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The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

“Educated” teaches what school cannot

A review of “Educated” by Terra Westover
Mattie Baker
A memorable memoir. “Educated” by Tara Westover stands as one of the most well received memoirs of the 21st century. Westover’s novel was originally published in 2018 and has won many awards, including two National Book Critics Circle Awards.

The importance of education is undeniable, but to many, it is also commonplace. Even those who don’t attend school in person typically partake in an online program or are efficiently homeschooled. 

Tara Westover, the acclaimed author of the memoir “Educated”, had none of these experiences. 

Westover grew up in rural Idaho, a place already relatively cut off from the rest of the world. But even in her small town, her family did not act in the “norm”. Her father had no official job and instead would make money by sorting metal scraps in the junkyard near their house and building sheds for townspeople. Her mother was an herbalist, someone who mixes herbs for medicinal purposes, and eventually an unregistered midwife. Oh, and they’re intensely religious Mormons preparing for the apocalypse. 

Yes, to most, school is a burden, but for Westover, it was a goal. Something to achieve, a star to reach for. “Educated” tells the story; of a young girl fighting to overcome her parents’ rules and get an education and the aftermath of her success. 

The memoir, when boiled down to its core, warns of the dangers of upsetting the balance of knowledge and power. It makes clear that knowledge is power, but when that power is corrupted so is the knowledge. The idea of education seems like a simple one: people teach and people learn. But “Educated” begs the question, what happens when the people teaching are abusing that power? 

The book follows Westover from childhood to adulthood as she navigates this dilemma, and she does an incredible job narrating from the perspective of her younger self. The reader watches as a young girl grows up bottling fruits and ducking under flying scraps of metal in the junkyard to become a published and successful author. 

Heartbreakingly honest and emotionally charged, “Educated” is one of the best memoirs of our time. It offers a firsthand account of generational trauma and religious paranoia, making it resemble the written version of a Netflix original documentary. And it does so with integrity. 

Never once did I feel like it was a cash grab or name-dropping ploy, like many unfortunate celebrity memoirs. Never once did I feel like it was only trying to shock me, instead of giving real, thoughtful commentary. It never left a bitter taste in my mouth, only a greater understanding of Mormonism and family hardships. 

Westover effortlessly weaves questions on human psychology and philosophy into her childhood tales, emphasizing the moral complications of her family dynamic. And while these complications are serious and intricate, her writing is never excessive or monotonous. By breaking them down into their key parts, Westover delivers the events in her life in a way that is easy to understand and easy to find interest in. 

“Educated” is truly one of the most compelling memoirs I have ever read (only challenged by Jennette McCurdy’s “I’m Glad My Mom Died”), and is sure to leave readers entranced, grateful and far more in touch with the world around them. 

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About the Contributor
Mattie Baker
Mattie Baker, Reporter
My name is Mattie Baker, and this is my first year on staff! I've always loved reading and writing. My goal this year is to write a complete book. My dream job, at the moment, is to work at Barnes & Nobles and drink Starbucks on the daily. I'm obsessed with action movies like "Bullet Train," "John Wick" and "James Bond." I also have a passion for art. I've been taking extra art classes for over 10 years! Later in my life, I hope to be a storyboard artist and author.

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