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Hair-raising

Educated: a memoir

Title: Educated: a memoir
By: Tara Westover

“I wanted to get away from the junkyard and there was only one way to do that, which was the way Audrey had done it; by getting a job so I wouldn’t be at the house when Dad rounded up his crew. The trouble was, I was eleven.”

It’s hard to believe that there were still families in the U.S. that didn’t send their children to school or to doctors in the 1990’s, but when Tara Westover was growing up in Idaho, the reigning paradigm in her family was that the government can’t be trusted. They did everything possible to avoid public notice and to be self-reliant. Her father ran a junkyard with prodigious feats of endurance and sometimes reckless use of machinery. Her mother practiced midwifery and prepared herbal medicines with a high degree of skill. With some of her earnings, she put in a phone line at their house.

“One day a white van appeared, and a handful of men in dark overalls began climbing over the utility poles by the highway. Dad burst through the back door demanding to know what the hell was going on. ‘I thought you wanted a phone,’ Mother said, her eyes so full of surprise they were irreproachable. She went on, talking fast. ‘You said there could be trouble if someone goes into labor and Grandma isn’t home to take the call. I thought, He’s right, we need a phone! Silly me! Did I misunderstand?’ Dad stood there for several seconds, his mouth open. Of course a midwife needs a phone, he said. Then he went back to the junkyard and that’s all that was ever said about it.”

I stayed up all night reading this memoir; it was hair-raising. I was entirely engaged by it--in part because it made me so very angry to learn about some of Tara’s experiences. It could have been unbearable to read but for the very fact of the book, which meant she survived. She was one of three siblings who went to college and completed graduate school. Her other four siblings left school with GEDs. Not surprisingly, this memoir also depicts what I can only call a cultural divide within a family, between a fundamentalist, self-reliant, isolationist stance and that of persons who have explored the larger society and have found benefits in mainstream education and interaction with a more diverse community.

View similarly tagged posts: biography

Posted by April on Oct. 14, 2018 at 8:40 a.m.
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