A New York Times Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book
“Riveting, heartbreaking, sometimes difficult, always inspiring.” —The New York Times Book Review
As seen/heard on Fresh Air, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, Weekend Edition, and more
An emergency room physician explores how a life of service to others taught her how to heal herself.
Michele Harper is a female, African American emergency room physician in a profession that is overwhelmingly male and white. Brought up in Washington, D.C., in a complicated family, she went to Harvard, where she met her husband. They stayed together through medical school until two months before she was scheduled to join the staff of a hospital in central Philadelphia, when he told her he couldn’t move with her. Her marriage at an end, Harper began her new life in a new city, in a new job, as a newly single woman.
In the ensuing years, as Harper learned to become an effective ER physician, bringing insight and empathy to every patient encounter, she came to understand that each of us is broken—physically, emotionally, psychically. How we recognize those breaks, how we try to mend them, and where we go from there are all crucial parts of the healing process.
The Beauty in Breaking is the poignant true story of Harper’s journey toward self-healing. Each of the patients Harper writes about taught her something important about recuperation and recovery. How to let go of fear even when the future is murky: How to tell the truth when it’s simpler to overlook it. How to understand that compassion isn’t the same as justice. As she shines a light on the systemic disenfranchisement of the patients she treats as they struggle to maintain their health and dignity, Harper comes to understand the importance of allowing ourselves to make peace with the past as we draw support from the present. In this hopeful, moving, and beautiful book, she passes along the precious, necessary lessons that she has learned as a daughter, a woman, and a physician.
In this compassionate memoir, Harper, an African-American ER physician, reflects upon her career, sharing stories that take the reader "into the chaos of emergency medicine." Growing up as a member of Washington, D.C.'s "black elite," Harper, whose father was also a physician, lived with the dark secret of his domestic abuse, her days "routinely punctuated by bursts of violence." When her brother John's hand is injured in a fight with their father, she takes him to the ER. Seeing the ER, a place "so quiet and yet so throbbing with life," inspires her to become a doctor. Upon graduating from Harvard, Harper lives and works in New York City with her husband (also a Harvard grad), but when she accepts her first post-residency in Philadelphia, the marriage dissolves when her independent filmmaker husband declares that he needs to focus on his career and "find himself." While devastating, the divorce allowed her to immerse herself in her position as the director of performance improvement in the ER. Taking on the painful topics of trauma, domestic abuse, and the "ubiquitous microaggressions faced by people of color," especially in the medical profession, Harper seeks to understand the human condition and persistent societal issues that impact care in urban hospitals. Harper witnesses the resilience of the human spirit of her patients and begins her own process of self-healing through yoga and meditation. This powerful story will resonate with readers, especially physicians.
Don’t miss this one.
Beautifully written; no way a person can read this book and not have their spirit soar.
Beautiful courageous and compassionate memoir!
Michelle is not only a powerhouse as an ER physician but she can write so lovely that I found myself several times filling with the emotions she was describing and I absolutely loved the way she practiced medicine- she incorporated mind body soul and was able to see past the thousands of similar patients and get to the humanity of them as well. Whether there she’d find a kindred spirit or a broken soul or shattered spirit, she would always apply the Eastern healing practices that also heal mend and recognize the suffering or the symptoms of the spiritual and emotional part of her patients. If I’d been so lucky to have been treated by this kind fearless and truly benevolent woman as my own healer or physician I can’t imagine how I’d receive her but I found myself often wondering and then certain I’d welcome her with all the life I’d left wherever or however she found me. I absolutely loved how she also mentions the atrocious experiences that she had with systemic and industrialized racism and the misogynistic tendencies that whether consciously or sub consciously other felt they were entitled to project upon her. Ugh. It enraged me. Then I did some of her deep cleansing breaths and soldiered on with her through her journey in her personal, professional, and spiritual life. Her empathy with her VA patients, her perspectives on how we leave our soldiers ill equipped to be mainstreamed into society after battles or trauma from military sacrifices. These are the very humans we all should be caring so deeply for and be grateful for their service sacrifice and bravery.
Boring ....and badly written don’t bother....