“Educated: A Memoir” tells powerful story of growth


“Educated: A Memoir,” written by Tara Westover, tells a powerful tale of childhood, family and growth. Despite being Westover’s debut novel, it was awarded #1 on The New York Times bestseller list for good reason.

Westover utilizes all 352 pages to explore her childhood, which was spent in a survivalist Mormon household, as well as her separation from her family as she sought out a formal education. She examines these topics without placing any direct judgment upon Mormonism, providing a rare depth to a lifestyle that is unfamiliar to many readers.

Westover divides her story into three parts: childhood, college, and present-day. In the first part, childhood, she offers a glimpse into the early experiences that shaped her as a person. Her father’s distrust in the government, hospitals and schooling system led to numerous life-threatening medical situations and feelings of inadequacy. She emphasizes the isolation she felt as she sought out schooling, going against family tradition.

But instead of critiquing her father, Westover explains these situations as mere circumstances. She tactfully portrays her father’s perspective and avoids bias by acknowledging her own emotions and resentment. This method offers a raw glimpse into the difficulties of her upbringing, demonstrating that there are truly two sides to every story.

In the second part, college, Westover describes how she assimilated to university life, first at Brigham Young University, then at Trinity College, Cambridge. One particularly memorable anecdote was her introduction to her roommate. Her roommate wore a tank top with spaghetti straps, which, although not generally considered scandalous, was a style Westover had been sheltered from since birth. She stated that she was unable to hold a conversation at the mere sight of her roommate’s shoulders.

This event symbolizes a much larger experience Westover underwent while pursuing a post-secondary education: isolation. The social norms she learned as a child juxtaposed those of her peers, pushing her away from companionship. Her blunt description of adjusting to a new school and culture were both hilarious and heartbreaking. These chapters served as a constant reminder to be mindful of our unawareness of others’ circumstances, as they may be going through the unimaginable.

In the third part, present-day, Westover describes the complexity of the link between her upbringing and schooling. The nuances of this connection are clear as she uses her newfound confidence to confront family members about past trauma.

This part of the story draws out new ideas about the interconnectedness of each and every one of Westover’s life experiences. Readers are left with the impression that Westover’s feelings toward her upbringing are as complex as her upbringing itself. Her emphasis on the power of knowledge reflects internal strength, leaving readers with a bit of their own strength stemming from the knowledge in the memoir.

If I were to rank this memoir, I would give it 5 stars. Westover’s voice was authentic and endearing as she told readers the truth about her life, putting herself in a vulnerable position to evoke important discussions surrounding the importance of education. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about a life experience unlike their own. If you are in search of an engaging, honest, coming-of-age tale, Westover will not disappoint.