Liz Murray was raised in poverty by drug-addicted parents. Though they loved her, they were unable to care for her and Liz ended up living on the streets by the age of 15. Profoundly affected by her mother's AIDS-related death, Liz forced herself to look at her future and make some significant changes. Her prospects were dismal, yet she turned her life around by going back to high school. After earning her diploma in just two years, while still homeless, Liz won a New York Times
scholarship for needy students, which enabled her to attend Harvard University.
Interviews:Interview with the real Liz Murray
Other:Inspirational message from Liz Murray
Thora Birch (American Beauty) is Liz Murray: homeless at 15, Harvard undergrad at 19. Based on a true story, the Lifetime movie begins when her mother, Jean (Kelly Lynch), a schizophrenic with a substance abuse problem, is placed in a mental institution. Liz and her sister are left with their father, Peter, who is also a drug addict. When Jean returns two years later, she's clean, but has AIDS (and will soon start drinking again). When Peter falls behind on the rent, they lose their apartment. He moves into a shelter, the rest move in with Jean's abusive father. Liz hits the streets soon afterwards. Once on her own, she gets serious about her studies and her hard work eventually pays off. Homeless to Harvard earned three Emmy nominations, including one for Birch, while Lynch (Drugstore Cowboy) is just as believable as her kindhearted mess of a mother. --Kathleen C. Fennessy