Breaking Night Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The following questions can help you guide your students through a structured discussion about the Liz Murray book 'Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, And My Journey from Homeless to Harvard'.

Breaking Night

Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, And My Journey from Homeless to Harvard is a memoir by Liz Murray in which the author details her experiences growing up poor and under the care of drug-addicted parents. This results in her homelessness, but through her hard work and intellect she is able to graduate high school and gain admittance into Harvard. These discussion questions can help your students work through their thoughts and feelings about this story. This discussion is intended for high school students, but can be adapted to other grades as well.

Questions about Content

  • In one sentence, how would you describe Breaking Night? What is this book about?
  • How does Breaking Night begin? Why do you think the author chose to start her memoir this way? How does this serve to introduce us to Liz's life, her struggles, and the issues she faces? If you had to pick one moment from your life to use as the starting point for your memoir, what would you choose?
  • What is Liz's life like as a teenager? What are some of the challenges that she faces? How do you think all of this impacts her? How is she affected in practical terms of living her daily life? How do you think this affected her sense of security, perception of herself, and identity? Do homelessness and an unstable family life have an impact on people's emotional health?
  • How does Liz explain her parents' addiction to drugs and the impact it has on their lives? Does she see them as being maliciously negligent of her? Does she see them as sick?
  • How does Liz's situation impact her relationship with her sister? Is Liz aware of the competition between them at the time? Is it something she's doing willfully? How do she and her sister compete? What impact do you think this has on both of them?
  • How does Liz explain her success in the alternative high school, her New York Times scholarship, and her admission into Harvard? How much of this does she attribute to her personal intellect and work ethic? What do you think about this?
  • Why is Liz able to rise above her situation, when so many people are not? How does she explain this? Why do you think she wrote this memoir?

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