Tara Westover was 17 years old before she ever stepped into a classroom. Born to a Mormon survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho, she was raised isolated from the outside world. She’s now a Harvard Fellow with a PhD in History from Cambridge University. Her first book, Educated, is an extraordinary memoir of self-invention, family and loyalty.
Here are more reasons why it’s worth checking out:
Obama loves it
Educated was named on former President Barack Obama’s 2018 Summer Reading List. He noted on Facebook that “Tara Westover’s Educated is a remarkable memoir of a young woman raised in a survivalist family in Idaho who strives for education while still showing great understanding and love for the world she leaves behind.”
It’s a great read for your commute
While some of the content is tough to get through because of the subject matter, the story structure is quite easy to read. Westover made each chapter into a “mini short story”, as she “realized reading books takes a long time. So when I heard of the short story, I thought, ‘Well, I can read more of those because they’re shorter.’” If you don’t like to read for long periods of time, and you’re looking for a book to crack open or listen to on that long commute, then this is the perfect memoir for you.
You’ll reevaluate your cultural knowledge
Do you get lost when your kids start talking about the coolest YouTubers or the newest blockbuster film? You’ll feel a lot better about your general knowledge after reading Westover’s harrowing accounts of learning about culture. In a college class she had to ask what the Holocaust was to many peers’ shock, and she didn’t know what Queen was when her friends would reference a song like “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
“When people started talking about music or film, I would just be terrified and on edge. Now I think it’s something I accept about myself,” she said. Even basic math or English skills were foreign to her at a young age. “I think I was 13 when I first went to another child’s house who went to school. I didn’t ask her back because she teased me about not knowing what a fraction was.”
It’s written by a book lover
After years of never cracking a novel, when she did finally have the chance to learn and read books that weren’t the Bible or the Book of Mormon, she took every opportunity she could. “I piled up books and read late into the night. Sometimes I barely slept” she told The Guardian. It’s what pushed her to try out narrative writing rather than sticking with just academics.
She’s a feminist
Women’s rights and feminist literature was a major educator that enlightened Westover to change her thinking from her father’s view of life. Even though her and her estranged family don’t agree on many ideologies, she isn’t angry with her upbringing, saying “I feel very grateful to the church and to [the Mormon] Brigham Young University, where I first went to college, but I can’t reconcile myself to the church’s teachings on women, like women not being allowed to be church leaders and polygamy in the afterlife. I tried to be a Mormon feminist but that was exhausting.”
You won’t believe it until you read it
The true stories that she lived through are so shocking that only her voice can convince you that they’re real. Whether it’s not having a birth certificate until she was 9, being abused by her brother repeatedly, getting severely injured in her family’s junkyard without medical assistance, or listening to her father when he insisted she not apply for school assistance due to “the Illuminati owning you”, her life was one struggle after another. But she overcame the odds and is an inspiration to anyone who knows what it’s like to leave home and become something stronger than what you once knew.