NNLM Reading Club: Racism and Health
NNLM Reading Club Book Kit
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Discussion Guide for The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir
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An African American emergency room physician reflects on how “the chaos of emergency medicine” helped her come to terms with a painful past and understand the true nature of healing. Though Harper grew up a member of the Washington, D.C. “black elite,” the beautiful homes she shared with her parents held a dark secret: domestic violence. Determined to “fix people” rather than hurt them the way her abusive father hurt her family, Harper became an ER doctor. Her path was difficult. After she accepted her first post-residency job, the man she had met at Harvard and later married walked away from their relationship. Braving a life on her own in a new city, night shifts in an urban hospital, and the life-and-death dramas of the ER ward, Harper began a period of intense soul-searching. Observations of her patients and the struggles they faced taught her abundant lessons in human brokenness—especially her own—and resilience. A newborn baby whose death she could not explain helped her learn to open her heart and truly feel. A white male patient who had committed sexual assault on a female doctor forced the author to push past old memories of her father’s abuse and feelings of rage to see a human being in pain. A young black man brought to the ER ward by white police officers who unsuccessfully tried forcing him to submit to a medical examination for drugs reminded Harper of her own struggles as a black woman in an overwhelmingly white profession. It also made her realize that “America bears…many layers of racial wounds, both chronic and acute,” and that part of her purpose was to continue her fight to promote social healing. Tackling such painful subjects as domestic abuse, trauma, and racism with grace and wisdom, this eloquent book probes the human condition as it chronicles a woman’s ever-evolving spiritual journey.
New York Times Bestseller
The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir | Michele Harper, MD | Penguin Random House | 2020 | 304 pages | ISBN: 978-0525537380
Michele Harper has worked as an emergency room physician for more than a decade at various institutions, including as chief resident at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx and in the emergency department at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Philadelphia. She is a graduate of Harvard University and the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. The Beauty in Breaking is her first book.