Educated by Tara Westover is about overcoming impossible odds and creating the life you want.
Educated, Tara Westover
Published 2018, 334 pages
Well, this book wasn't what I expected. Mostly what I picked up from online is that the book is a "must read". So I read it. The writing style is excellent and I like the chronological order of the book. Since it's a true story of a woman's journey of self-discovery and figuring out her dysfunctional family dynamics, I expected something more ...... introspective, maybe. There is definitely introspection toward the end of the book, when she's old enough to start making some connections about behavior action/reactions.
As the book started, I found the story telling style very engaging. And I'd read a little bit about it and vaguely knew it was about abusive relationships and yet I didn't perceive her story as abusive. Until it was. Raised in a fundamentalist family with six siblings, she never knew her birthday, didn't have a birth certificate, had never been to a doctor even for serious injuries, wasn't aware of what we consider the 'normal' niceties of societal interactions. Weird but not necessarily abusive.
“An education is not so much about making a living as making a person.”
Then her memories took on a new awareness for her (and me)....a realization that the way she was talked to and man-handled isn't normal and made her fearful and unsure of who she was. As she tried to navigate the dangerous place between her father's extreme survivalist beliefs and her brother's angry physical attacks, she came to realize she had to leave. She wanted more from life. Westover found a way out - education.
Could you imagine sitting in a classroom for the first time at age 17 without the knowledge of basic history and math in your past that every other student in the room had? To know only the erroneous (and sparse) version of history presented by your conspiracy-theorist dad? To have never heard of the Holocaust? No idea about geometry? Talk about overwhelming!! And yet, she persevered.
Bill Gates read and reviewed this book and also had the opportunity to meet and talk with Westover. In his review he quotes her as saying,
“I worry that education is becoming a stick that some people use to beat other people into submission or becoming something that people feel arrogant about,” she said. “I think education is really just a process of self-discovery—of developing a sense of self and what you think. I think of [it] as this great mechanism of connecting and equalizing.”
I found myself skeptical about how a person who'd had zero classroom schooling, rudimentary reading skills, no money or contacts could possibly go to college and succeed, even eventually thrive. She did have a mentor to help her navigate the college process, but it still seems so unlikely. However, just because it seems a bit unbelievable doesn't make it false - it makes it out of my frame of reference. If anything, Westover's story proves, once again, that an impossible childhood CAN be overcome and you CAN choose your own path - with great determination and very hard work.
“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.”
photos by Terrie Purkey, Cambridge College, UK