The AY 2022-23 Common Read Book Selection: The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper.

We are pleased to announce that the Common Read selection for Spring 2023 is the memoir The Beauty in Breaking by Dr. Michele Harper, an emergency room physician who has worked in hospitals in the Bronx, Philadelphia, and Trenton, NJ.

Harper’s memoir explores trauma, care, and healing as she recounts her experiences of personal trauma and loss, as well as the stories of the individuals she cares for in multiple hospital settings.

Mirroring the challenges and diversity of the injuries that Harper treats as a physician, her book engages with a myriad of issues including domestic abuse, mental illness, racial injustice, gun violence, sexual assault, and the brokenness of the medical system.  

This text speaks powerfully to our cultural moment. In a time when we continue to endure collective traumas as the result of the pandemic, violence, and racism, Harper’s memoir provides multiple entries for discussing these problems, as well as how to cultivate care and healing as we face them. We invite all faculty from all disciplines to join us: Incorporate this text in your curriculum and participate in the week of Common Read events, in collaboration with the Kupferberg Holocaust Center, during the Spring 2023 semester.

This Common Read selection is an appropriate text across disciplines and student populations at our College, both in credit and non-credit courses.

The Beauty in Breaking is a journey of a thousand judgment calls, including some lighter moments. Each one leads the author to a deeper understanding of herself and the reader to a clearer view of the inequities in our country. (An emergency room is a great equalizer, but only to an extent.) Just as Harper would never show up to examine a patient without her stethoscope, the reader should not open this book without a pen in hand. There are so many powerful beats you’ll want to underline.”  The New York Times

The Beauty in Breaking is aptly titled, as the author/physician beautifully shows there is indeed beauty in the examination of the trauma one has experienced and struggled to overcome. Her storytelling brims with hope while contributing to a broader conversation about diversity and meaningful inclusion in medical training and beyond.”  Intima


“A timely, beautifully written memoir by a master storyteller in Michele Harper, a female, African American ER doctor who explores how she’s used a life of service—especially one within a white, male-dominated world—to not only heal her patients, but also herself.”  Parade

If you have any questions relating to the Common Read, you may contact Meg Tarafdar at or Angela Ridinger-Dotterman at  to discuss possible connections between the text and your class.


Common Read Events


Viewing of The Color of Care, 10:10-11:50 a.m., Room H-231

In Chapter 5 of The Beauty in Breaking, Michele Harper focuses on the ways that Black Americans have experienced racism within the healthcare system, including exploitation in medical research, medical procedures performed without patient consent, and disparate access to medical treatment.  Join Professor Ridinger-Dotterman’s Introduction to Literature class for a viewing and discussion of the documentary The Color of Care.  Produced in 2022 in response to the ways that BIPOC communities were disproportionately affected by the COVID 19 pandemic, The Color of Care explores racial inequities in the healthcare system.


Mindfulness & Meditation, 2-3pm, Zoom,

At multiple points in The Beauty in Breaking, Michele Harper emphasizes the importance of mindfulness and meditation in both healing, and in maintaining physical and mental health.  Join Professors Alison Cimino (English) & Joanne Chang (Music) as they ground us in helpful mindfulness and meditation to deepen awareness, mindfulness, and compassion for self and others. Students and faculty are invited. (Facilitated by Professor John Yi) Join via Zoom:


The Impact of COVID on EMS Providers, 10:10-11:50 a.m., Hyflex 

This presentation will highlight the findings from a 2-part study that looked at the psychological impact of COVID-19 on EMS providers at the height of COVID and in the years after. (Facilitated by Celia Sporer and Jody Resko). 

Join via Zoom:

Resiliency in the Workplace
, Hyflex (H 339 and Zoom)

Join Prof. Miller’s Introduction to Creative Writing class for a poetry writing workshop about resilience. Students will brainstorm and search The Beauty In Breaking for language appropriate for a work themed poem, and then write and share their own poems. 

Register to attend in person in H-339: 12:10 - 1:50 PM

Join via Zoom:



Open Circuits:  Infinite Resistance, 4:50pm - 6pm, Blackboard Ultra

Open circuit: infinite resistance event consists of students creating graphic memories using a digital computer circuit learned in class to represent their experiences as an engineering technology student. This graphic memory has the purpose of self-reflecting on the difficulties that each student has or is facing towards their career and what students are doing to overcome these difficulties in the formation of their professional career.  (Facilitated by Professor Hiuxin (Maritza) Wu) 

Join via Collaborate:

The Expectations of the Healthcare System from the Perspective of Current Nursing Students
10:15-11:45 am; Medical Arts Building, Room 358
Nursing Faculty Philip Nelan, Christine Pagano, and Michelle Rossi will discuss the memoir The Beauty in Breaking and lead a discussion on students' expectations, perceptions and concerns of the healthcare system.  Professors Nelan, Pagano, and Rossi will include experiences from their own careers in nursing relative to the topic.  
(Facilitated by Professors Philip Nelan, Christine Pagano, and Michelle Rossi)


Understanding and Healing Our Brokenness, Wednesday, March 29, 12:30-1:45 p.m.,
Humanities Bldg. Room 440

In this Common Read Event, Drs. Melissa Dennihy and Danny Sexton, both of the English department will use Michele Harper’s memoir The Beauty in Breaking as a springboard to guide participants through a healing circle. Based on the work of Gail Christopher, this circle is an opportunity for participants to share their “personal life stories,” “connect with our shared humanity” and move “from fractionalization to wholeness.”

Christopher, Gail C. Rx Racial Healing: A Guide to Embracing our Humanity. Washington D.C.: American Association of Colleges and Universities, 2022.


Bedside Manners: What the Research Says about Compassion and Care; 6:30-7:30 pm; Zoom
In The Beauty in Breaking, Michele Harper reflects on the importance of acknowledging her patients' humanity and centering compassion in her practice of medicine.  What is compassion?  What does it mean to show compassion?  Why does compassion matter?  In this online event, students will explore the differences between compassion, empathy, and pity, identify some of the forms that compassion can take, and discover what the research says about how compassion affects both patients' emotional experiences and their health outcomes.  (Facilitated by Professor Angela Ridinger-Dotterman)
Join via Zoom:

Common Read Events


Dr. Suzanne LaJoie: 10:10-11:00, Zoom

Dr. Suzanne LaJoie, ob/gyn -partner at Downtown Women’s and affiliated with NYU-Langone will share her experiences as a pre-med student at SUNY Albany and in medical school at SUNY Downstate and how she balances life as a parent and doctor (hosted by Professor Beth Counihan)

Join via Zoom:

BRESI Research Talk: 12 - 1pm, Zoom

Throughout The Beauty in Breaking, Michele Harper highlights the ways in which systemic racism has shaped healthcare in the United States.  In this Common Read event, students will hear from CUNY researchers whose work focuses on identifying and correcting racial disparities in health outcomes.  Dr. Hiroshi Matsui and Dr. Olorunseun Ogunwobi (Hunter College) will discuss ongoing BRESI research  entitled, Impacting prostate cancer disparity in Black men using RNA nanotherapeutics. (Facilitated by Professor John Yi).

Join via Zoom:


Self-Care workshop; 2:30 - 4 pm; Z Building, Room 111 

All are welcome to attend this interactive workshop. We’ll explore Social Presencing Theatre (SPT). SPT engages body-based practice and reflection which link head, heart, and hand in support of personal and social well-being. 

The workshop will include 75-mins of facilitated practice followed by a 15-min discussion. The offering will be facilitated by QCC Theatre community members: Assistant Professor Heather Huggins, CTMP College Assistant and QCC Theatre alum Geovanny Guzman, and Adjunct Assistant Professor and QCC Theatre alumna Jess Kreisler.

Please be prepared to remove your shoes when you enter the studio.

The Z Building is located by the Q27 bus stop. Here’s a campus map which includes the campus access points.



Healing from COVID through Art, 12:10-1:50 p.m., Student Union

This in-person event includes an introductory presentation about the Japanese art of Kintsugi, followed by an arts-and-crafts event for all participants. Kintsugi, also called kintsukuroi, is an art form that emphasizes the beauty of fracture and reconnection.  It is, in part, the inspiration for the title of Harper’s memoir, as Kintsugi emphasizes “the beauty in breaking.” In this event, students will be invited to engage in a kinesthetic and creative project inspired by Kintsugi in connection with their own experiences of struggle during the COVID 19 pandemic.  (Facilitated by Professors Charissa Che, Ilse Schrynemakers, and Tanya Zhelezcheva.) Registration:


Urban Communities and Community/Personal Trauma: Music and Media in the Therapeutic Process

9-11am; M130

Join students in Professor Adrian Bordoni’s Crime and Justice in Urban Communities course.  Students will share their examples of songs/media that discuss urban community issues of trauma, and how music and media can be part of the therapeutic process.  (Facilitated by Criminal Justice 204 Students in Professor Adrian Bordoni’s class) Registration:

Locating A Tribe Called Quest: Subverting Trauma with Music: 10:10-11:50 a.m., Humanities 238

Dr. Harper makes extensive references to music throughout Beauty in the Breaking as an outlet. A Tribe Called Quest is one such “artist,” originally from Queens (19). We hope to examine songs from A Tribe Called Quest and explore notions of trauma and some connections drawn from Dr. Harper’s narrative. (Facilitated by English 101 Students in Professor John Yi’s class)


Screening of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 12:10-1:50 pm
Humanities Building, Room 306
In Chapter 5 of The Beauty in Breaking, Michele Harper addresses the connection between racism and bodily autonomy.  She writes, "But for Dominic, it seemed somehow warranted, somehow a commonplace, that his rights as a patient should be tossed aside.  I looked at him; his autonomy was so provisional.  But then, had he ever had self-determination?  Had he even been considered to have ownership of his black body?  There was no medico-legal reason for a doctor or hospital to usurp his decision-making capacity, and yet, for some people, it was expected.  In the face of these truths, we are reminded that for many people, their bodies are not considered their own" (105).  Harper cites several historical examples of medical racism, including the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the research of Dr. J. Marion Sims.  
Join other students participating in the Common Read for a screening of the film The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which tells the story of how Lacks was exploited by medical researchers.  Students will be guided to make connections between the film and the issues related to race and bodily autonomy that are raised in The Beauty in Breaking.  


Campus Cultural Centers

Kupferberg Holocaust Center exterior lit up at nightOpens in a new window
Kupferberg Holocaust Center Opens in a new window

The KHC uses the lessons of the Holocaust to educate current and future generations about the ramifications of unbridled prejudice, racism and stereotyping.

Russian Ballet performing at the Queensborough Performing Arts CenterOpens in a new window
QPAC: Performing Arts CenterOpens in a new window

QPAC is an invaluable entertainment company in this region with a growing national reputation. The arts at QPAC continues to play a vital role in transforming lives and building stronger communities.

Queensborough Art Gallery exterior in the afternoonOpens in a new window
QCC Art Gallery

The QCC Art Gallery of the City University of New York is a vital educational and cultural resource for Queensborough Community College, the Borough of Queens and the surrounding communities.