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Book Review: Educate yourself with “Educated”


If you haven’t had someone recommend Tara Westover’s stunning memoir, “Educated,” to you at least once in the last two years, then what are you doing?


Westover was born into a Mormon survivalist family on an isolated mountain in rural Idaho. Growing up, Westover’s childhood was a jumble of paranoid beliefs, dangerous work in her father’s junkyard and a general distrust for medicine, public school and the government. The End of Days and prophecies of her enigmatic father became the blueprint for her family’s distrustful lifestyle that would later lay the building blocks of Westover’s rebellion to go school.


The anecdotes of numerous accidents, physical and psychological abuse, and Westover’s gradual discovery of her curious — yet ignorant mind follows readers as we watch her grow into adulthood.


Despite Westover’s internal conflict with her religion, family and newfound knowledge, she recalls her childhood with startling introspection and a cautious sort of love toward those who have wronged her.


With any memoir, the memories shared won’t always be consistent, and Westover notes these discrepancies between her own and her relatives. The smallest discrepancies let readers indulge in the complexities of her family and beliefs, somehow making Westover’s story more authentic.


Westover’s style lacks the punch other memoirs throw when calling out the perpetrators of her abuse. Her episodic style doesn’t fully encompass the melodrama and abuse of her survivalist family, falling flat by the time the book’s most “What the fuck,” moment comes around.


Is it the guilt and shame she describes hiding behind or the lack of a hard-hitting style that makes her poignant points fall flat? Maybe it’s a combination of the two that, although doesn’t hit as hard, makes the book more relatable than others in the genre.

Despite not lacking the power behind her punch, the memoir somehow feels more real and honest than any other memoir I’ve read. To understand that there isn’t a finality to this memoir leaves readers feeling the internal struggles between her faith, family and new-found life are ongoing, rather than resolved. It’s refreshing to feel the element of uncertainty in a memoir, a casual reminder that someone’s life continues on past the publishing of the memoir.


Yet, there’s something astounding and utterly defiant in her story. Whether its Westover’s personal spiritual crisis or the tangled lines of spirituality, classism and modern politics, this memoir urges readers to look at their own upbringings and the ignorance we dismiss.

Given the political and religious divides that plague today’s America, this memoir is worth reading to acknowledge your own ignorance, no matter what level of privilege you live in.


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