Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover won the Goodreads choice award last year and this is how I found out about this book. I’ve also read a short review for it on Kelly’s blog. I knew I will get annoyed with what is said in the book, as Tara was raised in a fundamentalist religious family. But because of that the book is worth reading. After I finish a book I think of the rating I’m going to give and, with Educated, it was an easy 5. Not because I’ve enjoyed the story, because I can’t imagine anybody with a smidgen of empathy and not religious extremists themselves would actually enjoy reading it. I gave it 5 stars because the book makes you think of what can happen even in one of the most wealthy countries in the world, with lots of resources where children are failed by the system and the community.

Tara Westover was raised in a Mormon family, but that doesn’t make any difference. The story could easily be the same in a family with any other religious inclination: Christian fundamentalist, Orthodox Jews, or Muslims (see my review for I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai).

Educated by Tara Westover

Nobody knows when she was born, including her parents, and she didn’t have a birth certificate. She had no need for one, as she was “home schooled”, as in preparing for the End of Days, bottling peaches, rotating emergency supplies, watching her father gather guns and oil. She was not immunized, as her parents didn’t believe in doctors. Her parents weren’t big on washing their hands or clothes either.

As a teenager, at 16, she decided to educate herself. She went on to study at Brigham Young University, a non-profit research university in Utah, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and run under the auspices of its Church Educational System. Going from there to Harvard and Cambridge. Her education made her think more and when she decided to confront her parents and her brother for his continued abuse, they refused to believe her and she was cut off from her family.

Two of her brothers and one of her ex-boyfriends (Drew, on amazon, reviewed 8th April 2018) shared reviews online and I’ve read those. They all talk about the latter part of her life, when she tried to do something about her older brother abuse. Her parents trivialized the death threats he made. They were his enablers and refused to acknowledge that he was aggressive with her. But, for me, that’s not the real issue in the book. For me is her as a child, indoctrinated that every woman that has a skirt above her knees is a whore, a child that was made to work in appalling conditions in her father’s scrapyard, getting hurt and not receiving medical treatment. She had only four books to read, in that “home schooling” of theirs, you might guess what books were those, religious books.

While I was reading the book I was thinking of the system that allows this to happen. It’s only in US, I imagine similar things can happen here in UK and in other civilized and developed countries. For me, is not her brother that is the problem, not even her parents, but the whole society, the people from the church they were going to each week, the authorities that didn’t check if there are children there and what kind of life they are raised into. She was raised to do her duty to God and that meant getting married and having lots of children. One of her brothers has 7 children, another one 5, her sister 5 (I might be wrong about the specific number, so it might be +/- 1), children that are raised in a similar fundamentalist indoctrination. For some of them, the children are small unpaid workers that they can use as they see fit. That sounds very much like modern slavery to me.

After reading the book I felt sad. Hopefully her story and the promotion it got might make some people in government rethink the way the schooling system works. Home schooling can be great in some situations and I’m all for it, but a system should be put in place, like yearly exams or examinations. I imagine a parent that cares for his/hers children would be happy to make sure home schooling is offering the best outcome. If not, then child abuse can be identified easier and steps can be taken.

I also hope this book will make people think of their own families and communities, if they are standing by while some religious fundamentalists are abusing their children. We should stop believing that in every situation the parents know best. I also hope Tara will seek a therapist to talk with. Many of the things she talks about in the book made me think of another book I’ve read, Toxic parents by Susan Forward.

Educated by Tara Westover

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: Yes
Published by: Hutchinson
Year it was published: 2018
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): Memoir
Pages: 385

About the author: Tara Westover is an American author living in the UK. Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school. She spent her days working in her father’s junk-yard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom, and after that first taste, she pursued learning for the next decade. She received a BA from Brigham Young University in 2008 and was subsequently awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD in history in 2014.
Website & Social Media Links: tarawestover

2 thoughts on “Educated by Tara Westover”

  • As you can imagine, our book club had a lengthy and spirited discussion about this book. It’s quite remarkable when you think about her accomplishments. Some of us wondered if she’d have gone as far as she did if she’d not caught the attention of a couple of those who supported her along the way. (the Bishop who advised her at BYU, her mentor at Cambridge, etc.) She obviously has an innate brilliance as well as a tremendous amount of drive and perseverance.

    • That is a good point. A sad story makes people want to help, naturally, so that might have played a part as well. I’ve seen her on youtube in interviews and she seems very poised and inspirational. I liked her more in the interviews than in the book.

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