- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (February 20, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0399590501
- ISBN-13: 978-0399590504
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,849 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Educated: A Memoir Hardcover – February 20, 2018
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An Amazon Best Book of February 2018: Tara Westover wasn’t your garden variety college student. When the Holocaust was mentioned in a history class, she didn’t know what it was (no, really). That’s because she didn’t see the inside of a classroom until the age of seventeen. Public education was one of the many things her religious fanatic father was dubious of, believing it a means for the government to brainwash its gullible citizens, and her mother wasn’t diligent on the homeschooling front. If it wasn’t for a brother who managed to extricate himself from their isolated—and often dangerous--world, Westover might still be in rural Idaho, trying to survive her survivalist upbringing. It’s a miraculous story she tells in her memoir Educated. For those of us who took our educations for granted, who occasionally fell asleep in large lecture halls (and inconveniently small ones), it’s hard to grasp the level of grit—not to mention intellect—required to pull off what Westover did. But eventually earning a PhD from Cambridge University may have been the easy part, at least compared to what she had to sacrifice to attain it. The courage it took to make that sacrifice was the truest indicator of how far she’d come, and how much she’d learned. Educated is an inspiring reminder that knowledge is, indeed, power. --Erin Kodicek, Amazon Book Review
“If [J. D.] Vance’s memoir offered street-heroin-grade drama, [Tara] Westover’s is carfentanil, the stuff that tranquilizes elephants. The extremity of Westover’s upbringing emerges gradually through her telling, which only makes the telling more alluring and harrowing. . . . By the end, Westover has somehow managed not only to capture her unsurpassably exceptional upbringing, but to make her current situation seem not so exceptional at all, and resonant for many others.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Living proof that some people are flat-out, boots-always-laced-up indomitable . . . a heartbreaking, heartwarming, best-in-years memoir about striding beyond the limitations of birth and environment into a better life.”—USA Today
“Riveting . . . Westover brings readers deep into this world, a milieu usually hidden from outsiders. . . . Her story is remarkable, as each extreme anecdote described in tidy prose attests.”—The Economist
“A coming-of-age memoir reminiscent of The Glass Castle.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Incredibly thought-provoking . . . so much more than a memoir about a woman who graduated college without a formal education. It is about a woman who must learn how to learn.”—The Harvard Crimson
“Heart-wrenching . . . a beautiful testament to the power of education to open eyes and change lives.”—Amy Chua, The New York Times
“Propulsive . . . Despite the singularity of her childhood, the questions her book poses are universal: How much of ourselves should we give to those we love? And how much must we betray them to grow up?”—Vogue
“A subtle, nuanced study of how dysfunction of any kind can be normalized even within the most conventional family structure, and of the damage such containment can do.”—Financial Times
“Westover’s extraordinary memoir is haunting in the best way, delivering a powerful coming-of-age saga.”—Paste
“Westover’s one-of-a-kind memoir is about the shaping of a mind. . . . In briskly paced prose, she evokes a childhood that completely defined her. Yet it was also, she gradually sensed, deforming her.”—The Atlantic
“Whether narrating scenes of fury and violence or evoking rural landscapes or tortured self-analysis, Westover writes with uncommon intelligence and grace. . . . One of the most improbable and fascinating journeys I’ve read in recent years.”—Newsday
“This gripping coming-of-age story shows a woman’s world being opened through education.”—Refinery29
“Raw and unflinching . . . lyrical and literary.”—Library Journal
“An astonishing account of deprivation, confusion, survival, and success.”—Kirkus Reviews
“At its heart, her memoir is a family history: not just a tale of overcoming but an uncertain elegy to the life that she ultimately rejected. Westover manages both tenderness and a savage honesty that spares no one, not even herself.”—Booklist
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As Tara gets into her preteen and teen years, one older brother in particular starts tormenting her, and the tormenting rises to the level of hugely severe abuse. In part in response to this, she decides to go to college, and by pretty much sheer force of will, does well enough on the ACT to get into Brigham Young University. From there, she starts a storied college career and eventually gets a doctorate from Cambridge. However, each time she is drawn back to the her family, her brother's abuse continues, and the family denial turns more and more severe. The memoir becomes a story of her internal struggle---to believe her own version of her life and to have the strength to break away from her past.
I've struggled with some issues of my own in remembering the past differently than others, and I well know the feeling that the author has over and over. One line, "reality becomes fluid", hit me very hard. When you know something happened a certain way, but others can't accept that reality and attempt to change the past by denying it---Tara Westover is able to write about this so powerfully I was crying at points.
I hope this book gets wide readership. It's an amazing glimpse into a way of life that most of us will never know, and an inspiring story of one woman's ability to change her future.
The title of this book might give the impression it’s merely about going to school. While the author’s lack of primary education is offset by her future ability to earn a doctorate at Cambridge, her education about society and the world outside her family is just as important as her rise academically.
You might say Tara Westover’s education started while she was very young. Her life began on an Idaho mountain with survivalist parents. A father who distrusts the government and runs an ever-spreading scrap yard. A mother who is practically coerced by her husband to become a midwife. Born the youngest in a family of seven, her mother must’ve burned out on homeschooling by the time Tara came along because she didn’t get much book learning. Her first level of education included prepping with her family for the time of desolation, dodging her father’s careless flung scrap metal while she does child labor in his junkyard and accompanying her mother to home births. Tara’s early survivalist education includes learning how to survive her parents’ ignorant choices and a bullying older brother—all of which are much greater threats than her father’s perceived threats of the government taking over their lives.
Her parents rarely leave the mountain. They are home-birthers, home-schoolers, anti-vaxers, anti-establishment and anti-medical care. In a nutshell, her father seems nutso—more like a deranged lunatic with a massive stockpile of weapons than a father.
Tara’s mother appears to be her husband’s enabler as she meekly follows suit and rationalizes his unhealthy choices even when they threaten her safety and the health of her children. As a matter of fact, for a woman who eventually created a lucrative business by claiming to be a healer by designing her own line of essential oils, her mother’s only safety instinct seems to be to protect the family secrets.
As Tara watched the insanity and chaos of her parents’ poor choices, she had one example of life beyond the mountain. One older brother left home and went to college. He encouraged her to do the same. This book is about her quest to get out from under her father’s control—first physically, then emotionally and eventually spiritually. This process didn’t happen overnight. As anyone who has grown up under a narcissistic parent and knows what it’s like to be bullied and gaslighted will find it easy to relate to Tara’s journey.
This memoir is the story of a girl who was thirsty for knowledge, got a sip of real truth and refused to drink the kool-aid any longer. It’s the story if being scapegoated and gaslighted until she questions her sanity. It’s sad, but this book is also about the loss of siblings who would prefer to vote the family line than treat their sister as a friend. It’s also a story of triumph about the girl who escaped the box she was expected to stay in and become the one who got away from all the drama and insanity of her family of origin.
It’s incredible that Tara Westover succeeded in getting a doctorate from Cambridge, but even more amazing is her social education and how she eventually transformed like Pygmalion and was able to self-differentiate from her parents and choose the life she desired for herself.
This book is an exciting read. I read it around the clock within two days. It’s also complicated enough to provoke intellectual discourse about what it means to be faithful to oneself and how loyalty to family plays out against self-worth and self-knowledge.
This memoir is the fourth book I’ve reviewed about a woman raised in a fundamentalist Mormon family. The first three were all brought up in polygamous households, but Tara only had two parents who kept their family in the local ward despite her father’s concerns about the Illuminati infiltrating the mainstream Mormon church. This family looks Mormon from the outside, but a more sinister agenda lies under the surface. She makes it clear this is NOT a book about Mormons but rather the head-spinning tale of a dysfunctional family. She reminds us that most Mormons send their children to public school and go to the doctor when it seems necessary. The fundamentalist vibes which are all there, under a cloak of self-righteousness, could be manifested within any denomination or cult.
The only thing that made this book uncomfortable for me to read was the descriptions of the terrible injuries this family continually sustained due to the father’s stupidity. I constantly cringed at these stories much like I would while watching a show about life-threatening emergencies. Even worse, her father truly believed all these near death injuries were ordained by his arbitrary version of God. It was all I could do to keep from screaming. Such vivid descriptions were necessary though for the reader to understand what Tara had to endure.
It’s not much of a spoiler to say Tara is eventually going to go no contact with some of her family members. She has told this in interviews. What is impressive about Tara is that she shows no bitterness. She loves her parents and family but has chosen to separate from them as a boundary for her sanity. Or did they shun her first? As in most narcissistic family survivor stories, it’s often hard to tell.
This memoir is a true survival story about surviving a survivalist mindset. This book is the tale of narcissistic, emotional and spiritual abuse and one girl’s victory in becoming herself despite being vilified and gaslighted. My favorite quote from the book sums up Tara’s journey,
“I am not the child my father raised, but he is the father who raised her.” -Tara Westover
Tara’s story is a victory of education, but even more, it’s a triumph of her courage to rise up beyond the mountain—the only home she ever had to find her authentic home within herself. Bravo Tara Westover! You are an amazing survivor! Thank you for documenting your often painful journey so the rest of us can know that although our stories may vary, we are not alone.
I grew up in a dysfunctional, abusive family of gas lighters so I’m not at all surprised by her family’s response. If you want to see the family’s distorted and vindictive responses check out all the one star reviews.
Also telling...they claim she got an excellent education at home. If you search for her brother Richard you will find this interesting tidbit in his school bio (written years before the book came out) “Westover said he is probably the only ISU masters-level chemist who had to start with a beginning math course at ISU.“ Why would that be?! Hmmm, could it be that the Westivers didn’t actually homeschool their kids and never taught them met at all, requiring their son to take an entry level class st college...? Ding ding ding!
Bravo Tara for telling the truth.