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Michele Harper Books In Order

Publication Order of Memoirs

The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir (2020)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Michele Harper is an emergency room physician and memoir writer best known for her debut work “The Beauty in Breaking.” She is a graduate of Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine and also a graduate of Harvard. Harper has worked for more than ten years in all manner and levels of hospitals in the US. She has worked at Philadelphia’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center as an attending physician at the emergency department and the South Bronx’s Lincoln Hospital, where he was chief resident. Michele grew up in Washington DC and from a very young age, she dreamed of becoming a healer. Right from the first chapter of “The Beauty in Breaking” her debut memoir, she tells of her seven-year-old self in a peaceful moment playing with “My Little Pony” figurines. Right after that, the readers learn that Harper’s childhood was anything but peaceful as she was brought up in an abusive home. Years later, her father had injured her brother during one of his many violent episodes. The teenage Michele had driven her brother to the ER and had a preview of the career waiting for her. At the ER, there were disparate patients with different illnesses getting help from doctors and nurses. From that moment, she knew that she was destined to become an emergency room doctor.

Harper set out on her journey of Healing and decided to document it in the Andrew Carnegie Medal finalist memoir “The Beauty in Breaking.” The novel tells a story of how she learned to incorporate empathy and insight into her practice in the emergency room. She also tells of how her recognition of the importance of mending emotional, physical, and psychological breaks are important for the healing of the injured. She believes her trip to the ER with her brother when she was a teenager was one of the most profound moments that have made her what she is today. Brought up in an abusive and chaotic home that always felt unsafe and having things fall apart, she was groomed to become an ER doctor by her experiences. She is oftentimes called upon to make on the spur decisions to be safe and the skills she obtained growing up she still uses in the ER. Form very early on, she learned that she would have to save her family and herself and no one was coming to get her out of tough situations. Going to the ER with her brother that night and seeing people looking to be saved from infection or soft tissue injury was profound. Seeing so many leave while feeling and being better or fixed was a powerful experience she wanted to grant to others.

As a teen, Michele Harper went to Harvard which is where she met the man that would become her husband. She would eventually make a home in the South Bronx in New York City while completing her residency at Mercy Hospital where she worked ER. When she graduated from college, the newly married couple made plans to move to Philadelphia. A few months to the move, the husband came to tell her that he was leaving her as he was unhappy. Having to deal with the raw pain of an ended relationship coupled with childhood trauma she chose to keep healing and moving forward. Harper moved to Philadelphia anyway and found a job as an emergency response doctor in a predominantly male and white space. In 2020 she wrote “The Beauty in the Breaking,” a memoir that chronicled her career in the ER. The memoir was also the story of a doctor that has worked to make her practice guided by empathy ever as she had to overcome prejudice. In the process, as she learned lessons of healing from her patients and in the process healed herself. In the many talks that she gives, she informs people of the systemic racism and policies in health care that have made it possible for minorities and the most vulnerable to be ignored. She also speaks of how important it is to make reconcile with the past even as one draws support from the present. Each anecdote typically brings to light the disenfranchisement of providers and patients alike due to stigmas, poverty, sexism, and profiling.

Michele Harper is a huge voice about the disparities in health care. She has said that despite being a graduate of Harvard and a physician that has worked for more than ten years at some of the biggest medical institutions in the country, she still has to deal with racism. As such, one of the biggest reasons for writing her memoir was to show how interconnected human beings tend to be. While it was just a memoir, it needed to look into common threads that inform humanity including the everyday challenges and experiences. She hopes that the work shows how one can successfully overcome the challenges, heal themselves from the pain, and become a support system that others can benefit from. Nonetheless, Harper believes that there is a need to acknowledge racism in health care as a matter that needs to be addressed. She has seen it firsthand even though there is a lack of consensus that it is a problem among the medical community. Michele asserts that she had seen patients get different treatment, some refused treatment, and certain communities lacking any access to critical care. This is what she intends to shine a light on with her memoir “The Beauty in Breaking.”

In “The Beauty in Breaking” Michele Harper tells her story as an African American emergency room doctor navigating overwhelmingly white and male spaces. She starts by telling if her upbringing in a complicated home before she graduated as a doctor from Harvard and became a medical doctor. She also tells of the pain of being dumped by the man she believed was her soul mate who told her he no longer loved her just when they were about to go start living their dream life. In the following years, she became a proficient emergency room doctor bringing empathy and insight into the cases she had to deal with. Over the years, she learned that every person is broken physically, emotionally, and physically. The memoir is a poignant tale of her journey to healing herself. She asserts that every patient that passed through her hands had something important to teach her about recovery and recuperation. Michele learned about how to tell the truth when it would be easier to gloss over it and to let go of fear even in times of great uncertainty. She illuminates the systemic disenfranchisement of the patients she works with as they try to maintain their dignity and health. Harper also comes to the understanding of how critical it is to reconcile with the past and look forward to better things. It is a beautiful, moving, and hopeful book in which Michele Harper passes along the necessary and precious lessons she has gleaned from being a physician, woman, and daughter.

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