Tara Westover

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Tara Westover
Westover in 2014
Westover in 2014
BornSeptember 1986 (age 32–33)
Clifton, Idaho, U.S.
  • Historian
  • author
Alma mater

Tara Westover (born September 1986)[1] is an American memoirist, essayist and historian. Her memoir Educated (2018) debuted at #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 named Educated one of the 10 Best Books of 2018,[2] and in a piece written by Bill Gates, Westover was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2019.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Westover was the youngest of seven children born in Clifton, Idaho (population 259)[4] to Val and LaRee Westover. Her parents followed a survivalist lifestyle and were suspicious of doctors, hospitals, public schools, and the federal government. As a result, Westover was born at home, delivered by a midwife, never visited a doctor or nurse, and did not receive a birth certificate until she was nine years old. Her father's ideology forbade all pharmaceutical interventions, which meant that Westover and her siblings were not taken to the doctor even for serious injuries sustained in automobile accidents and while working in their father's wrecking yard. Instead, the children were treated at home by their mother who had studied herbalism and other methods of alternative healing.

Like her siblings, Westover was homeschooled, and according to her memoir, her education was haphazard. An older brother had taught her to read, and she studied the scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to which her family belonged. But she never attended a lecture, wrote an essay, or took an exam, and there were few textbooks in the house which she could use to teach herself. Despite this, she credits her parents with teaching her how to think and how to learn.

As a teenager, Westover purchased textbooks and studied independently to pass the ACT Exam. She was able to gain admission to Brigham Young University. After a difficult first year, in which Westover struggled to adjust to academia and mainstream society, she began to do well and went on to graduate with honors in 2008. She subsequently earned a Master's degree from the University of Cambridge at Trinity College[5] on a Gates Scholarship, 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.

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 responded by denying the violence and suggesting that Westover was under the influence of Satan, and a family schism occurred. The estrangement, and her unusual path to and through a university education, is the subject of her 2018 memoir, Educated.


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.[6][7][8][9][10] The book was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller, and was positively reviewed by the New York Times,[11][12] The Atlantic Monthly,[13] USA Today,[14] Vogue,[15][16] and The Economist,[17] among others.

In August 2018, former President Obama included Educated on his annual summer reading list,[18][19] calling it "remarkable". In December, Amazon named Educated the "Best Book of 2018",[20] and Bill Gates included it on a list of his favorite books of the year, saying, "It's even better than you've heard."[21]

As of February 2019, Educated had spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list[22] and was in the process of being translated into more than 30 languages.[23] It was popular in Utah libraries, and was the book with the longest wait-list at the Salt Lake City Public Library in February 2019.[24]

Through their attorney, the family has disputed some elements of Westover's book, including her speculation that her father had bipolar disorder and that her mother suffered a brain injury that resulted in reduced motor skills. Blake Atkin, a lawyer representing Westover's parents, claims that Educated creates a distorted picture of Gene and Faye Westover.[25]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Westover's book earned her several awards and accolades:


  1. ^ Whitworth, Damian (February 17, 2018). "Review: Educated by Tara Westover — from the Mormon boondocks to a Cambridge PhD". The Times.
  2. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2018". The New York Times. 2018-12-05. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  3. ^ "Tara Westover: The 100 Most Influential People of 2019". TIME. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  4. ^ Bureau, U. S. Census. "American FactFinder - Community Facts". factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ Educated by Tara Westover | PenguinRandomHouse.com.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Davies, Review by Helen (2018-02-04). "Book review: Educated by Tara Westover". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  9. ^ Ciabattari, Jane. "Ten books to read in February". Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  10. ^ "The 50 most anticipated books of 2018". EW.com. 2017-12-26. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Hurlburt, Ann (March 2018). "Educated Is a Brutal, One-of-a-Kind Memoir (book review)". The Atlantic. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  14. ^ "In 'Educated,' the inspiring story of an isolated young woman determined to learn". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  15. ^ "Tara Westover on Turning Her Off-the-Grid Life Into a Remarkable Memoir". Vogue. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  16. ^ "Tara Westover's Educated Is Already Being Hailed as the "Next Hillbilly Elegy"". Vogue. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  17. ^ "A riveting memoir of a brutal upbringing (book review)". The Economist. 15 February 2018. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  18. ^ Cummings, William (August 20, 2018). "'Factfulness' and 'Educated' among the titles on Obama's summer reading list". USA Today. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  19. ^ https://www.facebook.com/roncharles. "Perspective | Barack Obama's summer reading list is everything we need right now". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  20. ^ "The Best Books of 2018". www.amazon.com. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  21. ^ Gates, Bill. "Educated is even better than you've heard". gatesnotes.com. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  22. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers - The New York Times". Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  23. ^ "Book — Tara Westover". Tara Westover. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  24. ^ Baker, Camille (2019-01-29). "Still on the library waitlist for Tara Westover's 'Educated'? Here's why". DeseretNews.com. Retrieved 2019-02-04.
  25. ^ 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.

External links[edit]