Reviewed by Marilyn Herbert
When Educated by Tara Westover was first published, it ignited a national conversation because Educated is a memoir about how a girl who grew up in Idaho got “an education” (329). The youngest of 5 boys and 2 girls, with a mother and a father, one set of grandparents living over-in-town and the other, down-the-hill, Westover tells her passable-as-fiction story in the only way she knows how, by studying her own chaotic history through her personal experience and observations of the varied personalities of her family members.
Obviously, one of Educated’s major themes is education, but it’s Westover’s journey that personifies the theme and illustrates its nuances: education doesn’t change a person, it allows for shifts in outlook and perception.
Because she had no actual school education until she was 16, it wasn’t until a lecture at Brigham Young University, when Westover first learned about the American Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 through ‘Whipped Peter’. Upon later learning about the Civil Rights Movement of 1963 through photographs of Rosa Parks being fingerprinted, Emmett Till smiling on Christmas Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. addressing the crowds at the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, with his “I Have A Dream” speech, she realized her naive assumption that “surely the call of justice had been heard by all, and the issue had been resolved” (178). These shocking gaps of social insights, became the gaps between Westover’s educated self and her 16 year-old self. Back at home one summer when her brother, testingreactive nicknames for Westover, renewed the use of the N-word in his repertoire. Here, Westover bravely reflects on one of her most profound shifts where she had finally “discerned the ways in which we had been sculpted by a tradition given to us by others, a tradition of which we were either willfully or accidentally ignorant.” (p180).