Book Review: Educated

Educated by Tara Westover has been on my reading list for a while now but I immediately turned to it after I finished reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Perhaps it is because distrust (particularly in the government and authoritative bodies) is currently rampant, but there was something strangely comforting about reading these narratives that are centered around unconventional families with deeply rooted mistrust of traditional society. Or perhaps it is because I find myself pondering about what it means to shift mindsets in a climate ridden by extremism and conflict. The two memoirs tell distinct stories – both with unique and powerful voices – but the thematic consistencies between the two is undeniable. I was craving more after I finished The Glass Castle and I was not disappointed. While I will not be rating these books since I’m far more comfortable designating those for fiction, there is still so much to discuss.

Educated is difficult yet easy to read, made largely possible by how engaging the writing is. The way Westover wields language as a tool to tell her story is quite remarkable since she tackles serious topics but is able to strip them down with her pensive tone and simple approach, allowing readers to confront the bare-bones of complex psychological and societal issues. I was particularly impressed by her ability to tap into her childhood perspective and explore the events that occurred to her through the lens of a young girl. Retelling abuse, trauma, and mental illness from the eyes of a victim is no easy feat – and not only does Westover do exactly that, but the time and detail she puts into analyzing her resistance to change and desire to believe her family is an important insight into the uphill battle that survivors of abuse face, one that is tragically misunderstood. There is one line in which she talks about how she is rewriting her own history which I found to be profoundly reflective of our ability to manipulate the “truth” as it fits into our narrative. I will warn you however, that parts of this story can be considerably difficult to read. I found myself frustrated as I followed her relationship with her family – and had to be quick to remind myself that what felt like a motif in Educated is a reality – one that many find themselves entrenched in.

Of course we cannot discuss Educated without addressing the guiding light through Westover’s journey – education. Where Westover did a commendable job of detailing the nuances of abuse, she also documented the eye opening experience that is education in a way that is beautifully relatable. After all, the two themes are in synergistic dichotomy, pushing and pulling against one another. While her story is likely a stark contrast to that of the majority of her readers, the authenticity in Westover’s writing brings readers in close, and allows them to recognize the many similarities that lie between all of us. Most of us have been a part of the traditional school system in some form, but there was something compelling about appreciating the value of education through her eyes. In Educated, we see a first-hand account of the way in which people process knowledge and information, correlating it to their own truths and experiences and often battling the cognitive dissonance that arises when education opposes personal beliefs. Through this commentary, Westover also discusses the notorious “imposter syndrome” that plagues many students and working professionals, forcing questions around what is means to “fit in” and succeed. I found myself constantly thinking back to how I was educated – what truths it forced me to confront and what I have continued to question – all while humbled by the knowledge I have often taken for granted.

Ultimately, Educated is thought-provoking and touching, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to be challenged and well…educated. I for one will now be on the look out for more memoirs since I have really been enjoying the perspective they bring to my bookshelf. Let me know if you have any recommendations in the comments!

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