Has anyone read Tara Westover's book Educated? My friend, who knows I am an exmo, recommended it to me. The reviews are vey good but I am worried that reading it might trigger PTSD symptoms in me. Although my experience was nowhere near what Tara went through, I was abused by my strict mormon family. I am glad she was able to escape and find a new life, and like me it cost her a healthy relationship with her family.
I read the book, and I recommend it to all exmormons. It's cathartic and empowering. She was stronger than me in many ways, but the end is always the same with devout Mormon family. If you're not Mormon, you're not family. It's why we're here.
I just finished it a few weeks ago. I found it a riveting read. It was passed to me by a friend who had no prior knowledge of Mormonism, and she was shocked. Not only at the experiences Tara had growing up, but at the extreme religious principles that her parents abided by. While I explained that the family in the book were extreme in their understanding of Mormonism, it was obvious that the underlying teachings were beyond anything my friend would have imagined.
Who’s to say what might trigger another person? If you want to risk it, I could not recommend a more worthwhile book. The book’s end is on the jacket—-still, I could not put it down. I’ve also listened to several interviews of Ms. Westover. She’s one of the greatest minds of our time.
It is a powerful book of resilience and courage. Her title "Educated" is more than just a chronicle of her strict, perilous upbringing and her journey to college degrees. It also illuminates the difference between understanding the world through history, science, and philosophy and living a life based on superstitions- eg. faith in the imaginary.
However, as much as I was affected by her story, I'm a little puzzled. Tara's mother is on facebook complete with oodles of family pictures. She owns a company that sells herbals; she does seminars and workshops, and writes books. The comments on her posts from friends and family express sympathy for her and question Tara's presentation of the family.
I am reading it for a second time because someone I know in town has asked me to come to their book club discussion next month and speak to the mormon aspect of it. The book club I attend myself will also be reading it in a few months. So I want to be sure I remember the situations and can clarify what behavior is more common and what is more fringe. To me, her father is a conglomerate of my own father, my former father in law, and a couple other Mormon men he brought to mind. Despite his being on the fringe about many things, the underlying control factor in Mormon men is a very common thread.
As far as her family leveling criticisms at her about things they claim are false or that they remember differently, I was actually quite impressed that through her research, she seemed to get that. A number of times she would mention that another sibling remembered an incident differently than she did. This is extremely common in families, especially larger ones where there is an age span and different dynamics with each person. When my mother and I were talking a few months ago about a really horrible incident that happened in our family in my youth, I was shocked that she didn’t remember the part that was the most traumatic for me and affected my later life in so many ways. Because she was right there. I remember what she was wearing. I remember the spring-pole lamp she was standing under. I remember her yelling at my father. Doesn’t change the facts of what happened to me and how I remember it.
When my father passed last year, my daughter posted that she always knew her grandfather loved her. That was her experience and that’s what she believed. I’m happy she felt loved. Yet this was the grandfather who did not give a shit whether his grandchildren had food on their plates or a roof over their heads when I was newly divorced, had no money for food and lowered myself to beg him for help. He had plenty of money and was giving all kinds of help to low-lifes in his ward. But he refused to help me and his grandchildren because I wasn’t paying my tithing. That’s not love that’s control. So my experiences with that man were very different from other family members. Doesn’t mean any of our experiences are wrong, just different. Tara’s family members all had different interactions with her father just due to the family dynamics. Parents, different siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts/uncles, cousins could all give you their recollections about someone and you might not even think they’re talking about the same person. It’s the same with the way different people see us. Martha Beck’s Family lambasted her memories of Hugh Nibley. But those were her experiences. So I look at “Educated” as very credible experiences of one person. And can see the common thread between other Mormons.
Her father is crazy, her mother is half-crazy and one of her brothers, killed a beloved pet to keep her quiet. Bright girl, but how can she not be harmed by all that crazy?
I asked one daughter to read it so we could discuss. Although my daughter came out of graduate school with some disappointing leftist views, my daughter was concerned Tara had wholesale, adopted views from the progressive political spectrum, and had wholesale, dropped anything good from her upbringing.
If Tara were my child, I would counsel her to avoid her new echo chamber. Lord knows, her parents’ echo chamber was also out of balance.
Incidentally, my daughter said the read was “gripping.”
I was tortured as a child, through pets, and could not bear to go through any of that horror again, so I choose to not read about it. I have PTSD, and I'm careful what movies and TV shows I watch, too. I can't tolerate any movies about dogs, because most are heart-wrenching. Biographies about famous people are inspiring and interesting, and usually don't contain detailed violent acts of abuse. (Well, you choose your subject.) Poetry, great literature, historical novels are fine, and there are so many books to choose from, these days, for those of us with PTSD.
I enjoyed Cheryl's book, BTW!!! I highly recommend that!
I enjoyed reading the book. Quite an amazing story. Must have been hell at times (most times) growing up like that. My wife has ten siblings spread out over 25 years. They are always coming up with different versions of their recollections. Often depends on whether you were an observer or if you were a direct participant in the story.
This is getting close to what (I think) EOD was saying.
Life and history are a series of discrete events. People see them and interpret them differently, so any history is either biased, or a compromise between somewhat incompatible sources, or both.
But it goes further. Memory is imprecise. Eye witness identification is notoriously unreliable, and people's memories of events change demonstrably over time. Part of that stems from people's trying to understand themselves as their personalities evolve, part comes from an unconscious desire to emphasize the good and de-emphasize the bad. If there are not journals (themselves subject to distortion) and photos and videos to anchor memory, people's recollections of facts change dramatically with the passage of time.
So no matter how objective a writer may try to be, her work is inevitably subjective and, to that extent, fictitious.
I agree. Recently, my brother has written his memoirs and he kindly sent me the parts about our childhood for my opinion. He writes extremely well so it wasn't that much of a chore ;-)
However, our recollections (or non-recollections) of many events are often very different - and I couldn't say whether either of us is "right" because we were obviously coming from different perspectives. In other words, we're different people! We don't/can't contest the other's memories because we each had our own specific context which colours everything.