A Review of Tara Westover’s ‘Educated’

“It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you.”
― Tara Westover, Educated

Just after I reviewed Infidel: My Life by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I read it again and just went back to the traumas and shocking details of her life. Then I found this book, Educated, and I just had to take a break and just…what in the f**ked up world are we living in? Anyway, let’s get to it.

Tara Westover, the youngest of seven children, grew up in a family of Mormon fundamentalists in rural Idaho. Her parents were survivalists who believed Y2K was definitely going to be the end of the world. The eldest kids were taken out of school to protect them from the Illuminati. The last four kids were “homeschooled”, which was more of learning from the Bible, the Book of Mormon and similar books, without any academic instruction.

Tara’s father built sheds and scraped metal in his junkyard. The children also worked in the junkyard and there are so many stories of freak accidents (gashed legs, severe burns and falls) that were not taken to the hospital. Their parents did not believe in any government institutions, and not just medical and educational but the last four kids didn’t even get birth certificates.

Her mom was an unlicensed midwife and from making herbal remedies, she also added muscle testing and energy work. Her husband called her practice “God’s pharmacy”, which was how everyone was treated when they were sick, injured and even after the family had been in two terrible car accidents.

Tara intelligently describes her upbringing and the dimensions of her family’s beliefs and attitudes towards so many issues that an outsider’s eye would find deeply concerning. For example, the physical and mental abuse that one of her elder brothers puts her through, and the family “not seeing it” and eventually that being one of the reasons that her family turns against her. We see the extent of how her father’s word was her reality for all of her childhood and how when she stepped into the world outside her home, there’s so much imbalance and struggle.

Educated is aptly titled, because we get to see how Westover finds herself, discovers the world outside the one created by her family for her and how she rescues herself through education. She only entered a classroom for the first time at the age of seventeen, taught herself and self-studied for the ACT to get into Brigham Young University, which she did. She went off to a fellowship at Cambridge University and eventually studied at Harvard. She and two other siblings got their PhDs, which I guess can also be credited to the toughness and belief in self-sustenance that their father raised them with, as messed up as it may have been.

“The skill I was learning was a crucial one, the patience to read things I could not yet understand.”
― Tara Westover, Educated

Some of the events in this book are so unsettling but at the same time the way she overcomes them and manages to thrive beyond the struggle is incredibly inspiring. This memoir will motivate you, in a way. You learn how much power you possess, whatever your background and system of beliefs instilled in you.

I’d suggest that you grab a copy today and dive into this chaotic yet educating journey with Tara. You’ll love it.  

You’ll Weep Your Way Through Khaled Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’.

“There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.” 
― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

Title: The Kite Runner

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Amir flashes back to his well-off childhood, twenty-six years ago when he lived in 1970s Afghanistan with his father, Baba. They have two Hazara servants, Ali and his son Hassan. Despite the big difference in class the two boys are close and Amir’s father treats both Hassan and Ali as family.

Winter is an exciting time for the kite-fighting tournament but it’s on that day that Amir witnesses Hassan pinned with his pants down, being raped by Asseff, but doesn’t do anything to help. Unable to deal with his guilt and failure to defend the ever loyal Hassan, Amir instead gets rid of Hassan and Ali by framing the boy for theft.

Their lives are toppled over by politics in the country and they flee to California. The once affluent Baba now works at a gas station, which eventually affects his health. Amir’s life in the US includes graduation, marriage, losing his father and having to go back to see his father’s old best friend. It’s there that he discovers his actual relation with Hassan, and how Hassan and his wife were killed by the Taliban, leaving behind a son. Amir goes through a dangerous course to finding the boy. Eventually, he finds him kept as an object of amusement and sexual abuse by a man whose face he can never forget from that day when he saw it pinning down Hassen in that alley.

This handsomely written story is such a deep and emotional experience that reaches into our relationships with others and how those relationships affect who we are and who we become. Amir is a well-off child but despite all that affluence he is constantly starving for his father’s affection and wants to make him proud. From all that has happened in his childhood, the harsh changes in his life, loss and disappointments, to the shocking discoveries, the story is as intense and emotional for the reader as it is for the protagonist.

The Kite Runner just demonstrates a sad search for redemption that we can identify with. It also details the raw turmoil that befalls people when politics seep into their personal lives. Khaled Hosseini writes in a way that makes the story jump out of the pages and shake your core, rattle your emotions and leave in your tears.  His characters are so real, you love and hate some, and you forgive some while others you’d like to strangle. It’s an unforgettable story, original and brilliantly crafted.