Review 1383: Educated

Educated is Tara Westover’s memoir about being raised by a bipolar, survivalist fundamentalist Mormon father and his subservient wife in the depths of rural Idaho. Westover and her younger siblings were home-schooled after her father’s paranoia led him to withdraw his children from school. This home schooling was something I have feared for many home-schooled children when their education is not supervised. Their mother began by trying to have school each day, but their father insisted on dragging the kids out to his junkyard to work. Finally, their mother settled for teaching them to read, and the only educated children in the family became so by their own efforts.

Westover’s father did not observe any work safety practices in the junkyard. Since he didn’t believe in medical care except for his wife’s herbal remedies, some accidents resulted in severe injuries for his children and himself.

Aside from Westover’s difficulties in getting a formal education, this book is more about the toll it took for her to go against her family’s teachings enough to do it—a woman’s place being in the home. Even more so, it is about her struggle with her own view of herself, especially after her sister asks her to support her when she tells the family that her brother Shawn is abusive. Westover must figure out who she is in the absence of her family. She must re-examine her own past to learn the lessons about her family—that her mother put her subservience to her father before the safety of their children; that their father would rather disown one child than face the reality of another’s abusive nature, and that some of her siblings will turn against her, too; even that most of her father’s ideas are actually not true.

This is an amazing and enthralling book. Westover’s journey from a college student who never heard of the Holocaust to a doctorate in history and a commensurate growth in self-awareness is inspiring.

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10 thoughts on “Review 1383: Educated

  1. Silvia August 15, 2019 / 11:00 am

    I’ve heard good things about it. I’ll be on the lookout for it.

  2. Shannon Rooney August 15, 2019 / 11:15 am

    I really wanted to read this but couldn’t get into it. Your review makes me want to give it another go! 🙂 I have book FOMO now.

  3. Sandra August 17, 2019 / 7:24 am

    I’ve not been inspired to consider this one until now. You’ve convinced me!

  4. Cynthia June 24, 2020 / 9:06 am

    I recently read this. Absolutely fascinating. Reminded me of the young woman docent who guided us through the Houston holocaust museum…Her parents and German immigrant grandparents still venerated Hitler in her home when she was a child in the 90s. She had no idea about the holocaust or the repudiation of Hitler until she wrote a school essay about him as her hero – and sparked a firestorm of emotion within her school and community. Families can be too insular – and we are incredibly attached to our families even when they’re bad for us.
    I did wish she had spent more time on the development of her ideas through her education. That part got short shrift – maybe at the urging of an editor who was looking for a bestseller. Perhaps we will hear more from her during the future.

    • whatmeread June 24, 2020 / 10:40 am

      Yes, when you’re a child, you have no way to know that your family isn’t normal.

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