An unforgettable memoir in the tradition of The Glass Castle about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University.
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 travelled 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.
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Educated: a memoir is making the rounds of bestseller lists right now. I saw an ad for it online and didn’t even realize that it was a new release. So the audiobook request in my library got scrapped, and I had to read it on my trusty old ipad.
I have to say, this is one book I could not put down. It is thoroughly engrossing and I read it in a day and a half. It is shocking that her story takes place in recent days. Ms. Westover was born in 1986. She grew up in the 90s and early 2000s. She was a child who watched Y2K madness on television, the same as me.
She also didn’t get a birth certificate until she was 9. She didn’t see a dentist or medical professional until she went to university. She had never heard of the Holocaust until she was a student at Brigham Young University. Her upraising, and that of her siblings, is so unique and atypical that it baffles the mind that whole networks of people still live like this, in the modern day, in the “first world”.
While reading Educated, I also streamed this interview she gave to The Economist on their youtube channel, which I highly recommend.
Learning about her survivalist prepper upbringing in an ultra-conservative family in the mountains of Idaho was super interesting. Especially given the juxtaposition between her childhood and the eloquent, thoughtful speaker she is today as a highly educated, well-travelled young woman.
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