Tara Westover


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Tara Jane Westover is an American memoirist, essayist and historian. Her memoir Educated (2018) debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list and was a finalist for several national awards, including the LA Times Book Prize, PEN America's Jean Stein Book Award, and two awards from the National Book Critics Circle Award. The New York Times ranked Educated among the 10 Best Books of 2018. In addition, Westover was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2019.

Westover was the youngest of seven children born in Clifton, Idaho, to Mormon survivalist parents. She has five older brothers and an older sister. Her parents were suspicious of doctors, hospitals, public schools, and the federal government. Westover was born at home, delivered by a midwife, and was never taken to a doctor or nurse. She was not registered for a birth certificate until she was nine. Their father resisted getting formal medical treatment for any of the family. Even when seriously injured, the children were treated only by their mother, who had studied herbalism and other alternative healing methods.

All the siblings were loosely homeschooled by their mother. Westover has said an older brother taught her to read, and she studied the scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But she never attended a lecture, wrote an essay, or took an exam. There were few textbooks in their house.

As a teenager, Westover began to want to enter the larger world and attend college. She purchased textbooks and studied independently to score well on the ACT Exam. She gained admission to Brigham Young University and was awarded a scholarship, although she had no high school diploma. After a challenging first year, in which Westover struggled to adjust to academia and the wider society, she became more successful and graduated with honors in 2008.

She then earned a Master's degree from the University of Cambridge at Trinity College as a Gates Cambridge Scholar and was a visiting fellow at Harvard University in 2010. After that, she returned to Trinity College, Cambridge, earning a doctorate in intellectual history in 2014. Her thesis is entitled "The Family, Morality and Social Science in Anglo-American Cooperative Thought, 1813–1890".

In 2009, while a graduate student at Cambridge, Westover told her parents that for many years (since age 15), she had been physically and psychologically abused by an older brother. Her parents denied her account and suggested that Westover was under the influence of Satan. The family split over these events. Westover wrote about the estrangement, and her unusual path to and through university education in her 2018 memoir, Educated.

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