Educated by Tara Westover

I feel like I start every post nowadays with something along the lines of “oh hey, it’s been a while.” I don’t know if it’s a lack of motivation or time or both, but I read far less than the past couple of years. It truly is not a reflection on this book or any other book. In fact, I really loved this story. I actually finished it a week ago, but am just now finding time on an Amtrak to write this post.

On the bright side, I had a busy and exciting first quarter of 2019. I moved into a great new place with an even greater new roommate. I successfully pranked the master of April Fool’s Day, my mom, including filling her closet with glitter filled balloons, hiding fake cockroaches, hiding tops to Tupperware’s, and changing faces in photos around the house – I had to add the new cousin I found on 23andMe (that’s a whole other story). Just to name a few. It may sound like too much or too mean, but trust me this was so tame compared to anything she’s ever done. How can I find time to read when I’m being so productive with other things?

Back to the book. I received this for Christmas from BOTH of my parents. For divorced parents who actually get along, they are terrible at communication. Anyways, Educated is a memoir written by a woman who grew up in a very strict Mormon family before she went to college at 17. She was almost entirely uneducated prior to her college experience. She told people she was homeschooled, but her parents stopped teaching her when she was very young.  Tara didn’t even learn about the Holocaust until she was an undergrad at Brigham Young. Her family (led by her bipolar father) believes the government is out to get them. They do not believe in medicine. Instead, Tara’s mother blends herbs to treat her children. They are so against doctors and hospitals that Tara was delivered by a midwife and did not receive a birth certificate until she was nine years old. She was sheltered from the entire world for seventeen years.

I struggle writing this because I typically write in the past tense when summarizing books. In this case, though, it is all still true. Tara escaped the conservatism and paranoia that was ingrained in her at a young age, but most of her family still believes these things. A few of her brothers also escaped and went to college to pursue an education. One of her brothers, Shawn, severely abused Tara and her sister during their childhood. He threatened Tara with death when she told her parents the truth about the abuse. Her parents, of course, did not believe her. They enjoyed living in the dark. They not only indulged, but thrived off of conspiracy theories and this was just one produced by their daughter.

Tara is only thirty-two years old. I grew up in a town where there were plenty of Amish people and I would see families in their horse and buggy around town. Families with children my age who weren’t in my classes. Families who were in some ways more extreme than Mormons. They had no electricity or other technology. Still, this level of isolation from the country, let alone the world, is shocking to me. I was so surprised when I started noticing the years Tara mentioned. She graduated BYU in 2008. She got her Doctorate in 2014. This is so recent. This is still happening. I do not mean to sound as though I am opposed to differing religions, but I am against people not being properly educated. This also is not to say that homeschooling is not a “proper education.” Public schools can be trash and sometimes homeschooling is a better option. But do it right.

Educated was published last year and has already won many awards. And to think it was written by someone who started their true education at 17. Makes me realize just how privileged I am and how little I have taken advantage of that fact. When Tara spoke of arriving at college and reading everything she could get her hands on I honestly couldn’t relate. I enjoy learning, but I don’t consistently crave it. I imagine this is largely in part to the fact that I was never deprived of learning. I always had and will always have the option to learn more. I am encouraged to do so. She may be eight years older than me, but I have nine years on her in terms of education, and yet she knows far more about this world. She has made the most of her opportunity to learn because she knows what ignorance produces.

I say this, yet you better believe I am going right to sleep on this train as soon as I publish this article. Moving apartments and coming up with April Fools Pranks is exhausting, people. I can’t just squeeze some education into that sort of schedule. Joking. As always, I’ll try to read more and probably disappoint. Debating what to read next, I have a massive book about my girl RBG and a few other options from Christmas so we’ll see!

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