Westover’s memoir follows his own journey as he grows up in a fundamentalist, survivor, and Mormon family in Idaho. Her father was the patriarchal head of the house over her six siblings, her mother, and herself, and her rules were strict. ‘Gene’ (she’s not her real name) believed in an impending doomsday and as such eschewed all major education and health care systems in favor of home. Due to this mistreatment, Tara did not set foot inside a school until she was seventeen, and she entered with extremely limited knowledge of the world. Tara and her siblings spent their formative years working in her father’s junkyard, suffered many injuries and had no time for any apprenticeship. While many have debated the true severity of her parenting, no one can debate the presence of emotional and physical abuse within her home.
The memoir traces Tara’s journey to enter university and eventually earn her PhD at Cambridge, and the most fascinating aspect of this book is her ability to overcome all of her shortcomings so that she can get an education despite her past.
Some of Tara’s siblings also graduated with PhDs after leaving their father’s control, a feat for any family let alone hers, and their accounts differ slightly from each other, which has been criticized by some. However, he would say that since all viewpoints and emotions are subjective, it is highly likely that the events and memories have been twisted, mixed up, and confused, leading to these different end results. I just don’t think this should be a criticism of these memories, as any form of abuse undeniably alters the brain and its memories, so a childhood of this magnitude will have had a huge effect on the family as a whole.
Educated is a moving memory of a tragic upbringing turned into a bright and inspiring future that is sure to strike a chord with many. While many disagree or do not understand Tara’s own journey through her upbringing, it is important to remember that this is a memory! She is telling her own story and changing any bad decision would be a misrepresentation of her struggle. I doubt many of us can say we’ve never made a bad decision, so I just don’t know why people expect this of Westover.
See an Interwatch with Tara Westover about her experiences below, via TODAY with Hoda and Jenna: