Is it worth reading? My thoughts.
Educated: A Memoir
I’ll admit it. I wasn’t entirely excited at first to read Educated: A Memoir. But, the reasons I wasn’t excited to read this book proves that you really should not judge a book by its cover. Even as I wrote that last line, I know that I will still judge future books. I just can’t help it.
Educated: A Memoir was introduced to me as a professional development reading for work. I teach at a high school, and we were asked to choose a book to read with newer members in our English department. At the time I didn’t realize it, but one of my best friends had previously told me this was one of her favorite new books. My eyes skipped over the part of the title that says “A Memoir” and it went straight for the pencil on the cover as well as the first part of the title which reads “Educated”. I assumed right away that this was a how-to-be-a-good teacher book. While I do love reading tips and tricks about teaching, that isn’t the type of book I get overly excited to dig into. We all have our own preferences.
The book sat as a paperweight on my desk until a couple of nights before our group meeting. That’s when I realized it was crunch time and I had better get to reading. The first few pages of the novel was full of beautiful language describing the mountains of Idaho. In my opinion, it took a bit too long to get started to the actual story, but the details described in Chapter 1 turned out to be important to know for the rest of the book.
When I actually started paying attention and realized this was a true story, I became more interested. It wasn’t so much a professional development book as it was a book with a great message that could benefit everyone, but especially students and teachers. It is a story about how a girl survived a minimalist life under the rule of her mentally ill father, abusive brother, and passive mother. It’s also a story about our government and education systems, as well as the fight some are forced to suffer through in order to get a proper education. I don’t want to spoil important parts of the story in this section, but to see how far Tara Westover came and triumphed truly amazed me. And, as I read the book, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast her life to my own and the lives of my high school students. As I read, I couldn’t help but wonder: If I was put in a similar situation, would I have had the same grit as Tara did to persevere? Do my students realize how lucky they are to have a free education and parents who allow them to attend public school?
I would recommend Educated: A Memoir to anyone interested in reading nonfiction survivor stories or stories about extreme lifestyles influenced by religion. After the release of her book, Tara Westover became a popular person for talk shows and interviews. I found that, after reading the book, I was fascinated to watch her interviews and hear first hand more information about some of the stories written in her novel.
Connections With Spoilers
In her book, Tara discusses the many instances where she or a family member became horrifically injured and then were denied medical attention. Her family didn’t believe in doctors and, as a result, they suffered injuries without proper medical attention and narrowly escaped death in some instances. This book taught me about a whole different world of people who live off of the grid and do not use public services such as hospitals or public schools. I always knew of people who homeschooled their children to ensure they were taught certain values, or of those who pulled their children out of public school if things were not working out. I also knew of people who would avoid going to the doctor to save money. I had not been previously aware, though, of people denying these services and living off the grid for extreme religious reasons. So, when I read about Tara’s family denying her medical attention when she suffered a very painful injury, I was shocked.
Some of the more harmless descriptions of Tara’s father reminded me of my late Grandpa Clifford. My grandpa lived a remote and hermit-style life on a farm in mid-Missouri. He rarely left the farm. And, aside from family, people hardly visited the farm. Like Tara’s father working in his junkyard, my grandpa worked tirelessly (and for a small amount of income) on his farm taking care of pigs, or cows, or chickens, or whatever livestock he was focusing on at the time. He would spend his days feeding animals, cutting down trees, chopping wood, smashing beer cans to store for future profitable recycling, and tinkering with broken down vehicles. And, when we visited on the weekends, we would be put to work to help with these tasks. I remember having mixed feelings about these weekend visits. Running away from angry boars and sows while picking up rocks and having smashed fingers while stacking wood made us oftentimes dread these trips to the farm. But, playing with new batches of puppies in the Spring, visiting the pond to find turtles, and catching blue-tailed lizards with my brother was a blast.
Also like Ms. Westover’s father, I remember Grandpa Clifford having a brief moment in time when he would rant about Y2K and how we would need to hoard food and water “just in case”. This is not something that is unique to my family. Over the years, I’ve heard many stories of peoples’ various reactions to the new millenium. Something about the year turning from 1999 to 2000 made my grandpa (and many others) think things would not function the same after the new year. And, just as mentioned in Education: A Memoir, the world did not end and I never heard my grandpa discuss that topic again. I’m curious. What was your experience with the year turning 2000?
Tara Westover’s memoir is full of shocking tales of traumatic events that happened during her childhood and young adulthood. Although she experienced incidents many of us cannot fathom, her writing techniques invited her readers to truly visualize her life. And, in many cases, she included events such as Y2K that many of us can relate to.
If you are interested in reading Educated: A Memoir, you may view part of the book for free or purchase it here:
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