Educated is a powerful testament of how we can choose to stop being defined by our past.
It is a thought provoking memoir that left me with a strong feeling of unease long after I finished reading it.
Its main theme is privilege. We don’t get to choose circumstances we are born into.
It also explores belonging, shame, forgiveness as well as the ability to become an observer, rather than a victim of your past.
“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.”
For the book’s summary, here’s what GoodReads’ summary:
An unforgettable memoir in the tradition of The Glass Castle about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University
Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter, she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.
Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.
Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far, if there was still a way home.
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.
Sometimes, to break a thought pattern, we need a perspective. An ability to distance ourselves from our emotional involvement, to see things for what they are – i.e. to distinguish between facts vs. our opinions / stories about them.
Westover did this brilliantly in her raw memoir.
You can see her coming-of-age story through her mature observer’s eyes.
You can feel how much pain she must have bravely experienced to get to the point where she is now.
Her writing evoked a strong emotion in me.
As I immersed myself in Educated, I started experiencing deep gratitude; for being born into a loving and nurturing family; for them enabling me to question the world; for them loving me for who I was, no conditions attached.
“It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you.”
Imagine growing up in a family that completely cuts you out of society.
Imagine not having friends, not knowing any facts about the world you live in. The only truth you know is the one your psychologically ill father tells you:
“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind.”
Imagine being physically abused whilst thinking it may be your fault, that there must something wrong with you.
Imagine feeling like you don’t belong anywhere else but to your highly dysfunctional family.
This is not a competition who had it ‘better’ or ‘worse’.
Not having to experience any of those points above, that is privilege.
I am so impressed with Westover’s courage.
Her ability to recognise that she could want more for herself.
Her willingness to stand on her own even though she, like majority of us, yearned to belong.
That curiosity that lead her to define her own life and own her story.
Just bravo, nothing less than that.
Possible triggers: domestic abuse, and abuse in general. This book is quite graphical and left me disturbed, if you are sensitive to these topics, please take care of yourself.
Have you read this book or planning on reading it? Let me know in the comments below. 😊🙏
I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher Random House for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.