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Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Educated: A Memoir (2018)

by Tara Westover

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YIKES ON BIKES I really wasn't expecting to be so entranced by this memoir as I was. Just entirely spellbound, I couldn't put it down. ( )
  Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |
One of the best memoirs I have ever read. ( )
  bogopea | Jan 17, 2019 |
This memoir is the story of Tara Westover (read by Julia Whelan. ) Tara was born in 1986 into a large Mormon family who were radical survivalists living in the mountains of Idaho. Tara's mother and father did not believe in sending their children to school. They "home schooled" their children which meant that the children were only taught to read. They learned nothing of history or the world apart from their family and church. Neither did they believe in the traditional use of doctors or medicine but rather herbal/natural remedies only. Her father earned a living being self employed with both "scrapping" and building.
Although Mormon, this is not a story about Mormonism but rather about any religious or political fervor that encroaches on the irrational. Wanting their family to be separated from heathens, Tara's parents (later to be revealed her father was bi-polar) taught life only through a very narrow lens of what they thought was important which was purity, (for girls) and preparing for the end of the world. Two of Tara's brothers grew up and moved on to attend school, one of which came back home to tell Tara of the world. Naturally bright, the children excelled even though they had no formal schooling. Tara's curiosity and desperation to leave home drove her to take the admissions test to Brigham Young University and was admitted after much studying and hard work. Tara, being multi talented in music, voice and general intelligence went on to earn a PhD through a very convoluted journey avoiding physical / mental abuse from her oldest brother and finding favor with professors who saw her potential. Tara's highly dramatic life is an inspiration to all who suffer from the hands of a severely dysfunctional family. Highly recommend this book. ( )
  gaillamontagne | Jan 12, 2019 |
Westover's memoir is powerful, not just because she tells her story well but because hers is a very striking story of abuse, faith gone wrong, and triumph over adversity. Sadly, a lot of coverage of her memoir keeps describing her family's religious affiliation as "Mormon" but she herself makes clear how different the Westover family version is from the mainstream LDS faith and culture. If anything, her family's beliefs struck me as an amalgamation of millennialist Christianity and the culture of conspiracy theories at its worst. None of which is particularly germane to her story of gradually getting a more nuanced perspective as she learns more about history and the rest of the world. I was most struck by how she had the sanity and the will power to resist all her family's efforts to seduce her back into its circle of abuse and mental illness. ( )
  nmele | Jan 10, 2019 |
This is the true story of the author and her upbrininging in Idaho. Her mom and dad "lived off the grid" and refused to put their kids in public school - or any school - because of the government involvement. She and her brothers and sisters didn't even have a birth certificate until they were older. Her mother was an untrained midwife who relied on herb concoctions to heal her patients and her children (they never went to a hospital unless it was forced on them), and her dad was a scrapper.

By the time Tara is 17, she is ready to get out on her own. She is encouraged to try and take the ACT test (Even though she hasn't ever had formal schooling - not even home schooling) and she scores high. She is accepted into BYU and it starts her journey to Cambridge, Harvard, and a Ph.D. Now she recalls what it was like for her growing up as a mormon whose parents didn't want anything to do with the outside world, and how she felt torn between where she came from and where she ended up.

This book was okay. It was a bit frustrating, but I kept having to remind myself that I was having a hard time putting myself in her shoes. I would get angry every time she returned to her family and their "crazy notions" as I like to call them, and a brother who had threatened to kill her. I was surprised how hard it was for her to separate herself from her old life even though it was clear to the rest of us that she was being abused. It wasn't until she finished her Ph.D. that she finally parted from her parents and the abusive brother and told the readers she hasn't seen them in a few years.

The other problem with this book is that it just wasn't well written in my opinion. It has only been a few years since she finished that Ph.D program, and it didn't feel like she has put enough distance between the end of her "saga" and writing an memoir. I think if she would have waited another 10 years, she could have collected her thoughts and her notes and reflected better to write this novel.

I cannot say I don't recommend it. I know her situation is rare, but any time you get a chance to look into the lives of people who don't trust the school system or the hospitals or anyone, really, it is a fascinating experience. It is hard not to judge, but it gives you insight into another way of thinking that obviously exists - even in the year 2018. ( )
  JenMat | Jan 10, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tara Westoverprimary authorall editionscalculated
Svensson, PatrikCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whelan, JuliaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
For Tyler
First words
My strongest memory is not a memory.
...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 feels 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)
I had been taught to read the words of men like Madison as a cast into which I ought to pour the plaster of my own mind, to be reshaped according to the contours of their faultless model. I read them to learn what to think, not how to think for myself. (p. 239)
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Book description
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
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"An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University"--Amazon.com.

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