Educated by Tara Westover review

Educated by Tara Westover review

Some days ago, a friend of mine tweeted how rewatching some movies gave an insight into what he never understood when he watched the same movie years back and went on to attribute such clarity to the benefit that comes with age. A friend of his, however, responded to his tweet- No. it’s the experience that age gives- and I couldn’t have agreed more.

Books no doubt open us to the vast wealth of experience. They teach and correct without chastising, warn without voices and subtly affect changes on our consciousness.

Growing up as a child, I met children who were not opportune as I was to witness the four walls of the classroom. This, I attributed to the failure of the government to do the needed or financial backdrop of their guardians. Never have I thought it possible to be as a result of a sealed ideology that Western Education is a complete sham.

Educated by Tara Westover, inspired definitely by her experiences growing up is the story of radical Mormon fundamentalist parents narrated through the eye of the last child of a family of seven who got shaped and caged emotionally, physically and psychologically by her father who spent years preparing for the possible invasion of the American government – something he often referred to as a sign that the end of Days was at hand.

Educated is such coming-of-age memoir that places you on a pedestal of fear, pain, uncertainty, gloom, emotional drainage, hope, and as you softly though anxiously foot the pedal, you could only wish Tara Westover a safe landing.

As the story unfolds, one could see how her siblings, her mother inclusive grew accustomed to Papa’s delusional behaviour. Her father, Gene refuses to allow his children attend a public school as he believes that the government will only ‘’brainwash’’ them. On such occasion when Tyler, who seems to share the same passion with Tara showed his interest to go to school, Gene thinking that he needed to talk some sense into his son had settled into a lecture- ‘’There are two kinds of them college professors. Those who know they’re lying and those who think they’re telling the truth. Don’t know which is worse, come to think of it, a bona fide agent of the Illuminati who at least knows he is on the devil’s payroll, or a high minded professor who thinks his wisdom greater than God’s’’.

Despite the arrays of the fatal accident which left his children, him inclusive, in a demeaning state, he refuses to seek help as he believes that doctors are corrupted by ‘Satans’. On such occasion, Drew was said to have written to Tara-‘My Dear Tara, if Shawn stabs you; you wouldn’t be taken to a hospital. You will be put in the basement and given some lavender for the wound.’

Photograph by Lauren Margit Jones

Shawn, her brother to a great extent, also contributed his quota in making life unbearable for those around him, Tara especially. He calls her a whore and a slut and chokes her until she nearly loses consciousness. All Tara’s effort to convince her parents of how animalistic, brutal and violent Shawn was becoming day by day proved abortive. She either got blamed or was asked to substantiate her claim with proof. Even when Shawn directly threatened Tara with a bloody knife, they still refused to defend her. 

Tara, realising that only her could actually pave the path to her own success defiantly though in some situations obediently disobeyed her father’s will and took the bull by its horn. She paid the costly price of severe emotional trauma, almost losing her self-identity, having to leave home, and losing Audrey, her sister who had suffered the same faith as she did in the hands of Shawn.

Tara, however without a formal education set foot in a classroom at the age of 17 for the first time, studied her way through college, struggles to achieve a mark good enough for admission to Cambridge, and makes it to Havard. And in the course of all that, Tara Westover writes, she found herself – through what some might call a ‘’transformation’’ and others a ‘’betrayal’’. As she puts it in the last line of the book: ‘’I call it an education.’’

Tara at Cambridge in 2018.        Credit: Vanity Fair

Having gone through all Tara went through and rising against all odds, one cannot but conclude that indeed there lies a unique lesson in her story birthed to humanity: and it’s the fact that success is a measurement of the commitment, pain and most importantly sacrifice one makes to achieve a dream.

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