Educated Review: The Transformative Power of Education


Educated is a memoir by Tara Westover. It tells the story of her unique childhood and her journey with family and education

Tiffanie Richerme, Copy Editor

Tara Westover’s memoir Educated is sweeping the nation, earning top rankings on the New York Times bestseller list and Goodreads Choice Awards, as well as landing a prime spot on Michelle Obama’s recommended book list. Since its publication in February, 2018, Educated has become a major discussion topic in panels at top universities including Harvard and Cambridge. Although I had heard of Educated because of its popularity, it wasn’t until I finally decided to read it this past August that I understood what all the praise was about.


   Educated tells the true story of Tara Westover, a young historian and memoirist, from her adolescence to her familial struggles and eventual journey with education. Westover grew up alongside five older brothers and one older sister in a rural Idaho town, where neither she nor any of her siblings received a complete formal education. Westover describes her Mormon parents as survivalists, who distrusted the federal government and its institutions. It was due to these beliefs that Tara was never sent to school and was instead homeschooled by her mother in between working for hours at a time in her father’s scrapyard. 


   As a child, Westover was not only denied a formal education, but also standard visits to doctors, even when emergencies occurred. In her memoir, she recounts a few instances where she was severely injured in the scrapyard but was treated by her mother’s holistic methods rather than a certified doctor’s. One injury that seemed to be the worse of all was when her father received severe burns from an explosion. He refused to go to the hospital, instead barely surviving through natural remedies. In addition to these factors, Tara also experienced an overwhelming amount of physical abuse from her brother and emotional abuse from her sister and parents, though she did not recognize it at the time.


   However, despite all of these factors, Westover decided to study for the ACT in hopes of being accepted into Brigham-Young University like her self-taught brother, Tyler. After teaching herself Algebra and many other subjects and taking the test a few times, Westover received a high enough score to attend the university at seventeen years old. 


   Throughout her time at university, Westover experienced many great shocks after not learning a decent amount of what most students had common knowledge of, but she persevered, eventually graduating from Brigham-Young and continuing on to Cambridge and then Harvard, where she earned her PHD. Today, Westover is a historian, and she is estranged from her parents. However, she continues to have relations with some of her brothers, cousins and aunts. 


   After reading the first chapter of this memoir I fell in love with the writing style and the narrative feel of the book. I felt as though I was right there with Westover, experiencing the same emotions and pondering the same questions. 


   Although the majority of people can’t personally relate to Westover’s unique upbringing, almost everyone can find a universal concept to identify with in the novel. I thought Westover’s thoughts and words were extremely insightful, and her true story is motivating; I can honestly say my thinking process has changed since reading Educated. 


   It was often hard to put down Westover’s memoir, as it contained a variety of serious, funny and emotional moments coupled with an inspiring true story. I would definitely recommend Educated, as it is one of my new favorite books.