Saturday, 18 April 2020

Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover
Published in America by Random House on the 20th February 2018.

E for my 2020 Alphabet Soup Challenge

How I got this book:
Swapped for at a campsite book exchange

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tara Westover and her family grew up preparing for the End of Days but, according to the government, she didn’t exist. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in hospitals.

As she grew older, her father became more radical and her brother more violent. At sixteen, Tara knew she had to leave home. In doing so she discovered both the transformative power of education, and the price she had to pay for it.

I think I am probably the last book blogger in the world to read Educated! This memoir seemed to be absolutely everywhere over the past couple of years so I wanted to wait for the hype to fade somewhat before starting it in the hope that unrealistically high expectations wouldn't lead to Tara Westover's memoir being a disappointment. It certainly wasn't! Westover's writing style is clear and straightforward with a remarkable emotional restraint and lack of anger considering the neglect and abuse she was subjected to throughout her childhood. She calmly describes scenes of such callousness on the part of her father and viciousness from an elder brother as though this was acceptably normal behaviour. For her, of course, it was, but for the other adults surrounding the Westover family - grandparents, cousins, neighbours? I struggle to believe that not one of them realised the Westover children needed rescuing.

What resounded for me in the days after finishing this powerful memoir was its similarities to other works I have read by formerly repressed women across the world. Tara Westover grew up in white America, but aspects of her experience could have come from parts of Asia or the Middle East or anywhere where devout religious faith is culturally warped into an excuse for violent patriarchal domination and a lack of access to education allows destructive behaviour patterns to go unquestioned. That Tara had the strength of mind to successfully escape her family is a testament to her alone. Her story demonstrates that, while we might all like to believe in the concept of family as a safe haven which should be preserved at all costs, this is not always the case. I now do completely understand why Educated has been such a successful publication, and I hope its influence goes beyond the immediate chatter of enthusiastic readers to lead to lasting changes in equal access to education regardless of gender, affluence or even religious beliefs.

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  1. You make a really good point about how this book shows that religious oppression can be insidious in so many forms and places around the world.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. It's striking how often religion is used as an excuse for oppressive behaviours, even sometimes when the actions are specifically forbidden within that religion - whichever one it may be!