Now I’ve picked my jaw off the floor, I can write about this book!
‘Educated’ details Tara Westover’s upbringing in a survivalist mormon family in Idaho. The youngest of seven children, she spent her days working in her father’s scrapyard, preparing for the end of days, learning about herbal medicine and crucially, not going to school. Westover’s parents didn’t believe in traditional medicine, her father believed the education system would brain wash his children. Westover worked to break free, fought for an education and ended up going Cambridge. Educated details that journey and her eventual estrangement from her family.
Some of the incidents described in this memoir are truly mind blowing! For a start, her account of teaching herself algebra – multiple teachers tried and failed to teach me so kudos to anyone who can figure it out for themselves despite having never set foot in a classroom. Danger was never far from Tara’s world, the scrapyard was filled with risk and some of the accidents that took place are horrific; the family refused medical attention instead choosing treat severe burns and head injuries at home.
When it comes to her education, what Tara was taught at home was haphazard to say the least. It was a love of music that started that push to get an education, in a podcast she’s openly talked about this love, her desire to find out more and her decision to apply for college. Until that point it had been an isolated life. She struggled to adapt at college and to make friends. It wasn’t just maths, science and English she’d missed out on, it was the life skills we all learn at school too.
Through reading this book, I was struck by how much we can take an education for granted. She describes a moment at college where she comes across a word for the first time and admits she doesn’t know it, the word is holocaust. I can’t imagine a world where I’ve grown up not having any knowledge of the holocaust, I can’t imagine world were I’ve never dreaded double maths on a Friday afternoon. This book made me grateful for what I learnt at school both in the classroom and the playground, grateful for my education.
There’s something we can all take from this book. Tara loves her parents but she had to break free or her own health and wellbeing. Most parents have the best intentions for their children, however, they do place their own set of beliefs on us, they can’t help it, they’re only human. Fortunately most of us won’t have an extreme upbringing like Tara Westover but we all have to make a decision at some point whether to take these beliefs, ideals and expectations forward in our lives or whether to strike out on our own. We all have to negotiate what kind of adults we want to be and how the beliefs of our parents fit with that – news flash, we’ll never all agree that would be boring. Luckily for me and the majority of us we do this with some success and it doesn’t end in estrangement.
Tara was eventually cut off from her family, her parents believing her to be possessed by Satan and not because she got an education. I won’t give it all away, just read it, you won’t regret it.
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm