Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Review: Educated - A Memoir

I read Educated - A Memoir with the way I rubber-necked a major car accident: with bated breath, a desire to look away, but never able to tear myself away from the page. The author, Tara Westover, grew up in a suboptimal environment. Her parents were Mormons, but of the paranoid, insane type, rather than the Stephen Covey type. Growing up, they were not allowed to go to school: her father considered all things government to be the manifestation of Satan, and their home schooling was limited to reading the bible.

Westover was taught to despise womanhood, and the word "whore" was bandied about for any woman who dressed even a little bit more provocatively than say, a member of the Taliban. She was continually abused by her father and one of her brothers, both violently and psychologically. She was never even taught to wash her hands or pay attention to personal hygiene, or go to the doctor, with herbal remedies being the method of choice.
Two days later a package arrived, express from Idaho. Inside were six bottles of tincture, two vials of essential oil, and a bag of white clay. I recognized the formulas—the oils and tinctures were to fortify the liver and kidneys, and the clay was a foot soak to draw toxins. There was a note from Mother: These herbs will flush the antibiotics from your system. Please use them for as long as you insist on taking the drugs. Love you. I leaned back into my pillow and fell asleep almost instantly, but before I did I laughed out loud. She hadn’t sent any remedies for the strep or the mono. Only for the penicillin. (Kindle Loc 3473)
The book does offer a glimpse of how resilient human beings can be. Despite this upbringing, all the kids survived, even the one who had multiple head injuries, few of which were seen in the hospital. Even more amazing, 2 of them schooled themselves enough to get ACT scores high enough for admissions to BYU, and Tara herself not only survived the environment, but thrived enough to go to Cambridge on a Gates Fellowship and was accepted into the PhD program.which included a visiting fellowship at Harvard.

Even after these achievements and convincing herself that she had self-worth outside of the crazy family she was born in, she had a tough time escaping that legacy: her family gas-lighted her enough to convince that she was crazy, and that all the childhood abuses she'd suffered were imagined.

Together with Hillbilly Elegy, these books have convinced me that there's no redeeming value in the racist, sexist ideology that so dominates the conservative republican party today.
I had begun to understand that we had lent our voices to a discourse whose sole purpose was to dehumanize and brutalize others—because nurturing that discourse was easier, because retaining power always feels like the way forward. (Kindle Loc. 2954)
This book comes recommended, but be warned that you'll need a strong stomach to finish it.
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