Of the great equalizer {Educated by Tara Westover}

Of the great equalizer, education.

About Educated by Tara Westover: Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling supplies and sleeping with her “head for the hills” bag. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or a nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to intervene when her brother became violent or when her father’s Mormon beliefs drifted toward the extreme.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She ultimately taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events such as the Holocaust. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if there was still a way home.

A riveting account of the struggle for self-invention, Educated is also a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties.

My two cents

I don’t know how many times I audibly gasped reading Tara Westover’s autobiography! When people talk of overcoming adversity and challenges, sometimes it’s hard to understand just how it really is. However, in this memoir, Westover doesn’t sugarcoat a thing. She recalls a a traumatic childhood of hard labour, abuse, and neglect in a family dealing with mental illness. Reading all this is tough, but it drives home the point that this is a reality for many of those who live in rural America.

What makes this particularly ingratiating is that Westover doesn’t seem to have an ounce of self pity as she tells her story. Nor does she seem to bear a grudge on her family members who perpetuated the cycle of abuse, neglect, and simply holding her back.

Often we talk about the importance of exposure and education to better ourselves. Bill Gates talks about this memoir in glowing terms. Check out his review and a video of his chat with Westover.

What particularly struck me was when Westover says:
“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.”

Verdict: I recommend reading this honest and matter-of-fact storytelling of her journey from illiterate country hick to a life of learning, believing in herself and her innate capabilities. Truly, you can’t keep a good woman down.

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall