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Educated by Tara Westover

Imagine you’re raised in a survivalist Mormon family that doesn’t believe in formal schooling. Or seatbelts. Or visiting the doctor. Or birth certificates. Or the authority of the government.

Tara Westover was born into such a family, and her memoir, Educated, is the story of her journey from being a homeschooled child (and I use that term very loosely) to a Ph.D. candidate at Cambridge University. (Yes…that Cambridge.)

Educated is a remarkable book, which I found compelling, disturbing, and inspiring. It simultaneously makes you appreciate your life while also realizing that you’ve probably been too coddled to achieve your full potential. It made me wonder if Tara would have achieved all that she did if she hadn’t had her unique upbringing.  (Sometimes you don’t really “burn” if you don’t have a fire inside stoked by yearning, determination, and an ambition to escape the world that you grew up in.)

The book is unflinching in its honesty about Tara’s upbringing, her relationship with her family, and her own doubts and shortcomings. The book isn’t an easy read. There are graphic descriptions of grisly accidents that befell family members but went untreated by the medical establishment; disturbing recollections of physical and emotional abuse; and heart-wrenching accounts of how emotionally taxing it can be to doubt your own memories and needs.

Ultimately, the book is about Tara’s journey to come to terms with her upbringing and how she received an education—not just an academic education but an education in how we need to trust and rely on our deepest innermost selves to guide us on the path that is right for us no matter the consequences.

Tara paid a heavy price for her education. We can honor her experiences and sacrifices by reading her story.  Lessons abound within its pages, and I think children who were raised in dysfunctional households will find that Tara’s story particularly resonates.

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