. She learned to scrape by, foraging for food and riding subways all night to have a warm place to sleep.
When Liz’s mother died of AIDS, she decided to take control of her own destiny and go back to high school, often completing her assignments in the hallways and subway stations where she slept. Liz squeezed four years of high school into two, while homeless; won a New York Times scholarship; and made it into the Ivy League. Breaking Night is an unforgettable and beautifully written story of one young woman’s indomitable spirit to survive and prevail, against all odds.
LIZ MURRAY was left homeless at age 15 after her mother's death from AIDS. She fended for herself on the streets, eventually returning to high school. She was accepted into Harvard, where she attended college classes for three years before taking time off to help her father, who died of AIDS. She returned to college, and is now taking graduate courses at Harvard. Liz gives speaking engagements around the country. A movie about her life, Homeless to Harvard, was made by Lifetime in 2003, and airs frequently.
As a child, Liz Murray dealt with the typical stresses of growing up. But she also grappled with going days without food and living on the streets. Despite these obstacles, Murray finished school and went on to attend Harvard University. Murray talks about her memoir, Breaking Night. More at NPR.org
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- The book begins with Liz Murray comparing herself—physically and otherwise—to her mother. In what ways are they alike? What specific instances of difference can you find? What do you think it was that allowed Liz to actualize her dreams in a way her mother couldn’t?