Educated is one of those books that gives meaning to the saying “truth is stranger than fiction.” I was amazed by this author’s grace, courage, and ability to describe her family with the dignity that they deserve.
Westover grew up in Idaho with survivalist parents. They were devout Mormons, but far outside of the mainstream faith. Her father, clearly mentally ill, owned a junkyard that all of his children worked in and her parents didn’t send their children to school. They lived in constant terror that the government was after them.
Somehow, one of her older brothers passes the ACT test and is admitted to BYU, which Tara sees as her own way out of the junkyard. Tara struggles to do the same and reckons with her doubt about her abilities. But, after a couple of tries, she scores high enough to gain her own admittance to BYU. There she finds that her worldview and experiences are constantly challenged (the women at BYU aren’t devout enough for her, if you can believe that!) and she stretches and grows in ways that were previously unimaginable. She knew nothing of the history of the world that didn’t relate to the Bible
Despite how difficult it was for her to learn to be a student, today she holds an undergraduate degree from BYU and a Master’s and a PhD in History from Cambridge University. Isn’t that so encouraging?!
In some ways, it reminded me of my own journey to college. I felt totally out of place, like an impostor, and my eyes were opened to so many things that I hadn’t even considered before. When you grow up in an isolated environment, you don’t know what you don’t know. And because of that, you’re always stepping into the mud without realizing it. But if you’re lucky, you’re able to tap into an innate ability to look at the world without judging yourself or others and realize that there is so much to learn and understand.
I would love to ask Westover if she still identifies as Mormon or as a Christian. Religion is something that I’m really grappling with right now and I’m starving to find some writing that does the same. I look forward to more of her writing and hope she explores her current faith — or lack of.
I hope you read this book. I think it’s one story that the US needs right now to show that no one is “too far gone.” If you’re a teacher, a change maker, or anyone who has influence over others in any way (and who doesn’t?!), then I believe this book will challenge your assumptions about people’s abilities to learn and grow.