Date: February 20, 2018
Publisher: Random House
Synopsis: Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.
Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.
Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.
Thoughts + Feelings: I began seeing Educated: A Memoir pop up on Goodreads back in February 2018 before I ever started Arguably Alexis. And I truly mean that I began to *see* it – I never clicked to see the synopsis. I wasn’t initially interested in what the story was about. From the cover I knew it was a real-life story about someone’s education, but I wasn’t immediately drawn to know the story.
I’m honestly a bit surprised by myself that I didn’t take an immediate interest. It combines several of my favorite things in life: memoirs, education and learning about survivalist (and people who compare themselves to Ruby Ridge/Waco). I should’ve picked this memoir up a year ago. I should have listened when it became known as a wildly popular book.
I was behind the band-wagon on this one, but let me tell you… I have hopped on the Educated bandwagon and I am not looking back.
Educated: A Memoir is the story of Tara Westover and her dysfunctional and extremist/survivalist family. Tara grew up in Idaho to a radically Mormon* family who did not trust the government, the medical establishments or the school system. Tara never went to school, nor was she home-schooled. Her first experience with our modern day education system was at age 17 when she entered her freshman year of college at BYU.
This memoir depicted a life in the United States that I cannot imagine existing in this country during the 21st century. I mean, I know that this happens. I know that there are other families of survivalists who don’t vaccinate their children, don’t have birth certificates and bury food, fuel and weapons under the ground near their homes. The abuse and mistreatment that Tara underwent at the hands of her family broke my heart each time. Educated was filled with beautiful, and painful memories. It’s quite remarkable the magic that she was able to include in this memoir.
“First find out what you are capable of, then decide who you are.”
The part that struck me as the most magnificent is how Tara began to educate herself, after following in the footsteps of her older brother. She taught herself enough grammar and mathematics to pass the ACT and be accepted into BYU. She beat the learning curve in college and learned how to study and retain information. She learned about her own ignorance and how inaccurate it seemed to many of those surrounding her. Tara had a desire for more. She didn’t want to work in the junk yard for her entire life. She didn’t want to become a midwife. She wanted something different for herself, so she built her life towards it.
I loved Educated: A Memoir. The story it told us was not only unique to Tara. Accessibility to education is not equal across the United States, or the world. Resources are not equal. Tara broke down the barriers to her own education, and I applaud her endlessly for that.
Recommend? If you haven’t had the opportunity to read Educated yet, don’t even wait on the list at the library. Just go out and buy this beautiful, powerful memoir. 10/10 would recommend.