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Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
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Educated: A Memoir (2018)

by Tara Westover

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“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”

“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'.”

This is a riveting memoir and deserving of the many accolades it has received. How this young woman, with no education or any personal funds, made her way to Harvard and Cambridge, is worth the read, itself. Westover avoids pointing fingers at the Mormon church and directs most of the blame on her fanatical father and her abusive older brothers.
This is not always an easy journey, the violence and abuse she endures, is difficult to comprehend, but her writing is strong and insightful throughout. ( )
  msf59 | May 19, 2018 |
Very much a personal journey through childhood, through numerous family crises and conflict to a changed understanding of the nature of family, through isolation, poverty, and a stifling environment that despite its cathartic and threatening nature left me wanting. There are hints of the intellectual journey, in the authors and selected titles Westover reads at BYU, Cambridge, and Harvard, about which I would like to know more (being on a constant intellectual journey myself); perhaps that will come in a future, more academic, work. ( )
  kewing | May 18, 2018 |
Tara Westover has quite a story to tell. Born into a large family living on a mountainside in rural Idaho, she was raised by a colorful father who raged about socialist indoctrination in the public schools and spent his time preparing for the coming apocalypse. Instead of attending school, she worked sorting metal in her family's junkyard. Injuries, and there were many terrible ones, were not treated in a hospital, but by her mother, an herbalist. In Educated, she describes her childhood and how she managed to leave, eventually studying at Cambridge and Harvard.

This is a memoir of an extraordinary childhood and about living through the aftermath. Westover is nonjudgmental when discussing her family and it's clear that she still holds them in great affection. Nonetheless, the story is harrowing. It's like a first hand account of a pioneer family, with the same extreme dangers exacerbated by her father's possible mental illness and the risky nature of the family business.

Once Westover manages to escape to university, the story doesn't lose momentum. She's intelligent and resourceful, but ill-prepared and made uncertain by the foreignness of her new environment. All in all, this was a memoir that read like a novel. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | May 14, 2018 |
This story is amazing and demands to be read. The book is deftly written, compelling, and a superb chronicle of what happens when ignorance, meanness, and mental illness are given free reign. I think this is a far better book than the (IMO overrated) Hillbilly Elegy for learning about epidemic of people who reject objective facts in favor of opinion and the rising tide of hatred in America. It is easy to just see this as a chronicle of being raised by parents with mental illness and overcoming that to be a respected scholar, a woman of letters, and a lover of knowledge. But that characterization ignores the lives of the other Westovers. This is the story of smart people who turn their backs on truth and opportunity and their own family members in favor of smallness and insularity, violence and hate -- they follow a cruel and insane man because he states his opinion so emphatically it must be true, all evidence to the contrary. Recommended for every reader. ( )
  Narshkite | May 14, 2018 |
I simply could not bring myself to read this book. It's well enough written but way beyond depressing. I realize there are people who prefer to live off the grid and assume that everything (and everybody) that doesn't agree with them is evil, but this woman's life was hell. The father is, in my view, literally demonic for what he does to his children and his wife. Even if the writer triumphs eventually, reading the first part is too great a price to pay to share in her achievement. ( )
1 vote abycats | May 11, 2018 |
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Epigraph
The past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, & thus we don't have complete emotions about the present, only about the past. - Virginia Woolf
I believe finally, that education must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience; that the process and the goal of education are one and the same thing. - John Dewey
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For Tyler
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My strongest memory is not a memory.
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...I had finally begun to grasp something that should have been immediately apparent: that someone had opposed the great march toward equality; someone had been the person from whom freedom had been wrested. (p. 180)
...something shifted nonetheless. I had started on a path of awareness, had perceived something elemental about my brother, my father, myself. I had discerned the ways in which we had been sculpted by a tradition given to us by others, a tradition of which we were either willfully or accidentally ignorant. I had begun to understand that we had lent our voices to a discourse who sole purpose was to dehumanize and brutalize others--because nurturing that discourse was easier, because retaining power always feel like the way forward. (p. 180)
I had decided to study no history, but historians. I suppose my interest came from the sense of groundlessness I'd felt since learning about the Holocaust and the civil rights movement--since realizing that what a person knows about the past is limited, and will always be limited, to what they are told by others. I knew what it was to have a misconception corrected--a misconception of such magnitude that shifting it shifted the world. Now I needed to understand how the great gatekeepers of history had come to terms with their own ignorance and partiality. I thought that if I could accept that what they had written was not absolute but was the result of a biased process of conversation and revision, maybe I could reconcile myself with the fact that the history of most people agreed upon was not the history I had been taught. Dad could be wrong, and the great historians Carlyle and Macauley and Trevelyan could be wrong, but from the ashes of their dispute I could construct a world to live in. In knowing the ground was not ground at all, I hoped I could stand on it. (p. 238)
It's strange how you give the people you love so much power over you, I had written in my journal. ... He had defined me to myself, and there's no greater power than that. (p. 199)
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