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A Memoir

By Tara Westover
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Educated by Tara Westover

Educated (2018) is the memoir of Tara Westover, who grew up in a Mormon family in rural Idaho, and, despite never attending school, was able to earn a PhD from the University of Cambridge. However, she had to pay a high price to achieve her academic dreams. Indeed, she lost her family in the process.

Key idea 1 of 13

Tara Westover grew up on a farm and her Mormon family had an unusual approach to schooling.

When the author, Tara Westover, was seven years old, she enjoyed her life on the family farm in rural Idaho. She remembers fondly the days spent playing out in nature, with the wind blowing through her hair like a warm breath from the nearby mountains. On those days, it was as if she were one with the conifer trees and the wild wheat that covered the hills.

Tara was the youngest of seven children, and even when she was young and carefree, she knew that her family was different.

To begin with, neither Tara nor her siblings went to school. In fact, Tara had never set foot in a school, nor had she ever been to a hospital or even a doctor’s office. So, as far as the state of Idaho was concerned, Tara didn’t exist, since she was born at home and thus hadn’t been issued a birth certificate.

But this doesn’t mean that Tara didn’t learn plenty of valuable lessons during her childhood. One thing she got very good at was bottling peaches in summer, when they were ripe, and then rotating the supplies during winter. She was also well versed in the rhythm of the nearby mountain, Buck’s Peak, or, as her father Gene called it, the “Indian Princess.”

While Gene was happy with her being homeschooled, Tara’s grandmother believed that her grandchildren would be better off getting a normal education.

Gene believed schools were nothing more than a way for the socialist government to brainwash kids and turn them into cogs in the machine. But, one day, Tara’s grandmother came to her with a proposition: tomorrow, at 5 a.m., she was leaving for Arizona and, if she wanted to, Tara could join her and be placed in a school.

Tara thought about it long and hard that night, unable to sleep and plagued with thoughts about her family frantically searching for her. When dawn broke and the clock struck five, Tara decided she would stay with her parents.

Along with his passionate political beliefs, Gene was also deeply religious. Just as he believed in the fulfilling rewards of working hard with his own two hands, he was committed to raising his family as faithful Mormons.

This also meant that Gene believed a woman’s proper place was in the home. And this suited Tara’s mother, Faye, just fine. She was a traditional Mormon woman, devoted to marriage and motherhood, who also worked as an unlicensed midwife for other women in town.

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