One of my favorite TV movies of all time is HOMELESS TO HARVARD. It tells the story of the amazing arc of Liz Murray, beautifully portrayed by Thora Birch, a New York child of addicted parents, who pulls herself up by the proverbial bootstraps and rises above a mountain of obstacles – poverty, hunger, a horrifying stay in a facility for “troubled” children where she is sent simply for having been a truant from school, and a dying mother – to first get accepted at a great high school, and then to win a scholarship to Harvard.
I liked the movie so much that I bought the book, Breaking Night, which tells more of Liz’s story. What a great read! I can’t recommend it enough. I also couldn’t put it down until it was finished.
It would be terrific if stories like this one would lead to some urgently needed societal changes, at least in terms of how children are classified and put into “the system.” Forcibly incarcerating a child in what amounted to a kiddie prison over non-attendance at school is so sadistic a move that it boggles the mind. As a New Yorker, I am not one bit happy that my tax dollars went to do such a thing to the girl. Resources would be infinitely better spent by helping children in such situations, with ill or addicted parents, get access to food stamps, proper clothing, and perhaps providing them with a conveyance to help them get to school, not putting them into a lock-up.
One of the most harrowing parts of the movie concerns the alleged relationship between Liz’s mother and grandfather. I don’t like to include spoilers, so I won’t get into the why of that here, but trust me, those were the worst scenes in the film and downright creepy. I am delighted to report that Ms. Murray recounts completely different scenes in her book, in which the grandfather is not even a part of the picture. Hollywood, it seems, fabricated that part of the story to amp it up, yet certainly it did not need to do so. The true story can stand on its own and is more than inspiring enough.
Here is a link to the full movie. Take a look, and read Breaking Night, too!