The Beauty in Breaking

New York Times-bestselling author Dr. Michele Harper weaves personal stories of trauma and resiliency into an ode to service, healing, and rising up against systemic injustice.
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Fighting on the Front Lines of the Pandemic: Dr. Michele Harper sheds light on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected health care workers and the virus’s impact on vulnerable populations, and discusses her bestselling memoir The Beauty in Breaking about life as an ER physician.

Program Topics

  • Racism: Our Most Crucial Public Health Crisis

    As an emergency room physician, Dr. Michele Harper has firsthand experience with the repercussions of systemic racism and sexism in the medical field. Anti-Black and anti-woman policies and prejudices not only lead to disparities in care for already disadvantaged populations, but when the face of expertise is perceived as exclusively white and male, Black doctors and their patients suffer the consequences. Dr. Harper addresses the inequalities faced by health providers at the hands of patients, employers, licensing boards and more. She also explores the importance of dismantling bigotry on a personal level as well as a structural one, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified existing inequalities.


    Dr. Harper can adapt this talk for both medical professionals and general audiences.

  • When Survival Becomes the Bedrock of Transcendence

    In this talk based on her memoir, The Beauty in Breaking, Dr. Harper candidly shares stories of resilience—not in order to romanticize trauma, but instead to honestly acknowledge life’s many challenges. She explores how facing hardship with integrity can lead to healing for ourselves and others—and ultimately create meaningful personal and social change.

The Beauty in Breaking

The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir

by Michele Harper

A New York Times Bestseller

A New York Times Notable Book

As seen/heard on Fresh AirThe 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.

Jul 07, 2020; 304 pages
Available in hardcover, eBook, and audiobook

The Beauty in Breaking

“Riveting, heartbreaking, sometimes difficult, always inspiring.”

The New York Times Book Review

“I would be so happy if my future doctors were reading this book.”

—Elizabeth Gilbert

“In this illuminating memoir, an African American emergency room doctor finds that her patients’ stories lead her to make connections between her work and the larger world.”

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