Tara Westover

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Tara Westover[1]
Tara Westover receiving the National Humanities Medal on March 21, 2023 at the White House
Tara Westover receiving the National Humanities Medal on March 21, 2023 at the White House
Born (1986-09-27) September 27, 1986 (age 37)
Clifton, Idaho
OccupationHistorian and author
Alma materBrigham Young University, University of Cambridge
Notable worksEducated

Tara Westover[1] (born September 27, 1986)[2] 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 a number of 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 as one of the 10 Best Books of 2018.[3] Westover was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2019.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Westover was the youngest of seven children born in Clifton, Idaho (population 259) to Mormon survivalist parents. She has five older brothers and an older sister.[5][6] 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.[7] She was not registered for a birth certificate until she was nine years old. 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 methods of alternative healing.

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 in order 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 difficult first year, in which Westover struggled to adjust to academia and the wider society there, 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[8] as a Gates Cambridge Scholar, and was a visiting fellow at Harvard University in 2010. She returned to Trinity College, Cambridge, where she earned a doctorate in intellectual history in 2014. Her thesis is entitled "The Family, Morality and Social Science in Anglo-American Cooperative Thought, 1813–1890".[9][10]

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.


Westover was Fall 2019 A.M. Rosenthal Writer in Residence at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard Kennedy School. She was selected as a Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School at Harvard University for Spring 2020.[11]

Westover has written for The New York Times[12] and BBC News.[13]


Educated: A Memoir[edit]

In 2018, Penguin Random House published Westover's Educated: A Memoir, which tells the story of her struggle to reconcile her desire for education and autonomy with her family's rigid ideology and isolated life.[6][14][15][16][17] The coming-of-age story was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, and was positively reviewed by the New York Times,[18][19] The Atlantic Monthly,[20] USA Today,[21] Vogue,[22][23] and The Economist,[24] among others.

As of February 2020, Educated has spent two years in hardcover on the New York Times bestseller list[25] and is being translated into 45 languages.[26] The book was voted the No. 1 Library Reads pick by American librarians, and in August 2019, it had been checked out more frequently than any other book through all New York Public Library's 88 branches.[27] As of December 2020, Educated has sold more than 8 million copies.[28]

Through their attorney, the family has disputed some elements of Westover's book, including her suggestion that her father may have bipolar disorder and that her mother may have suffered a brain injury that resulted in reduced motor skills.[29][30]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Westover's book earned her several awards, and other recognition.

Personal life[edit]

Westover lives in London.[35]


  1. ^ a b "Tara Westover". Alumni Biography. Gates Cambridge. 25 June 2020. Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  2. ^ Whitworth, Damian (February 17, 2018). "Review: Educated by Tara Westover — from the Mormon boondocks to a Cambridge PhD". The Times.
  3. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2018". The New York Times. 2018-12-05. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  4. ^ "Tara Westover: The 100 Most Influential People of 2019". TIME. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  5. ^ Bureau, U. S. Census. "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  6. ^ a b Educated by Tara Westover | PenguinRandomHouse.com.
  7. ^ Miller, Dave. "REBROADCAST: Tara Westover". Think Out Loud. Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  8. ^ "Tara Westover (2018) on her first book, Educated: A Memoir, the 'life of the mind', and the transformative power of education". The Fountain. No. 25. Trinity College, Cambridge. Summer 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2018 – via issuu.
  9. ^ Westover, Tara (2014). The Family, Morality and Social Science in Anglo-American Cooperative Thought, 1813-1890. University of Cambridge.
  10. ^ Westover, Tara (2014). "The family, morality and social science in Anglo-American cooperative thought, 1813-1890". E-Theses Online Service. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  11. ^ Shorenstein Center (16 January 2020). "Spring 2020 Shorenstein Fellows". shorensteincenter.org/. Retrieved 2020-02-01.
  12. ^ Westover, Tara (2 February 2022). "Opinion: I Am Not Proof of the American Dream". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  13. ^ Westover, Tara (24 June 2020). "Rethink: Tara Westover says Build a world where we can be one people'". BBC News. Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  14. ^ Cryer, Dan (23 February 2018). "'Educated' review: Tara Westover's memoir of a childhood with religious extremists, and finding her own voice (book review)". Newsday. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  15. ^ Davies, Helen (2018-02-04). "Book review: Educated by Tara Westover". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  16. ^ Ciabattari, Jane. "Ten books to read in February". Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  17. ^ "The 50 most anticipated books of 2018". EW.com. 2017-12-26. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  18. ^ MacGillis, Alec (2018-03-01). "She Didn't Own a Birth Certificate or Go to School. Yet She Went On to Earn a Ph.D." The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  19. ^ Jordan, Tina (2018-03-02). "Spinning a Brutal Off-the-Grid Childhood into a Gripping Memoir". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  20. ^ Hulbert, Ann (2018-02-13). "'Educated' Is a Brutal, One-of-a-Kind Memoir". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-07-25.
  21. ^ "In 'Educated,' the inspiring story of an isolated young woman determined to learn". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  22. ^ "Tara Westover on Turning Her Off-the-Grid Life Into a Remarkable Memoir". Vogue. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  23. ^ "Tara Westover's Educated Is Already Being Hailed as the "Next Hillbilly Elegy"". Vogue. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  24. ^ "A riveting memoir of a brutal upbringing (book review)". The Economist. 15 February 2018. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  25. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers - The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  26. ^ "Curtis Brown". www.curtisbrown.co.uk. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  27. ^ Licea, Melkorka (2019-10-26). "Here are New Yorkers' most checked-out library books by borough". New York Post. Retrieved 2020-02-22.
  28. ^ Barclay agency profile. Retrieved 2020-12-31. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  29. ^ Alexander, Neta (2018-07-03). "The Author Who Only Found Out About the Holocaust in College: How Tara Westover Became 'Educated'". Haaretz. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  30. ^ "Educated and the Intellectual History of Brain Trauma". Society for US Intellectual History. 9 April 2019. Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  31. ^ "The Best Books of 2018". www.amazon.com. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  32. ^ Cummings, William (August 20, 2018). "'Factfulness' and 'Educated' among the titles on Obama's summer reading list". USA Today. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  33. ^ Elkins, Kathleen (2018-12-03). "Bill Gates says these are the 5 best books he read in 2018". CNBC. Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  34. ^ Gates, Bill. "Educated is even better than you've heard". gatesnotes.com. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  35. ^ Follis, Don (August 27, 2018). "On defying one's family to earn a Ph.D. from Cambridge". The News-Gazette. Champaign, Illinois. Retrieved 9 November 2022.

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