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Educated

A Memoir

by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover X
Educated by Tara Westover
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  • Published:
    Feb 2018, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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Power Reviewer
techeditor

You can believe this is true and important
For about the first half of EDUCATED, Tara Westover's autobiography, she describes the circumstances she grew up in. Her father was a survivalist who did not trust the government. So he didn't do things like register his cars or send his kids to public schools. Westover's mother made a stab at home schooling her seven children, but, to say the least, it was inadequate. Luckily, Westover's older brother taught her to read. Her father was also careless with his family's safety and didn't trust doctors or hospitals. So, when they were hurt, often as a result of his carelessness, the family depended on their mother's homeopathic remedies, even for severe burns and head injuries. Westover also had a dangerous brother who was defended and supported by both her parents.

With this background, Westover sought education, beginning with Brigham Young University. She had never even gone to high school much less graduated. But she got in when she was 16 after (pretty much) teaching herself enough to pass the ACT. (Her explanation of this doesn't sit well with me. My college in Michigan would never have let me in without examining my high school transcripts and diploma.) She soon discovered how ignorant she was of even the most well-known history such as the Holocaust and Martin Luther King's civil rights movements. But she learned as much as she could on her own and ended up impressing her professors enough to continue her education in spite of not being able to afford it. Westover kept going to various schools in the U.S. and abroad and now has her PhD in (of course) history.

Throughout the years she devoted to her education, Westover made annual trips to her home in Idaho. She wanted her parents' approval, but her father and, therefore, her mother insisted she was siding with the devil and needed to stop sinning and accept their reality, not hers. They have tried (and have been successful in most cases) to convince the rest of her family to stop associating with her until she admits she is wrong and her father is right.

Although I generally suspect that memoirs are written by people who incorrectly assume that their life story is important, in the case of EDUCATED, you can believe that it is. Also, I call this an autobiography in my first paragraph rather than a memoir because she has convinced me through her footnotes, Acknowledgements, and endnotes that it's all true.
Sadb

10/10 , would recommend
Is is very good.
Power Reviewer
Cloggie Downunder

a stunning read
“Learning in our family was entirely self-directed: you could learn anything you could teach yourself, after your work was done. Some of us were more disciplined than others. I was one of the least disciplined, so by the time I was ten, the only subject I had studied systematically was Morse code, because Dad insisted that I learn it. ‘If the lines are cut, we’ll be the only people in the valley who can communicate,’ he said, though I was never quite sure, if we were the only people learning it, who we’d be communicating with.”

Educated is a memoir by New York Times best-selling author, Tara Westover. Born into a Mormon family, Westover is raised in Buck Peak, Idaho by a father who has morphed from serious, physically impressive and independent-minded young man, to a man with (undiagnosed) bipolar disorder and paranoia about the Government and the Medical Establishment, who are clearly “Agents of the Devil”. Formal education results in getting “brainwashed by socialists and Illuminati spies”.

Her mother is a talented herbalist and an unregistered midwife, who initially believes in educating her children but acquiesces to her husband’s demands for practical skills. Their father instils in his family a deep mistrust of phones, doctors, any type of government documentation or registration, and his determination to be prepared for when the Feds come to get them; the threat of the coming Days of Abomination require the family to bottle fruit and put up preserves, and each prepare “head for the hills” bags.

When the third of her older brothers abandons the family, to go to college (against his father’s will), ten-year-old Tara is drafted into working in her father’s junkyard, where safety is left to God: “I tried to pry loose the small length of copper tubing. I almost had it when Dad flung a catalytic converter. I leapt aside, cutting my hand on the serrated edge of a punctured tank. I wiped the blood on my jeans and shouted, ‘Don’t throw them here! I’m here!’ Dad looked up, surprised. He’d forgotten I was there. When he saw the blood, he walked over to me and put a hand on my shoulder. ‘Don’t worry, honey,’ he said. ‘God is here, working right alongside us. He won’t let anything hurt you. But if you are hurt, then that is His will.’”

Where there are injuries, be they penetrative wounds or third-degree burns, the injured drag themselves to be treated with rescue remedy and herbals by their mother. “Mother always said that medical drugs are a special kind of poison, one that never leaves your body but rots you slowly from the inside for the rest of your life. She told me if I took a drug now, even if I didn’t have children for a decade, they would be deformed.”

As an adolescent, large in her life is a judgemental brother who revels in physical and mental cruelty, while an absent brother encourages Tara to take a qualifying exam for Brigham Young College, despite having never been to school. After she excels in academia, the former becomes the cause of a major rift in the family; the latter never fails to support.
While her father allows Tara to audition for musicals (love or pride?), his reaction to her decision to go to college is disapproval: “The Lord has called me to testify,” he said. “He is displeased. You have cast aside His blessings to whore after man’s knowledge. His wrath is stirred against you. It will not be long in coming” When she wins a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, he reminds her to credit her (non-existent) home schooling; as she boards the plane for England, his main concern is that he will be unable to bring her home to safety “when the End comes”.

Once she has gained academic qualifications, she comes to realise: “My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”

It’s said that truth is often stranger than fiction; sometimes, what Westover described is so shocking, it is blackly funny: Having had a major motor vehicle accident during an all-night drive, causing his family multiple injuries, the following year, her father insists on another late-night interstate drive: “’Shouldn’t we drive slower?’ Mother asks. Dad grins. ‘I’m not driving faster than our angels can fly.’ The van is still accelerating. To fifty, then to sixty” with the inevitable, identical result.

Westover’s book will leave some readers incredulous that such families exist in modern times, and may beg the question: Given that public education is freely available, and that most would consider the provision of basic education the responsibility of every parent, and the right of every child, then is preventing one’s child from gaining this not child abuse? What Westover has achieved is nothing short of inspirational. A stunning read.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Random House.
Char

Excellent - could not put it down.
This book was excellent; almost unbelievable. I was not sure if it really was a true story. I could not put it down!
Anl

Great read - easy to read
Loved this book. As I live close by and am familiar with the culture, I do not dispute any of it. I would love to know the author’s opinion as to why some are educated and some are not.

As a grown child of an abusive parent I applaud your decision for no contact. It was the best thing I ever did for me. And those around me.

I have read books that are quite similar - one in Alaska abusive parents, mother supported him, etc. “religious.”
JUNE M SHOJI

Importance of a Proper Education
Tara persevered from a home life which did not believe in the main stream of society. Home schooled with ideals that modern day medicine and teachings would corrupt her soul. The changes in her from the education she received at the university level brings to mind the terrible impact today's poor education standards are having on our children in today's society. Great book and should be made into a movie.
Krm

Great, insightful book on current day events
Can relate to some of her struggles. Was very well written and I hope she makes a sequel to this book...how she sees her life after marriage and children.
Power Reviewer
lani

Family pathology and hope for the future
What an accomplished novel: superb execution, raw unflinching dialogue, impressive character descriptions,and unrelenting tension. I am not sure there is going to be a better memoir in all of 2018. In Westover's searing novel, and I can't use hyperbole enough, she discusses her Mormon survivalist's family who refuse to vaccinate their 7 children, send them to public schools, or participate in anything that looks like an arm of the government. The children all have to help on the farm working with heavy machinery, scrapping for parts and enduring pain from accidents- the latter being the Lord's will. Early in Tara's life, her mother becomes a midwife and then develops oils and herb infusions to treat mishaps, as doctors and hospitals were mostly verboten. As the children were rarely exposed to others their age, they had no other frame of reference to know that their way of life was not the norm. Violence between one of the brothers and the author was downright scary, more so as the parents defended his actions and looked the other way. The story continues to unfold as Mary begins to find a sense of self, learning to read and write, going on to college and even securing a prestigious Gates scholarship. When one views the trajectory of her insular life to her final accomplishments, one can only shake his/her head in disbelief. From beginning to end this is a riveting, unwavering look at the power of family to define identity, and to explore the determinants of breaking free from deleterious bonds.Settle in and be prepared to be swept off your feet with this austere desolate novel that will scorch and penetrate your soul...and don't forget concurrently to be amazed!
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