Breaking Night

by

Liz Murray

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Elizabeth “Liz” Murray Character Analysis

Liz Murray is the author, protagonist, and narrator of Breaking Night, the story of her life leading up to her acceptance to Harvard University. Liz grows up in the Bronx in the 1980s and 1990s, at a time when the Bronx is one of the most dangerous parts of New York City, when the AIDS crisis is claiming lives every day, and when cocaine, heroin, and other drugs are tearing families apart. All three of these trends play a pivotal role in Liz’s life. Her parents, Peter Finnerty and Jean Murray, are drug addicts who often choose to spend their money on drugs rather than food or other necessities for their children. As a result of her parents’ neglectful behavior, Liz grows up knowing how to take care of herself: she’s possessed of incredible willpower, and forces herself never to give up. However, Liz is also emotionally scarred by her relationship with her parents and her sister, Lisa Murray. At times, she hates her family for treating her so neglectfully. But she also feels extraordinarily guilty for abandoning her family and making her own way in life—especially after her mother dies of AIDS. In the end, Liz succeeds in reconciling the two “halves” of her early life: her struggle to succeed and her struggle to make peace with her family. She works hard, graduates high school, and wins acceptance to Harvard University. With these impressive achievements under her belt, she gains enough independence and, crucially, perspective to forgive her family members while still holding them accountable for their actions.

Elizabeth “Liz” Murray Quotes in Breaking Night

The Breaking Night quotes below are all either spoken by Elizabeth “Liz” Murray or refer to Elizabeth “Liz” Murray. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Hachette Books edition of Breaking Night published in 2011.
Prologue Quotes

I force my thoughts to fade until the details of her face blur. I need to push them away if I am ever to get some sleep. I need sleep; it will be only a few more hours before I'm outside on the street again, with nowhere to go.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Ma / Jean Murray
Related Symbols: The Photograph of Ma
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 1 Quotes

I raised my arms into the air, and gave a singsong, 'Al-l-l do-ne."
Taken off guard, Ma paused, leaned in and asked disbelievingly, "What did you say, pumpkin?”
“A-l-l-l done," I repeated, delighted at Ma's sudden interest.
She yelled for Daddy. "Peter, she knows! Look at her, she understands!"

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Ma / Jean Murray (speaker), Daddy / Peter Finnerty
Page Number: 13-14
Explanation and Analysis:

Lisa and I dined on Happy Meals in front of the black-and-white TV, to the sound of spoons clanking on the nearby table, chairs being pulled in—and those elongated moments of silence when we knew what they were concentrating on. Daddy had to do it for Ma because with her bad eyesight she could never find a vein.

Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

When she returned home half an hour later with a nickel bag, I was furious with her. I demanded that she give me my money, and I shouted mean words at her that are hard for me to think about now. Ma said nothing back. She snatched up her works—syringe and cocaine—from the kitchen table and stormed to the bathroom. I trailed behind her, shouting harsh things. I assumed that she was running away from me to get high in privacy, but I was wrong. Instead, from the bathroom doorway, I saw Ma throw something into the toilet. Then I realized she was crying, and what she had flushed down the toilet was her coke.
She'd thrown away the entire hit—despite her desperation.
She looked at me with tears in her eyes, "I'm not a monster, Lizzy," she said. "I can't stop. Forgive me, pumpkin!”

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Ma / Jean Murray (speaker)
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

The fun part of the night would always come when Ma's past occurred to her as a positive thing, a sort of adventure. But I knew this was temporary, a side effect of her anticipation of shooting up. Later—on the other side of her high, when she was coming down and the drug had begun to lose its effect—the very same thoughts would depress her. I'd be there for the letdown, too. If I didn't listen when she needed to confide in someone, then who would?

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Ma / Jean Murray
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

I told Ma all but one detail—the fact that I knew it was wrong. I knew that all I had to do to end it was to call out for her. But I didn't, because Ron made things better for Ma, for Lisa and me. I didn't want to ruin that, so I failed to call out.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Ma / Jean Murray, Lisa Murray, Ron
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

I don't recall Daddy ever talking about Meredith at home or in front of Ma. She never came to visit. Sometimes it felt as though I made up the memory of her, but I knew I hadn't. And every now and then Lisa and I would talk about how we wanted to meet Meredith again, and get to know our big sister. But no one talked about Daddy's other life before us, or our other sister.

Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

When Ma was plastered to the couch, flies buzzing over her head, cigarette butts floating in her nearby bottle of beer, it just didn't seem right to tell her that I’d spent my day at a picnic or at the pool, playing in the sun, eating home-cooked meals with Rick and Danny's family. The same went for Daddy and Lisa. Any joy I managed outside of our home felt, to me, like a form of betrayal.

Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

Though he wasn't my friend, I admired how Kevin had found a way to do things on his own, how he looked at not having money—a situation that most people would see as fixed—as something he could overcome. What else wasn't set in stone? I wondered what other opportunities were out there for me.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Kevin
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

There were countless times I still gave Ma my tips from packing bags or the dollars taped inside my birthday cards sent from Long Island. It hit me then, like a hammer to my chest, that maybe I'd driven her crazy and paid for the needle that infected her with AIDS, too.
"Idiot," I said out loud. "Moron."
I hurled a pillow across the room, smashing the pieces of my diorama. The Popsicle stick fence, still glued together, clacked onto the floor, snapping in half.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Ma / Jean Murray
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

I stared at Meredith's face as a baby and compared it to Daddy's. Taking in her complete vulnerability as an infant, I wondered where she was now, and how Daddy could have left her behind, and why we never talked about her. It filled me with a deeply unsettling feeling to wonder what else he was capable of doing.

Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

At night, under my bed, sometimes I could hear her crying softly. But whenever I asked her what was wrong, she'd brush it off, say it was just her allergies or that I was hearing things. But I knew better. Sometimes, when she snored in her sleep—a cute little whistle—I'd reach down and touch a piece of her hair, run it through my fingers, stare at how, in the darkness of our room, the moonlight turned it glossy as polished onyx. I will keep her safe, I told myself.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Samantha / Sam
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:

"Liz, shut up," she answered. "You know I love your white ass, don't even sweat it."

Related Characters: Samantha / Sam (speaker), Elizabeth “Liz” Murray
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

If he was tap-dancing his end of the conversation, so would I. Why tell him I was absent all the time from school? Why confront him? If he couldn't do anything about our problems, then what would be the point in venting at Daddy? It would only stress him more, and I didn't want to do that to him. It felt mean. So I decided to censor my life from my father, and to have him think everything was just great.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Daddy / Peter Finnerty
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

"Okay, just one more thing," I told her. "Hold on." I slid a chair over to reach the top shelf of my closet, where I'd hidden Ma's NA coin and that one photo of her, the black-and-white one from when she was a teenager, living on the streets. Opening my journal, I slipped the picture carefully inside and snapped the book shut.
"Now I can go," I said. "Let's just go."

Related Symbols: The Photograph of Ma
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

"Who was that?" I'd do my best not to sound accusing. Always it was a cousin, a neighbor, or a friend's girlfriend.
"My friend's girl, ain't she a sweetheart," he'd explain. "I might check them for dinner, she just gave me the address." And always, the explanation was a concrete wall that I could not penetrate. The more I persisted, the more I might draw attention to myself. Better to let it slide; he cared about me, I was certain.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Carlos Marcano (speaker)
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

There was no pain involved, only the weight of his heavy body, the strong smell of latex and of his hot breath. To my surprise, my first thought was that being with him was emptier that I'd expected, more function than joy.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Carlos Marcano
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:

In the center of the foil, ever so faint and small, I found tiny specks of white powder.
"Sam! Sam."
"Yeah."
"Don't flush. Be quiet and look at this. . . . He's on coke."

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Samantha / Sam (speaker), Carlos Marcano
Page Number: 224
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Turns out people could just vanish. I couldn't help but sit there and think about the woman who'd been murdered a few feet from my room. How had she gotten there, in a seedy motel room with a violent man who claimed he loved her? And was I really any different?

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Carlos Marcano
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

For Perry, Prep was a labor of love; he was dedicated to seeing his second- chance students win. His belief was that if the mainstream school system had failed, then it would require something different for these students to succeed. Prep would be that difference. In this way, the students were not looked at as dysfunctional; the system was dysfunctional. The concept of "failure" incorporated within the system's very design was not in any stage of the planning of Humanities Prep. By design, Prep was made to facilitate for its students what was possible.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Perry Weiner
Page Number: 254
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

Covertly, I zipped open my book bag—full of dingy clothes and the wad of rubber-banded hundred-dollar bills I'd saved up over the summer—and I began stuffing muffins, bagels, bananas, and oranges into my bag. I threw in a whole loaf of bread, too. Why not? These things would be mine to keep.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker)
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

Figuring out high school while homeless meant handling details that never would have occurred to me until I was actually living in the situation. For one, who knew schoolbooks were so heavy? By itself, that's already something. But when I carried the heavy things around while also navigating several different living situations with no predictability whatsoever of where I could stay on a given night, while also trying to follow an assignment schedule that dictated exactly which books I would need and when, I kept slipping up.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker)
Page Number: 280
Explanation and Analysis:

So I let go of my hurt. I let go years of frustration between us. Most of all, I let go of any desire to change my father and I accepted him for who he was. I took all of my anguish and released it like a fistful of helium balloons to the sky, and I chose to forgive him.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Daddy / Peter Finnerty
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:

However things unfolded from here on, whatever the next chapter was, my life could never be the sum of one circumstance. It would be determined, as it had always been, by my willingness to put one foot in front of the other, moving forward, come what may.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker)
Page Number: 321
Explanation and Analysis:
Epilogue Quotes

"Lizzy, I left any dreams behind a long time ago, but I know now that they are safe with you. Thank you for making us a family again."

Related Characters: Daddy / Peter Finnerty (speaker), Elizabeth “Liz” Murray
Page Number: 326
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Breaking Night LitChart as a printable PDF.
Breaking Night PDF

Elizabeth “Liz” Murray Character Timeline in Breaking Night

The timeline below shows where the character Elizabeth “Liz” Murray appears in Breaking Night. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
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...“I have just one picture left of my mother.” The narrator, a young woman named Liz Murray, keeps a small, creased, black-and-white photograph of her mother, taken when Liz’s mother was... (full context)
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Late at night, Liz will sometimes look in the mirror and compare her face with her mother’s. She hasn’t... (full context)
Chapter 1: University Avenue
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Liz’s mother, or Ma, tells Liz’s father (named Peter Finnerty, but referred to throughout as Daddy)... (full context)
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...doing drugs together, including cocaine, amphetamines, and heroin. In 1978, Ma gives birth to Lisa, Liz’s older sister. Around this time, Daddy begins selling painkillers to old graduate school friends. The... (full context)
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...him to jail on numerous counts of fraud. At the time, Ma is pregnant with Liz. Daddy is sentenced to three years in jail, but Ma is allowed to go free. (full context)
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...most dangerous neighborhoods in New York City. She calls Daddy in prison on the day Liz is born. Ma goes on to support her children with money her own mother sends... (full context)
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Daddy returns from jail when Liz is three years old. In the following months, Ma becomes more neglectful and she and... (full context)
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By the time Liz is five, her family is almost entirely dependent on welfare. Every month, government checks arrive... (full context)
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There are many times during Liz’s childhood when Ma disappears suddenly. One day, for instance, the family goes to see the... (full context)
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Whenever the government sends a check, Liz and her family have a great day. She and Lisa feast on Happy Meals from... (full context)
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Lisa is older than Liz, and sometimes, she plays tricks on Liz. But Liz also enjoys being the younger sister:... (full context)
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As Liz grows up she learns how to behave around her father. Daddy likes to ridicule things... (full context)
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Liz also notices that her parents smoke strange, smelly cigarettes. Often, Liz and Lisa don’t have... (full context)
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While pregnant with Liz, Ma had a nervous breakdown, and during this period, Lisa went to live with a... (full context)
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Ma’s mother lives in Riverdale, and Liz sometimes visits her. Otherwise, Grandma would visit Liz and her family in the Bronx. She’s... (full context)
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Ma often tells Liz about how, when Ma was a child, Grandma would beat her for being even a... (full context)
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Ma often takes Lisa and Liz to get free lunch at the local school. Sometimes, Lisa and Liz have to wake... (full context)
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...disappears at unusual times. She often claims she is going to a local bar, but Liz doesn’t always believe her. On the night of the 4th of July while Liz is... (full context)
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The night before Liz starts school, Ma takes drugs and becomes manic. She insists that she has to give... (full context)
Chapter 2: Middle of Everything
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Lisa bullies Liz when Ma and Daddy aren’t around. She pulls pranks on Liz, and tells elaborate lies... (full context)
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In the first grade, Liz discovers that she has lice, and Lisa makes fun of her. Later, Lisa offers to... (full context)
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The narration now jumps to a time slightly before the lice incident, and Liz explains how, when she firs started school, she felt like an outcast, partly because of... (full context)
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...turns out to be yet another one of her practical jokes—it does nothing to help Liz. Liz cries after she realizes that Lisa is tricking her. (full context)
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Liz tries hard in school, but she isn’t a good student. In part this is because... (full context)
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Sometimes, Ma talks to Liz while she, Ma, uses drugs. She tells Liz stories about life in Greenwich Village in... (full context)
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Liz hates getting up in the mornings. Lisa often yells at her to get out of... (full context)
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By December of first grade, Ma has begun allowing Liz to stay home from school most days. They watch TV together and eat sandwiches on... (full context)
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...spending time with a woman named Tara. They get high together, and Ma often brings Liz and Lisa to Tara’s apartment. Ma and Tara talk about cocaine, their drug of choice,... (full context)
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Eventually, Ron starts picking up Lisa, Liz, and Ma at Tara’s apartment every Sunday. Instinctively, Liz knows not to talk about Ron... (full context)
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One day, Ron drives Liz, Lisa, and Ma out to his house in Queens. For the rest of the day,... (full context)
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Five weeks later, Ma has a mental breakdown, the first in more than six years. Liz has never told anybody, but she believes that Ma’s breakdown was her, Liz’s, fault. Liz... (full context)
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Following Ma’s breakdown—caused, the doctors claim, from Ma’s failure to take her “schizophrenia medicine”—Liz and Lisa are taken to the doctor as well. There, Liz remembers a nurse saying,... (full context)
Chapter 3: Tsunami
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...learns how to stretch the monthly relief checks as far as possible. He even gives Liz and Lisa a small allowance—although Ma later steals Liz’s savings to buy cocaine. (full context)
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...drugs than usual. They shout at each other, and Ma accuses Daddy of being “conniving.” Liz doesn’t know whether or not to believe Ma: maybe she’s right, but maybe she’s just... (full context)
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Liz says that she still thinks about a faint memory of Daddy. In this memory, Liz... (full context)
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...on the couch instead of with Daddy. Sometimes, when Ma and Daddy fight, Lisa and Liz lock themselves in their separate rooms. Liz reads her father’s detective books, and in this... (full context)
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With home life so repetitive, Liz looks for distractions outside the home. Since 1987, Liz has been friends with two brothers... (full context)
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One day, Liz, Rick, and Danny make a “torch” for themselves by lighting a branch on fire, and... (full context)
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Liz loves horsing around with Rick and Danny, and she’s always lonely when she returns to... (full context)
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One day, Liz hears a knock on the door. Ma opens it and finds a young man standing... (full context)
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Shortly afterwards, Ma is committed to the hospital yet again. Bored and desperate for food, Liz meets up with a friend of Rick and Danny’s named Kevin, who claims he could... (full context)
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The next day, Liz goes out to Fordham, hoping to find more work. She walks down the Grand Concourse,... (full context)
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At the end of the day, Liz goes into a grocery store and decided to “take things,” as she’s done many times... (full context)
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Liz gets a call from Ma, who’s currently in the hospital. Ma complains that the hospital... (full context)
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Liz sometimes watches Lisa put on a bra. This fascinates Liz: Liz is young and boyish,... (full context)
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...returns from the hospital, she comes back to the apartment late at night, waking up Liz. She complains to Liz that “this guy,” a local drug dealer, has refused to take... (full context)
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Money continues to be scarce for the family. Liz tries to go back to the grocery store again, but she always finds that the... (full context)
Chapter 4: Unraveling
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By the time Liz turns twelve, she and the rest of her family have learned to live “on entirely... (full context)
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...and Ma pop pills, which Leonard procures with the money Ma and Daddy give him. Liz despises Leonard, and Leonard seems to hate her in return. Once, Liz overhears Leonard telling... (full context)
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Liz barely goes to school. But she reads Daddy’s books, and is smart enough to pass... (full context)
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One day, the truancy officer, Ms. Cole, visits Liz’s home and asks her why she hasn’t been going to school. Liz is confused: she... (full context)
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...Leonard Mohn comes by and he and Ma stay up late, getting high and talking. Liz overhears Ma talking about a man named Brick who she is sleeping with. Leonard encourages... (full context)
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A month later, Ma takes Liz to meet Brick. Brick is a former officer in the Navy, Ma claims, and he... (full context)
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Ma and Liz spend the day with Brick. From time to time, Brick goes into an alleyway to... (full context)
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After saying goodbye to Brick, Liz tells Ma that she doesn’t want to see Brick anymore. Ma hesitates and then tells... (full context)
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Liz passes the sixth grade and proceeds to junior high, much to her surprise. Liz’s family... (full context)
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Soon after starting junior high, Liz gets a call from Ma, explaining that she hasn’t been using cocaine and that she... (full context)
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Liz finds old photographs of her father from when he lived in San Francisco. In the... (full context)
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Shortly after Liz turns thirteen, Child Protective Services finally takes her into custody for her truancy. Daddy signs... (full context)
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The authorities take Liz to a building called Saint Anne’s Residence, a “diagnostic residential center.” In reality, it’s a... (full context)
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A doctor named Eva Morales meets with Liz and asks her about her life. Morales gives Liz condescending advice, saying, “Consistency brings progress.”... (full context)
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Over the next week, Liz gets in trouble with Auntie, the woman who runs Saint Anne’s. The other girls blame... (full context)
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Liz is discharged from Saint Anne’s in the spring. On her last day, she embraces Talesha,... (full context)
Chapter 5: Stuck
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Liz arrives at Brick’s apartment, where Ma embraces her. The truancy officers tell Liz that she’s... (full context)
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Liz’s new school is divided into different “segments,” based on academic ability. Ma has instructed the... (full context)
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Liz’s new middle school class is made up of many students who’ve been together since the... (full context)
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...spends much of her time drinking at a local bar. Lisa becomes increasingly irritable around Liz. Liz notices that her sister spends a lot of time trying to look pretty, putting... (full context)
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Sam introduces Liz to MTV: they watch footage of Kurt Cobain, and Liz gradually becomes more comfortable saying... (full context)
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...he hits Ma in the face with a roll of paper towels. Then, Brick pushes Liz out of the room and slams the door on her foot. Liz begins to see... (full context)
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...day, and grows weak and quiet. Sometimes, she bursts into tears for no apparent reason. Liz finds it hard to know how to deal with her mother in these situations: she... (full context)
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Liz learns that Daddy is going to lose his apartment. Liz and Sam go to the... (full context)
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Liz and Sam arrive at the apartment, only to find that it’s been boarded up. She... (full context)
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In the spring, Liz graduates from junior high, having gone to school just enough to pass her classes. Ma... (full context)
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Liz starts high school and Ma’s health deteriorates ever further, to the point where she vomits... (full context)
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Liz continues skipping school. She intends to go to high school for the first two weeks,... (full context)
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Liz spends her days exploring New York and having fun with her friends. But sooner or... (full context)
Chapter 6: Boys
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Sam and Liz make a new friend: a boy named Carlos Marcano. Carlos is handsome and confident, and... (full context)
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...lots of fights. He also admits that his father died of AIDS, something that makes Liz feel close to him. Carlos claims that his mother is an addict who never really... (full context)
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Liz is infatuated with Carlos, and for the next few months she tries to pursue him... (full context)
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Looking back, Liz often wonders how she managed to compartmentalize her life during her late teen years. She... (full context)
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One night, Carlos visits Liz at her apartment, and sees Ma suffering from the symptoms of AIDS. Instead of being... (full context)
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Soon after Liz starts dating Carlos, Sam starts dating a twenty-year-old named Oscar. Carlos talks about inheriting money... (full context)
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One night, after Brick yells at Sam for sleeping over with Liz, Liz and Sam decide to leave their homes for good. Liz packs some clothes and... (full context)
Chapter 7: Breaking Night
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Immediately after the events of the last chapter, Sam and Liz walk down Bedford Park Boulevard late at night. They spend their first night sleeping in... (full context)
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The next morning, Liz and Sam go to Bobby’s house. Bobby lets them inside and tells them to be... (full context)
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Liz and Sam spend their nights in the Village (a neighborhood in Manhattan). Sometimes they steal... (full context)
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Liz and Sam spend time in the New York Public Library, and Liz enjoys reading the... (full context)
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Liz turns sixteen, and her friends buy her an ice cream cake to celebrate. That night,... (full context)
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Late at night, Liz calls Brick’s home. Lisa answers the phone and explains that Liz should come home: Ma... (full context)
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The next night, Liz sees Carlos for the first time in a while. Carlos is wearing new clothes, and... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Motels
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Liz, Sam, and Carlos leave the city and check into a motel. The weather is getting... (full context)
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Liz asks Carlos why he disappeared for so long. Carlos explains that he needed to clear... (full context)
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The three friends go out for a night on the town, and Carlos charms Liz and Sam by ordering them expensive food from a local dim sum restaurant. Late at... (full context)
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...large part because he’s newly wealthy. He makes long, secretive phone calls, and women, including Liz’s friend Jamie, flirt with him. Liz begins to suspect that Carlos’s money comes from dealing... (full context)
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Once, Liz calls Brick’s home, and Ma picks up the phone. Her voice is faint and confused,... (full context)
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Suspicious, Liz calls one of the real estate numbers Carlos wrote down. When she does, a woman... (full context)
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Carlos, Liz, and Sam go to a nearby café. As they eat, Liz notices her own grandmother... (full context)
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Liz calls Lisa, who informs her that Ma is in the hospital. Liz decides to go... (full context)
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After Ma falls back asleep, Liz leaves the hospital. Lisa can’t believe that Liz would leave so abruptly, and begins to... (full context)
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Later that night, Carlos decides to take Liz out to cheer her up. They go to a fancy restaurant, dressed only in their... (full context)
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For the next three weeks, Liz puts off visiting Ma again. She, Carlos, and Sam stay in a hotel while they... (full context)
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The next day, Sam and Liz wake up early to the sound of Carlos entering the room. Carlos greets them, but... (full context)
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For the next few days, Liz avoids Carlos whenever possible. She’s been trying to escape her drug-addicted parents, only to end... (full context)
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Then, one morning, Liz gets a call from Lisa: Ma has died. Liz rushes to the hospital, where she... (full context)
Chapter 9: Pearls
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The chapter begins with a letter Liz writes to Ma after her death. Liz explains that Ma’s death prevented Liz from telling... (full context)
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Liz compares her relationship with Ma to “how pearls are made.” A pearl begins with a... (full context)
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Liz feels guilty for being absent when Ma died. She wonders if Ma was afraid as... (full context)
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Liz tells Ma that Daddy kissed her on the mouth just before Ma’s death—then, the nurses... (full context)
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The family buries Ma the day after Christmas. At the funeral, Liz sees Lisa and realizes that her sister has grown into a beautiful woman, just like... (full context)
Chapter 10: The Wall
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The week after Liz and her family bury Ma, Liz stops sleeping. She has horrible nightmares. Furthermore, Carlos has... (full context)
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Liz, Carlos, and Sam celebrate New Year’s Eve together. The next day—the first day of 1997—Carlos... (full context)
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Carlos and Liz drive to their new home, a “crash place” motel. Liz suggests that they pick up... (full context)
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Disturbed by the news of the stabbing, Liz walks out of Carlos’s motel room and finds a payphone. She calls her friend Jamie... (full context)
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In the coming weeks, Liz survives by staying with friends and eating their food. She’ll sometimes “panhandle” in Greenwich Village... (full context)
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Liz crashes with a friend-of-a-friend named Paige. Paige asks Liz about her plans for the future,... (full context)
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Liz can see the financial advantage of having a high school diploma. On the other hand,... (full context)
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With Paige’s help, Liz calls the number for Paige’s school and says that she’d like to come in for... (full context)
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Liz goes to the school for an interview, sensing that she’s going to “the other side... (full context)
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Immediately after her interview, Liz weighs her options. She decides to visit another school, the Humanities Preparatory Academy, for another... (full context)
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Liz is late for her interview at HPA. She sees that all interviewees have been asked... (full context)
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After completing her essay, Liz notices a jovial middle-aged man, who turns out to be Perry Weiner himself. Liz explains... (full context)
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In Liz’s “interview” with Perry Weiner, Weiner barely speaks. For one of the few times in her... (full context)
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Liz brings Daddy to register her for classes at HPA. She hasn’t seen her father since... (full context)
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After Daddy comes in to HPA, he and Liz catch up. He tells Liz that he’s been living in a shelter for a while,... (full context)
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In the coming months, Liz tries to prepare for her high school education by getting her official transcript from her... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Visit(or)
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Liz looks through the classified ads in the local paper, hoping to find work. She also... (full context)
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That summer, Liz gets a job working for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). Her job... (full context)
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On her first day, Liz surprises herself by raising $240. After that, she’s assigned to wealthier neighborhoods, where donations are... (full context)
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One day in August, Liz runs into Sam on the subway by accident. The two friends hug tearfully, and Liz... (full context)
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One day, Ken’s mother drives Liz and Ken from work. Liz notices that Ken’s mother is a kind, affectionate woman. Ken... (full context)
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That night, Liz and Ken’s other friends spend time together. Liz notices that Ken’s friends are mostly from... (full context)
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The next morning, Liz feels foolish for thinking that Ken was ever interested in her as more than a... (full context)
Chapter 12: Possibility
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Liz ends up graduating from HPA in two years, a task that takes “everything I had.”... (full context)
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From time to time, Liz is on the verge of giving up on her goal of graduating high school. Usually,... (full context)
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Liz loves many of her teachers. A woman named Susan teaches her math, but spends more... (full context)
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In after-school science class, Liz learns about HIV and AIDS prevention. Her teachers stress that she needs to “steer the... (full context)
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In her after-school class, Liz meets a young woman named Eva. Eva lives with her father, who is a painter... (full context)
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Liz occasionally sees her family, but it’s always very uncomfortable. She spends some holidays and birthdays... (full context)
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Liz begins to think of school as a sanctuary from the rest of her life. She... (full context)
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Liz continues to feel the temptation to misbehave. At one point, she tries to shoplift some... (full context)
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In class, Liz and Eva are assigned a presentation on HIV/AIDS. They come up with an idea to... (full context)
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After a year and a half at HPA, Liz has racked up near-perfect grades, and is on track to graduate in just one more... (full context)
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Liz slowly realizes that most scholarships are “barely enough to cover food at top colleges,” let... (full context)
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At the end of her time at HPA, Liz wins many school awards for her academic excellence. She, along with Eva and other exceptional... (full context)
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A few months later, Liz goes in to The New York Times building for her scholarship interview. She’s one of... (full context)
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Liz goes in for her Times interview, knowing that if she doesn’t get this scholarship, she... (full context)
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A few days later, Liz gets a call explaining that she’s been awarded a Times scholarship. The next few weeks... (full context)
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Then, something amazing happens. Friends, well-wishers, and people Liz has never even heard of begin to send her money and support. One man pays... (full context)
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In the spring, Liz learns that she’s been wait-listed for Harvard. Secretly, she’s terrified by the uncertainty. Liz has... (full context)
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One day, Liz calls the admissions office and learns that Harvard has mailed her decision letter. She tells... (full context)
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On the train ride home, Liz thinks carefully about Perry Weiner’s words, and realizes that Perry is right. That night, as... (full context)
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The next day, Liz waits for the mailman, sure that her admission letter is coming soon. As she waits,... (full context)
Epilogue
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Liz sits in a conference center in Argentina, listening to a man speak. The man is... (full context)
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...to take questions from his audience, made up mostly of CEOs and other powerful businesspeople. Liz asks a question—but before she explains what this question is, she offers “a little explanation... (full context)
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In the last few years, Liz’s life has changed in almost every way. She’s been the subject of magazine articles and... (full context)
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During Liz’s time in college, Daddy quits drugs, but HIV continues to ravage his body. One day... (full context)
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...autistic kids. Bobby is studying to be a nurse; he’s the father of two children. Liz is close with Lisa and with her Bronx friends. (full context)
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Daddy visits Liz at Harvard and leaves a card for her. The card reads, “Lizzy, I left my... (full context)
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Liz’s question for the Dalai Lama is simple: “Your Holiness, you inspire so many people, but... (full context)
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Liz prepares to give her own speech in the same conference center. As she steps out... (full context)