Educated: A Memoir
Book Author: Tara Westover
Summary reviewed by:
Bachelor of Arts (BA), University Of California, Santa Barbara 2019
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Educated: A Memoir: Summary
Emerging from an isolated mountain into the halls of Cambridge University, I am proof that it's possible to reinvent yourself completely. "Educated: A Memoir" is my own transformational journey, from a survivalist family in rural Idaho to the earning of a doctorate in intellectual history and political thought from the University of Cambridge.
In the shadows of Buck's Peak, Idaho, my father stocked our barn with food supplies, waiting for the Days of Abomination. He insisted that we were safer without school or medical care—trapped in his ever-cycling paranoia. Amid junkyard scraps and harsh labor, my education was less conventional, governed by my father's distorted interpretation of the Bible, and punctuated by my brother's violent outbursts.
My thirst for knowledge led me to teach myself algebra, cramming for the ACT—a gateway to the wider world. I stepped into my first classroom at 17 at Brigham Young University, a stranger to the norms of society, unfamiliar with the Holocaust, the civil rights movement, or even the basics of sanitary hygiene. A life-changing mentor identified my passion for learning, helping me earn a scholarship to Cambridge. In England, under the guidance of a brilliant historian, I grappled with self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and my complex family legacy.
"Educated: A Memoir" explores the heart-rending struggle to break away from my past. It confronts the pull of family loyalty, and the life-altering price of self-discovery and change. It's a testament to the power of education—not merely a formal education, but the immense potential for self-education, growth, and transformation. It's the journey of a girl, born not just once, but twice: first, to a world of mountains, junkyards and ignorance, and again to a world of learning, exploration, and the courage to question everything.
Educated: A Memoir
Date Published: February 18, 2018
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Educated: A Memoir: Genres
Social and Cultural History
Educated: A Memoir: Main Characters
Tara Westover: An inquisitive spirit stifled by her environment, eventually breaking free to become a scholar. She values education, questioning, and growth, seen through her journey from Idaho to Cambridge.
Gene Westover (Father): A survivalist, prone to paranoia and fanatical religious beliefs. Values faith, independence, and end-time preparations, demonstrated by his rejection of formal education and medical intervention.
Faye Westover (Mother): A traditional homemaker who becomes a midwife and herbalist. Values family and obedience, seen in her compliance with her husband’s beliefs.
Shawn Westover: Tara’s older brother, abusive and controlling. His values are warped by his environment, resulting in his manipulative behavior, demonstrated in his treatment of Tara.
Educated: A Memoir: Themes
Education and Transformation: This theme is central to the memoir, showcased through Tara’s quest for learning, culminating in a drastic transformation of her life and worldview.
Family and Identity: The memoir explores the conflict between familial loyalty and self-identification, demonstrated through Tara’s struggle to break away from her abusive family.
Religion and Fanaticism: The impact of religious fanaticism on the family dynamics and Tara’s upbringing is a recurring theme, seen in Gene’s interpretations of the Bible.
Abuse and Trauma: The memoir deals with the psychological, physical, and emotional abuse Tara faces from her brother and how it impacts her mental health.
Self-Discovery and Change: Tara’s journey is marked by self-discovery, acknowledging her past, and embracing change—highlighted through her acceptance of her individuality and her decision to break away from her family.
Power of Resilience: Tara’s journey is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of resilience, demonstrated by her ability to rise above her difficult upbringing and achieve academic and personal success.
Mental Health: The memoir grapples with mental health issues, exploring the effects of abuse, neglect, and gaslighting on Tara’s mental wellbeing. It’s seen in Tara’s struggle with anxiety, depression, and the repercussions of her brother’s abusive behavior.