Born In: Clifton, Idaho, United States
Tara Westover is an American author, best known for her memoir, Educated. Born into a Mormon family, she had an unconventional upbringing, which is the highlight of her memoir. Westover never attended school, had a limited source of learning, and had no access to proper medical facilities while growing up. However, against all odds, she fulfilled her dream of attending college and eventually earned a doctorate degree. Two of her siblings, too, stepped out of their extremist lifestyle and completed their PhD degrees. Westover's lack of conventional academic training was an obstacle in starting her memoir. After great difficulties, she finally got it published and set an inspiring example for many. Educated has been acknowledged and honored by several journals and websites. It has sold millions of copies to date.
Born Country: United States
U.S. State: Idaho
education: Trinity College, Brigham Young University, University of Cambridge
Tara Westover was born on September 27, 1986, in Clifton, Idaho, U.S., to a Mormon survivalist couple, Val and LaRee Westover. She grew up with her five older brothers and an older sister.
The Westover family was extreme in many ways. Val and LaRee raised their children according to values of Mormonism. Since Westover's parents were suspicious of the government, doctors, hospitals, and public schools, the children were birthed at home with the help of a midwife, homeschooled by their mother, and were later made members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Westover got her birth certificate when she turned 9.
Westover was never taken to a doctor, nurse, or hospital, even in the case of gruesome injuries. Her mother had studied herbalism and hence treated the children at home with her homemade medicines. All the children worked in their father's junkyard. There were only a handful of textbooks available at home, so most of the children were not well-read for a significant part of their lives.
Westover attended a conventional academic institution for the first time when she was 17. She left her father's junkyard and joined a university, without any diploma or formal training.
One of Westover's elder brothers taught her to read. She later studied the scriptures of the church her family belonged to. Her older sister, Valaree, and her mother together own an essential oils business.
When Tara Westover entered her teens, she slowly developed a desire to attend college and earn a degree. To prepare for the college entrance exam, ACT, she began studying algebra and trigonometry independently with the help of the textbooks she purchased.
She scored well in the entrance exam and joined the Brigham Young University on a scholarship, despite not having a high-school diploma.
Her first year in the university was challenging. Since everything was new to her, she struggled to catch up with the rest of the students in terms of formal training. Nevertheless, she worked hard and graduated with honors in 2008.
For further studies, Tara Westover attended the University of Cambridge at Trinity College on a Gates Cambridge scholarship. In 2010, she was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She gained her doctorate degree in intellectual history in 2014. Her PhD thesis was titled The Family, Morality and Social Science in Anglo-American Cooperative Thought, 1813–1890.
Tara Westover first thought of writing when she was in Cambridge. Since she did not have much of conventional education, her writings were not the usual narrative writing. She wrote more of essays that were not appropriate for novels or memoirs. One of her friends suggested her to read short stories, something Westover had no idea about.
She followed the suggestion, and her writing improved eventually. She finally completed her first book, her memoir, Educated. It was released in 2018.
Tara Westover has chronicled her unconventional upbringing, her struggles, and her journey from an extremist lifestyle to eventually graduating university.
In the memoir, Westover has used fictitious names for most of her family members except the estranged ones. She has used the names ''Gene'' for Val, ''Faye'' for LaRee, "Shawn" for Travis, and ''Audrey'' for Valaree. Her other siblings, Tyle, Richard, and Luke, are introduced to by their real names.
In the memoir, Tara Westover has written about how "Shawn" had physically and psychologically abused her for many years. He had even threatened to kill her and called her names. "Shawn" considered her a spoilt woman and would often humiliate her in front of her boyfriend, Charles, so much so that they had to separate eventually.
She also mentioned sharing the incident with her parents in 2009, when she was a graduate student at Cambridge. Unfortunately, her parents did not believe her and said that she was under the influence of Satan. Hence, Westover decided to pen down her feelings.
Despite what ''Shawn'' did to her, Westover always felt she had a special bond with him. However, she always regretted that her parents demeaned her more for speaking up against ''Shawn'' than for stepping out and attending college.
Educated was on The New York Times bestsellers’ list for 2 years and has been translated into over 40 languages. The American Booksellers Association named Educated the ''Book of the Year,'' while the American Library Association named it an ''Amazing Audiobook for Young Adults."
Educated has been nominated for the John Leonard Prize by the National Book Critics Circle, the Autobiography Award by the National Book Critics Circle, the LA Times Book Prize in Biography, the PEN/America's Jean Stein Award, the American Booksellers Association Audiobook of the Year Award, and the Barnes & Noble's Discover Great Writers Award.
It has been featured on the list of the Carnegie Medal of Excellence and named the ''Best Book/Memoir of the Year'' by Apple, Audible, and the Hudson Group. The book has won the Goodreads Choice Award for Autobiography, the Audie Award, and the Alex Award of the American Library Association.
President Barack Obama and Bill Gates, too, have highly recommended the book.
Several websites and journals such as Bloomberg, Time, The Guardian, the New York Public Library, Publishers Weekly, The Library Journal, The Washington Post, Good Morning America, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Post, The Financial Times, The Economist, Real Simple, Town & Country, NPR, The Skimm, Oprah Magazine, Bustle, and Book Riot have listed Educated as one of the ''Best Books of the Year.''
It was on the top of the Library Reads list of American librarians and was the most-searched book in more than 80 branches of the New York Public Library, as of August 2019. By March 2020, over 4 million copies of the book had been sold. Educated has pages on various social-media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Tara Westover's family has filed a lawsuit against her for mentioning inaccurate facts in the memoir and presenting the family in a bad light. They have objected to how an accident was said to have affected her mother's brain and how her father was described as bipolar in the book.
Time magazine featured Westover on its list of the 100 most influential people of 2019.
Westover has been a “Rosenthal Writer in Residence” at the Shorenstein Center of the Harvard Kennedy School. In 2020, the school named her a senior research fellow.
She was a featured speaker at the Seattle Arts & Lectures in 2019.
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