Educated - A Memoir
Tara Westover

by

Sharon Fleming

Context

Introduction

Educated by Tara Westover is a memoir that describes the struggle of a young girl who escapes from violence and emotional prison. It is a story of fierce family loyalty as well as that of the intense sorrow that arises from the division of one’s closest ties. The author created a universal story that gets to the heart of what education is and its benefits. Educated is also a fearless account of love and brutality, an account of biological relationship and power of imagination, and lastly, an account of a young lady whose courage, knowledge, and intellect lights up every page of the story. Westover’s Educated portrays the unstoppable efforts of a young lady who is determined to change herself. The memoir is a perfect example of things humans can achieve if they set their minds to it.

The Title

Tara Westover’s Educated reminds us that education is not only about learning history, science, and art; but also about learning how to think for oneself. Westover is aware that her education has resulted in both pain and fulfilment. At the same time, education has accorded her the power to define her life and tell her own memorable story that is appreciated by readers.

Historical Context

Educated is a remarkable memoir written by Tara Westover and published on February 20th, 2018 by Random House. The book, whose setting is a faraway rural area of Idaho in the United States, gives an account of the author’s childhood experience and her education. Westover recounts her childhood with great remorse and even talks in a positive light regarding those who wronged or failed her. While there is love in Westover’s family story, at the same time, there is insufficient care to prepare her for life ahead. Thus, Educated also brings out the tension between love and absence of parental involvement in the life of their children, issues that attract the readers bringing them deep into Westover’s world. Westover’s parents, especially her father, did not take an active role in raising their children. By the age of 17, Westover still had no birth certificate, none of her siblings knew the exact date when they were born, and she had not received any immunization.

Westover aims to tell the story of her upbringing the way she experienced it. To her, education is not only about what one gets in the classroom but the things one reads on their own and the people one meets in life. Westover believes education is about making a person more resourceful for society than making a living for themselves. The author’s childhood experiences motivated her to write about education, defined by her point of view as a result of her unique background. Her determination to acquire formal education changed her life completely.

Westover’s exciting and inspiring book was well received as it shows people can quickly achieve something if they set their mind to it. The book reminds people of the privilege of education, the opportunities that come with being educated, and how “diversity” can mean many things in terms of personal stories and backgrounds.

Author’s Biography

Tara Westover is an American historian and author born in 1986 in a remote area of Idaho in the United States. Westover’s parents were Mormon Survivalists who never embraced the idea of formal education but opted to homeschool their children as they believed that going to school would corrupt them. She spent most of her early childhood years working in her father’s scrapyard and helping her mother who was a herbalist to stew herbs. Westover had an isolated childhood as she did not have enlightened friends the way other people do. The only people she knew were children from her area who were also homeschooled. Her father who was very religious did not allow them to receive any professional medical care or even immunization. Besides, Westover and her siblings did not have birth certificates and did not have a clue of the exact dates they were born.

Westover grew up with the urge to free herself from her violent older brother. This motivated her to learn algebra and grammar so that she could pass exams and secure college admission. She first set foot in a classroom when she was seventeen years old, and after that first experience of education, she was determined to go for it all. Westover continued with school for about a decade, graduated from Brigham Young University in 2008 and later won a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. In 2009, she earned a masters of philosophy from Trinity College, Cambridge and in 2010, she was a scholar at Harvard University. She went back to Cambridge University in 2014 and was awarded a PhD in History. Westover wrote the inspiring and best-selling book titled Educated: A Memoir in 2018 which talks about her challenging childhood experience. She is frequently invited to give talks related to education and empowerment and to speak to those who have overcome abusive relationships.

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