As a woman, many people tend to think that my favorite genre of books would be Romance. After all, I know several women who like to sit in the bath, candles burning, champagne sitting on the side, while enjoying their Soap Opera-in-pages. Surprisingly, my preferred book genre is Science Fiction. However, my favorite book falls under the genre of History. It is based on the author’s childhood in Idaho, where she grew up in the Mormon culture. In this book, the author talks about her life living in a family where the government was the enemy and education was not important. It talks about the author’s life of living in conservation, always buying weapons or storing food to prepare for the end of the world. It is called Educated, an autobiography of the author, Tara Westover.
To start, I never expected this book to have such an emotional grip on me. Educated spoke the truth so explicitly. As the images in the story formed in my mind, I felt a great shock at what the author went through. The abuse, the lack of freedom to express herself, and the many unanswered questions throughout her childhood made me appreciate the life that I have had so far. There was one instance where Tara’s elder brother, Shawn, started calling her Fish Eyes because she wore mascara. He claimed that Fish Eyes is a name for people who are “beautiful but dead stupid”. Reading this made me feel upset at Shawn. Tara was simply trying to express herself and enhance her beauty a little bit, yet her own family member shut down this innocent act. I found it quite ironic how many girls today wear makeup (e.g. at school, in public, and even at home),yet Tara, who was acting like every other girl, was denied this chance to express herself in her own way.
In the book, Tara repeatedly emphasizes how Mormon culture does not allow women to show any part of her body above their ankles. This again gave me a slight shock. I am truly amazed at how Tara managed to endure such restrictions during her teenage years. It impacted her so much, not only in the way other people viewed her, but also in the way she felt about herself. I’m sure she had the urge to wear slightly more revealing clothes, yet the idea was shut down by the community she was born into. It was almost as if her lifestyle was already decided for her the moment she was born, but with no explanation. The Mormon community kept saying that women should not wear revealing clothes, but no one explained why. No one cared to give Tara advice on what to do with her “unholy” thoughts about her clothes. No one cared to explain how wearing revealing clothes is a “sin”. Instead, Tara was expected to know the reason behind this without asking any questions, leaving her to face issues with her image.
The most emotionally gripping part of the book was the abuse that Tara endured from Shawn. She was badly beaten up and bruised for not doing what her family expected her to do under the Mormon Culture. She did not commit any crime or talk back to anyone, but somehow her unwillingness to do something out of her comfort zone was eligible for abusive punishment. What is scarier is the lack of support from her family. After realizing the abuse Tara was enduring, her mother did nothing about it. Not only did she falsely claim to support Tara, yet speak behind her back the moment Tara went back to school, Tara’s mother never reprimanded Shawn for his actions. She never did anything to protect Tara, nor did her father. The lack of response from the family for something so serious must have brought Tara a lot of pain and self-doubt.
Just like my last reviewed book, Button Pusher, I love the way Educated was written. As I read it, I could feel myself being right next to Tara through every moment. Tara managed to show a detailed picture of her life realistically. I love the way she described the process of leaving her home to go to university. Unlike in the movies, Tara did not suddenly decide to leave her way of life. Instead, the author showed us how hard it was for her to leave her comfort zone and step into the unknown. Many times, she was persuaded to go to school but almost always ended up staying at home. Many times, Tara was starting to change before reverting to her old ways. Many times, Tara wondered if she could really adjust to her new life as an ‘outsider’: someone who never went to school, was not very hygienic, and had a strong dislike for medical doctors as well as revealing clothes.
Even as she went through school, Tara lacked a lot of confidence in herself. There was a point in time when she was on the road to obtaining her Ph.D. that Tara started to give up on herself. She found more comfort in watching movies all day long and living in filth like she did as a child, rather than focusing on her goal that would have been out-of-reach years ago. In this book, Tara showed me that the road to success is not an easy one.
Firstly, stepping out of her comfort zone to change was the hardest thing that took Tara many tries to accomplish. On top of that, Tara faced rejection. Her parents did not approve of her getting an education at a university so far away from home. Her roommates and classmates did not accept her so easily. Tara struggled to make ends meet and pay for her rent. To make matters worse, Tara lacked confidence. Throughout this whole journey, Tara had issues with her image. She constantly doubted herself: wondering if she was smart enough to get a scholarship, feeling embarrassed for not knowing about the Holocaust, and not believing that she would be able to make it through the first few years of school. Even after going to Harvard, Cambridge and graduating as a Doctor, Tara showed me that her process of change had its own ups and downs.
That is why I love the valuable lesson that this book teaches to readers: to fight for what you want, no matter what. Tara could have followed the Mormon tradition by marrying a man, settling down, starting a family, and being a housewife for the rest of her life. Tara could have used excuses to stop herself from succeeding. She could have blamed her inability to be successful on the physical and verbal abuse she endured, the lack of education in her family’s household, and the unique lifestyle that ostracized her from society. Even after finally going to university, Tara could have given up on her education by blaming it on her problems. She could have blamed it on the many nights she stayed up just to study, on the lack of support from the people around her, or on the lack of confidence she had because of her background amongst the other students at such an elite school. Instead, Tara never gave up. Yes, she faced issues with her image and life, but she never backed down. Despite all the pain from her past, as well as the bad things people around her were saying about her, Tara never let that stop her. In the end, she still managed to go to Harvard and graduate from Cambridge with a Ph.D. in her hand.
This book is simply a masterpiece. It is filled with wisdom and beautiful imagery. It is honest, raw, and speaks the truth of the world. It is, and will always be, my favorite book.