Memphis Reads: EDUCATED by Tara Westover


 

Andrea reviews EDUCATED: A Memoir by Tara Westover (Random House, 2018.) I must say the author of this particular autobiography has had a very interesting life. I am not the only one who is grateful she shared her story, seeing as her book has been on the New York Times bestseller list for many, many weeks now.

Tara was the youngest of seven children and was born to a “survivalist family” in the rural Idaho mountains.  Her father had an irrational distrust of the government and believed formal education was another way for “the feds” to brainwash them. Rather than learning from textbooks in a classroom, the children were expected to stockpile food and fuels and work in the junkyard with their father and learn herbalism from their mother so they could be prepared for the imminent end of the world.

Because of her father’s fears and distrust of the government, none of the family ever went to the doctor or hospital, either so Tara’s mother treated them at home so if anyone in the family got hurt. It did not matter the severity of the injury, either, because her mother was a “healer.”  The family relied on home remedies and their faith to heal them. Tara’s mother was also a midwife and birthed many of the townspeople’s babies and only would send the mothers to the hospital if there was complete distress. By the way, Tara’s father saw no reason for his wife to become licensed as a midwife because, in his words, “that’s how the feds track you.”

Tara was already seventeen when she started college but had never stepped into a high school setting. Buying her own textbooks and teaching herself math, grammar, and science, she was able to score high enough on the ACT to be accepted into Brigham Young University. Although she was accepted in the school, she never really fit in with her peers.

Only when certain professors and counselors uncovered Tara’s past could she truly excel in her future. Constantly conflicted between her father’s warnings of how society had brainwashed her versus her professors’ urging to continue her education, Tara finally realized she had to trust her own judgment to what was right for her.

This is a difficult story to read because as backward as it is to deny someone education, we also must realize her parents had their reasons to hold Tara and her siblings back. But to hear Tara’s exasperation as wonders “WHY was I denied education?” will break your heart.

Told in the same vein of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, Educated will stay with you a long, long time because of the harsh reality that is there.