Westover, Tara. “Educated.” New York: Penguin Random House, 2018.
Tara Westover grew up in a rural part of southeastern Idaho in a separatist, survivalist family who also happens to be Mormon; she makes it clear in her Author’s Note that her story is not about Mormonism, nor any other religious belief. Upon reading, it is easy to see that her story is about enduring, overcoming, and making one’s own future.
Westover’s account of her off-the-grid upbringing seems more objective than the usual memoir since she uses interviews with her family to compare against her own memories. In addition, she writes with a surprising amount of compassion for her neglectful parents and abusive brother.
“Educated” can inspire readers in many ways from making the most of education to accepting help to forgiving those who’ve harmed us. This title is appropriate for older teens and adults (it is an Alex Award winner) and contains some graphic descriptions of abuse and injuries. Living and working conditions were horrific and the abusive older brother became terrifying, making Westover’s escape and hard-won knew self-identity worth cheering.
This title is a strong addition to a high school memoir or Idaho authors collection that will be read by student and staff.
Dewey: 270 Interest Level: Grades 10 and up
Reviews and Awards: 2019 Alex Award, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, New York times, Publishers Weekly starred, School Library Journal starred.
Another memoir for high school students: “Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table” by Ruth Reichl
On the web:
CNN interview with Tara Westover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kgVliaMrXQ
Tara Westover fields questions from readers on PBS NewsHour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvYg_gp0JPc