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When Educated, A Memoir, by Tara Westover first came out, several of my former Christian Science acquaintances recommended it. I made a mental note to consider looking into it, but the story of a young woman who was home schooled in rural Idaho didn’t feel super appealing. Then former President Obama recommended it, and one of my mommy-friends said she thought I would enjoy it, but she couldn’t articulate why. It popped up in discussions on Facebook a few times, and then one morning over coffee, one of my close mommy-friends read it and said she thought of me.
Ok, I get it, I should read Educated.
After several weeks of waiting, I got a text to pick up a well read hardback from the local library, I was no longer #121 on the hold list.
I had a hard time getting into it, but I pushed past the first chapter. I couldn’t relate to the rural Idaho lifestyle, the homeschooling or the physically abusive family. I could relate, all too well, to the lack of medical treatment*, and the way she rationalized and normalized what was happening. She was raised by conservative Mormons, although she is clear in the beginning that her work is not an indictment of the Mormon church, the way her parents practice their religion of choice is damning.
It was Chapter 23, I’m from Idaho, that I was really hit in the feels. Westover is at BYU and dealing with a very problematic tooth that she is ignoring because of financial reasons. She is not managing the pain and that is impacting her well being and her studies. Westover’s roommate tells the bishop of the church they attend, and Westover begins to meet with a bishop. The bishop offers financial assistance, and recommends she apply for a grant.
Chapter 23 left me in tears. The compassion of the roommate who recognized there was a problem and did something. The compassion of the bishop who offered to help her financially (both from his own finances and the fund the church had for such needs). The acknowledgment of a real problem and the offering of real solutions, even if Westover wasn’t ready to acknowledge that the problems were really problems.
I found the later half of Educated more relatable, the father whose health (both physical and mental) fails. The mother who has to compensate for it. Going off to college and not feeling comfortable returning home. The normalizing, rationalizing, and then breaking away. The awkward relationships with the family.
Educated was not an easy read, but I recommend reading it anyway.
* Lack of medical treatment being the key word here. Westover and her siblings injuries were “treated” (and acknowledged). Westover’s mother was made essential oils, herbal remedies, etc., and her father called herbs “God’s pharmacy.” There are several occasions where one of her family members ends up hospitalized, and there is a rush to get them out as quickly as possible, better or not.
4 thoughts on “Why’d you gotta go & get Educated?”
That’s interesting; when I read it, I thought of you as well as the local author Miriam Toews (Mennonite parents). I also found it an insightful book when one adds parental mental illnesses and emotional dysfunction to religious fervor, mixes them into an inseparable blend, and then serves it to children and what colossal effects that has on those who have no choice but to receive it in the matter. And then label that as ‘love’. I mean, wow.
I was amazed Tara not only survived what can only be described as child abuse but had the resilience to overcome all the emotional, physical, and intellectual ignorance, all the while paying the exorbitant cost at every step in the loss of family support and relationships.
I don’t know where or how one draws such fortitude with each step taken along this tortuous path but the strength of character is quite inspiring. So many of us have no clue what some people have had to go through to reach what we consider ‘normal’ and cannot help but leave all kinds of lesions in the makeup of personality.
After I read it, I talked with one of the friends who recommended the book to me. She thought it was “wild” how much Tara had been through and how she had put up with so much, it seemed incomprehensible. Tara’s experience was so foreign to her, then she asked what I thought of it, which was awkward.
Thank you for sharing this. I am struggling to read it and it helps so much to have your review. I will keep plodding away at it. Thank you so much for this review. It’s super helpful to me personally.
I’m glad you found my review helpful. “Educated” an not easy read, pace yourself, take breaks if you need, read something for a little while if you need to.
Content note: The abuse from her brother and family issues continue throughout the book, and that doesn’t really get any better.
[updated] Also, if you’re really struggling with it, it is OK to put a book down and come back to it later (in a few days, months, or years), or NOT AT ALL. There is no need to force yourself to read a book just b/c other people think it is worth reading!
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