Book Habit Blog - Educated - Tara Westover

by Tara Westover

Tara Westover has a Ph.D. in History from Cambridge – and was a visiting fellow at Harvard.

Her memoir looks back at her humble start, born to survivalists, with a father who is always preparing for the end of the world and does not believe in anything tied to “big government.” Tara and her siblings do not have birth certificates, are not sent to school and are not allowed to seek out help from the “medical establishment.” They are left to read and learn on their own – and to work with their father in his junk yard.

Tara describes the abuse in her household in an authentic manner without self-pity. Her brother Shawn is sadistic with a mean temper and enjoys torturing her – at one point, he breaks her wrist. Dad is a religious zealot, paranoid and his moods cycle between mania and deep depression. His impulsive decisions cause automobile accidents with serious injuries to his family; his risk taking at the junkyard causes injuries as well – and as the injuries get more and more serious (broken bones; traumatic brain injury; third degree burns over an entire leg) with no access to medical care, the family members’ suffering is hard to read.

When Tara’s brother Luke leaves to pursue a college education, she decides to go as well. Her adjustment at Brigham Young is at first difficult. She knows little about the “outside world” and is filled with self-doubt. Fortunately, there are professors who recognize her intelligence and over time she gains self-confidence, makes friends and moves forward in her education. She confronts her family about the abuse and how her parents ignored all the pain that was inflicted on her and her siblings. The result is that most of the family turns against her.

The last lines of the book explain the title. “The decisions I made (when I finally left my 16-year old self behind) were not the ones she would have made. They were the choices of a changed person, a new self. You could call this selfhood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal.  I call it an education.” (Educated, p. 329)