Review by Ms Farley, Librarian
Library age rating: KS4 (appropriate for Year 10+)
Content warning: This book contains many content warnings as it is about Tara Westover's life, some content warnings include abuse, violence, and gore. Please speak to Ms Farley if you would like to know more before reading this book.
Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. She was born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho and she spent her childhood preparing for the end of the world whilst helping her herbalist mother in the summers and salvaging in her father's junkyard in the winters. Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or a nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burs from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. She doesn't even know when her real birthday is. Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to university where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes and the will to change it.
I'm in awe of this book and of Westover's experience. Westover endured so much as a child that it is miraculous and a tribute to her will and the power of learning that she has overcome all the odds. This book gives an intense insight to the levels of abuse and brainwashing that closed fundamentalist systems can harbour. Westover presents the truth in an easy-to-read and upfront way, and you can see her struggling with her past through the words on the page. Discussing religion, family dynamics, loyalty, and education, Westover's memoir is a compelling read. As the story leads up to Westover's ambition to educate herself, you root for her entirely and will her to choose a new path for herself. This book is so powerful and will stay with you long after you have finished it.
This book is quite a difficult read in places as it contains abuse, violence, and gore. It is a very heavy book so make sure you're in the right headspace to read this book.
For other memoirs try Becoming by Michelle Obama, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. For fiction, why not try Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.