Even before writing her powerful, exquisitely written memoir about the healing of self and others, the extraordinary Dr. Michele Harper was noteworthy: she is among the mere 2% of doctors working in America today who are Black women. The Beauty In Breaking is a memoir of her work as an emergency room physician in some of the most underserved communities in America, and about her own history of wounds that needed to be healed before she could provide for others.
Dr. Harper tells us how a childhood marked by violence prepared her for the ER: how she instinctively assesses levels of danger in any situation, how she brings her full humanity to work, with all the sensitivities and perspective that entails, how she handles sometimes fraught relationships with colleagues, students, and law enforcement while practicing her profession. And she explains the inherent and enraging injustices embedded in the medical establishment as we know it today. Her cases are riveting, and they are heartbreaking, and they bring to life the ways in which poverty and oppression are medical issues within themselves.
The Beauty in Breaking is also about Michele’s personal transformation: reeling from divorce and plagued with doubt, she nonetheless started over in a new city and tapped into a deep well of resilience. It seems unfair that one person can embody so many talents, but Michele is both a smart, empathetic physician and a gifted writer — and she also happens to be a generous conversation partner who talked with me about divine intervention, mysticism, and dignity. I hope that we will see much more from Dr. Harper in the years to come.
Follow @glowmaven on Instagram to learn more about the systemic disenfranchisement of Black women in obstetrics.
For more about combating racism and place-ism in medicine, please watch Dr. J. Nwando Olayiwola’s TED talk.