Liz Murray in her book, Breaking Night

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Liz Murray's novel, Breaking Night, immerses us in a powerful inspiring tale that looks back on the lives of many children today. This is an excellent story about how a forgotten child can conquer all of life's challenges of varying magnitudes to reach a certain target. Murray's story is built on the realization of survival in the face of adversity, as well as family love. She was born to caring yet drug-addicted parents. It is worth noting that when Liz was born in 1980, her father was serving a prison sentence for dealing with opioid painkillers. This occurrence was indicative of an irresponsible parent. During this time, her mother also faced child custody problem over her one-year-old Lisa. Her parents spent a bigger percentage of their income in drugs compelling Murray and her sister Lisa to toil harder to feed themselves. This aspect of parental failure as a result of improper financial planning is affecting most families today. Most parents are steadfast in using their wealth in an unrealistic ventures leading to collapse in family build up.

The author’s description of her family and the particulars of their flat in the Bronx are vivid. Their Bronx residential area is a three bedroom apartment located in a poor neighborhood. They however, have to live in the midst of criminals (Murray 8). Her parents were drug addicts. She talks about the side effects of drugs and how gravely they affected her parents. Her story of forgiveness, survival, courage and perseverance despite the raging odds to find her way to Harvard University. This analogy of living in a contradicting lifestyle of parent to child relationship is a setback in generations before and now. Raising children and providing all the basic needs at its simplest state is a phenomenon observed in young families in both western and Sub-Saharan communities. Education is key in the life of all children. Most families fail to provide the necessary resources needed to secure the children’s education leading to increase in forced child labor and other an avoidable fates like becoming street children. Despite Murray being a street resident sleeping in dirty corners, she does not despise her background. In her story, it is clear that she loved her mother and fondly described her as a “wild looking and radiant woman” who died of AIDS (Murray 137). Her father was a college dropout who usually had the New York Times next to his bed. This aspect of a backward family and unrealistic parents did not deter her from loving and appreciating them.

Breaking Night is a riveting and disturbing read whereby the author places herself beyond reproach through the story. From runaway child to Harvard student, her life experience is so fascinating and implies positive societal change. Murray writes that drugs wrecked her family. She goes ahead alluding that drugs prompted her mother to frequently invite sexual molesters. The immorality displayed by parents have an immediate effect in the mindset and future lifestyle of children. Murray does not give chance to her spiritual corruption and erosion of her self-esteem despite living in the streets. This virtue of self-tolerance is important to teenagers who are aspiring to achieve more in life. Let us revisit the family property and daily aspect of life. Murray describes hunger. She gives instances of occasional survival on eggs and mayonnaise sandwiches, frequently splitting toothpaste tube among other scenarios. This is a family setup where the most basic want, Food, is a difficult to satisfy. In this manner, Murray manages to outline the impacts of drug addiction on both the users and the members of the family.

In her story, Murray mentions different characters and their impact in her life achievements. She hints at the support she received from her friend Sam and the elusive hustler Carlos. Through, her friends she was able to find shelter in the streets permanently. This analogy also reflects back to hardship faced by most children due to neglect. The streets becomes the most available alternative to secure the basic want of shelter. In fact, the streets offer a home away from home. Children of different backgrounds with ranging past life experiences meet and offer company to each other. Here, it is clear that parental love is important in the overall upbringing of children. A home is not only made of shelter but also ample love and care from parents and family associates. Life can never exist in a vacuum.

Moreover, Murray navigates another point of sponsorship. She hints on the scholarship from New York Ties that enabled him build her career at Harvard later. This aspect was the main turning point in her life. She succeeds to portray the need to live positively and the impacts of working hard in a difficult environment. Brandt further explains that literacy for people is connected to the economics of literacy. The author alludes more on this aspect by illustrating on the significance of “sponsors of literacy” whereby both local and distant sponsors support, teach, enable, suppress or withhold literacy while benefiting from the same. Brand further hints that the benefactors proceed to impact on others. Social change is effected here by bringing in a new mentality of supportive dimension in achieving communal growth and development.


Liz Murray’s memoir is much encouraging. The story has succeeded in portraying the importance of achieving life goals amidst difficult situations. She alludes further that drug use and addiction has substantial impact on the user as they become less responsible and reckless. Moreover, the drug users self-esteem is compromised making them vulnerable to various vices and finally contacting various dreadful diseases such as AIDS. In fact, Murray further portrays personal commitment and self-dedication as the main weapon in conquering life challenges and achieving the best. Murray’s generous and caring attitude towards her past and need to shape her destiny is not only uplifting, but also a fascinating virtue in the line of a teenage life.

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Works Cited

Brandt, Deborah. The Sponsors of Literacy. 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, New York

12222, National Research Center on English Learning & Achievement, 1997, Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.

Murray, Liz. Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from

Homeless to Harvard. [Bridgewater, NJ], Distributed By Paw Prints/Baker & Taylor, 2011.

January 20, 2022


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