Educated Book Summary By Tara Westover

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"Educated" is the thought-provoking story of Tara Westover.

An inspiring and gripping memoir, it explores her journey from rural Idaho to earning a PhD from the University of Cambridge.

It highlights how a young woman with no formal education was able to rise above adversity and reach for her dreams, despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

However, this success came at a high price: she had to leave her family behind in order to achieve her goals.

Her story offers hope, inspiration and insight into what it takes to overcome difficult circumstances and succeed in life — but not without paying a heavy price.

"Educated" is an enthralling tale that will stay with you long after reading is done.

Educated Book

Book Name: Educated (A Memoir)

Author(s): Tara Westover

Rating: 4.3/5

Reading Time: 32 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

Tara Westover is an unparalleled author whose incredible story has been documented in her book, Educated.

She was born in 1986, in Idaho and continued to live an adventurous life ever since.

She achieved a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brigham Young University and went on to receive the prestigious Gates Cambridge scholarship.

In 2014, she received her PhD in history from Harvard University as well as becoming a visiting fellow there.

Educated is Tara Westover's debut book and it offers a raw and critical examination of her life experiences which readers can learn from.

The Story Of Tara Westover: How A Girl From A Radical Mormon Family Fought For An Education


In Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, she recounts her story of moving away from a deeply religious family in Idaho to pursue an education.

Raised with parents who believed schools were nothing more than brainwashing facilities and that a woman’s rightful place was in the home, it took a lot of grit and determination for Tara to break free and fight for an education.

From the fundamentalism of her childhood to the culture shocks of college, and culminating in earning her doctoral degree from Cambridge – it was a long journey for Tara.

Along the way, we get an insight into her struggle against religious fanaticism and mindsets that asserted women should not be educated or have careers.

It was Tara’s passion for learning that enabled her to make this transition from religious fanaticism to empowered wisdom achieved through education.

No matter how difficult the circumstances might have been for young female students like Tara at the time, by pursuing higher education she was able to break free from oppressive traditional ideas about gender roles as well as ignorance.

Despite all odds stacked against her, Tara persevered until she earned what many people would only dream of: A Doctorate Degree from one of England’s most prestigious universities!

In Tara Westover’S Childhood, Education And Believing In Oneself Intertwine To Find Fulfillment

Growing up in rural Idaho, Tara Westover had an unconventional childhood.

She was the youngest of seven children and neither she nor her siblings ever set foot in a school.

Her parents, Gene and Faye, homeschooled their kids and Tara enjoyed the days spent playing outside on the farm under the watchful gaze of the nearby mountains.

However, Tara’s family took it even further than most homeschooled families: her father Gene was incredibly passionate about his political beliefs, deeply religious and wanted to raise his family in line with traditional Mormon values – meaning for him that he felt women were best suited to staying at home instead of attending school or going to work.

While Tara’s grandmother believed her grandchildren would be better off going to school, Tara chose to stay with her parents despite the fact that she hadn’t even been issued a birth certificate!

Nevertheless, she learned many valuable homeschooling lessons such as bottling peaches during summer and gaining a rhythm with the local mountain called “Indian Princess.”

In conclusion, Tara Westover grew up on a farm with an unusual approach to schooling: she was homeschooled by her parents according to strict Mormon values which included keeping women out of school.

The Westover Children Learned By Self-Education, Planting The Seed Of Curiosity For Higher Education

Growing up, the Westover siblings were learning on their own, without any assistance from a teacher or homeschooling curriculum.

From a young age, Tara had been taught how to read by her older brother Tony, and for a few years after that her mother taught some math and history.

But then when Tara reached 8 years old, the Westover children were left to educate themselves.

To ensure they were using their time productively, Tara and her siblings would spend an afternoon at the local public library where they’d read whatever books they liked.

Amongst all of them, it was always Tyler, the third son of Westover’s who took his self-studying seriously; he applied to college and became determined to earn his degree once he turned 18.

However, this sparked major disputes between Tyler and Gene as Gene thought that attendance of college wouldn’t benefit Tyler in any practical way nor protect him from getting brainwashed by conspirators.

Despite his father’s irrational warnings about the dangers of education and Tyler’s obligation to stay home for farm duties–he decided to go through with college–a decision which planted a seed of curiosity about higher education in Tara’s mind.

This also encouraged other family members to give it a go too including Tara herself; alongside strictly studying from scripture she worked hard towards completing high school qualification certificates despite having no formal tutoring of any sort.

With this newfound push to learn that spread amongst the siblings came their determination pursue further studies–all guided by an absolute belief that attaining knowledge was key in life!

The Power Of Opportunities: Tara Finds Her Voice And Pursues Her Dreams Despite Parental Restrictions

Parental Restrictions

Tara had always been sheltered from the outside world by her father, but when she was eleven years old, that all changed.

She felt a desire for independence and looked for a job so she could experience something outside of the household.

Tara took matters into her own hands and posted flyers advertising herself as a babysitter.

Soon enough, requests started pouring in and Tara was busy with her new business.

Not only did it bring in extra money, but it was also an opportunity to explore the world beyond the confines of her home.

Through babysitting, Tara got exposure to all kinds of activities that she would have never experienced before such as voice lessons, dance lessons and even singing in a local theater production!

Babysitting opened up many doors for Tara and allowed her to live out experiences she wouldn’t have before.

It exposed her to opportunities that gave her confidence and allowed her to push past boundaries set by her strict father.

The Power Of Denial: Emotional Invulnerability Can Create A False Sense Of Security

Tara’s family had a history of avoiding medical help in favor of spiritual and herbal remedies.

This was evident when they were in an accident on their way home from Arizona, where no one wore seatbelts but everyone survived.

Her family refused medical attention for the bruises and cuts she had suffered, as well as for her brother Tyler who drove the car when the crash happened.

A few years later, another accident happened which again resulted in no one wearing seatbelts, yet all survived by some miracle – though Faye had persistent headaches and erratic memory afterwards.

The family refused to take her to see a doctor despite this.

The pattern repeated itself with Shawn, who often had violent outbursts directed at Tara, however nothing ever changed and she began to believe that emotional pain meant nothing and physical pain was the only thing she could feel.

Tara’S Journey Through Educational Independence: Overcoming Fear And Gaining Self-Confidence

In order to attend college, Tara had to pass the ACT exams.

This was no walk in the park.

She had previously stopped studying math when she learned about long division, and so had to get some help from her mother to brush up her skills before taking the test.

Tara dedicated much of her free time in the months leading up to the test learning basic algebra equations and multiplying fractions.

When it came time for Tara to attempt the exam, she was understandably nervous – it was going to be her first standardized test after all.

To her dismay, however, after having spent months preparing for it, Tara scored a 22 on the first attempt – below what she needed for admission into Brigham Young University (BYU).

This didn’t deter Tara however; if anything, it made her even more determined to try again and pass with flying colors.

Sure enough,ly two attempts later she got a score of 28 sucessful- which was just above what she needed for acceptance into BYU!

Tara Overcomes Challenges To Succeed In The Big City


When she arrived in Provo, Utah to attend Brigham Young University (BYU), Tara was filled with a sense of unfamiliarity and foreignness.

Her apartment hosted two other students from BYU, which only served to amplify her feeling of displacement.

Shannon, Tara’s first roommate, greeted her in pink pajama bottoms and a bare shoulder tank top – an outfit that left Tara speechless and full of shock.

To make matters even more challenging for Tara, the city itself seemed to be filled with a lot of noise – something that she had never encountered or been exposed to before still living at home on the family farm.

When she decided to take the bus for the first time to get to school, she unfortunately ended up going in the wrong direction!

But then when classes began it became even more difficult; as part of her attempt at earning a college degree Tara registered for English class, American history, music, religion and Western civilization.

She felt completely lost in these courses since all her textbooks were overly loaded with terms like “civic humanism” and “Scottish Enlightenment” – words which seemed too complex and alienating for someone like Tara who had little exposure or knowledge beyond what she learned while growing up on the farm.

The Realization Of Tara Westover: Learning To Accept Help And Humility

When Tara Westover returned home for her first semester break, she was met with a familiar problem: health issues.

After waking up one morning with an earache, her old theater friend Charles convinced her to take some ibuprofen to ease the pain – something which, previously, she had been afraid of due to warnings from her parents about how poisonous pharmaceuticals were.

Later that semester, Tara came down with a severe sore throat and needed help from friends in order to see a doctor.

By the time they left the clinic, she realized that rather than something harmful and evil, doctors could actually be helpful – an idea which had broad implications for her future wellbeing.

The financial worries of college life didn’t escape Tara either.

Despite working multiple jobs here and there, it still wasn’t enough to cover the cost of textbooks or even a much-needed dental operation.

But then at last help did come – in form of her local church Bishop who wrote her a check and pointed her towards potential assistance programs if needed.

Tara Comes To Terms With Her Father’S Mental Illness Thanks To A Miraculous Recovery

When Tara began her education, pursuing her studies both in and outside of the classroom allowed her to gain a better understanding of the events in her life growing up, including why her father was obsessed with certain topics.

While she was still too young to diagnose him, exposure to Psychology 101 gave Tara enough knowledge to conclude that Gene smelled many symptoms of bipolar disorder.

This realization opened up a new perspective on Tara’s family life, as it slowly dawned on her just how much his delusional thinking had impacted those around him.

At this time, Gene suffered an accident in which he could have died from the explosion caused by a gas tank at the junkyard.

When Audrey called Tara one morning and warned about his imminent death, she raced over to their home to say goodbye.

Surprisingly though, when morning came he had survived and although severely burned by the explosion, his heart miraculously kept beating.

An Idaho Girl’s Journey To Cambridge: From Music To Academic Stardom

Idaho Girl's

Tara was a motivated and determined student.

She seemed to love her classes in college, despite focusing on music initially, she managed to find a fascination with history and politics.

As luck would have it, one of her professors recognized this spark and encouraged her to apply for the study-abroad program at King’s College in Cambridge, England.

When she first arrived at the University of Cambridge, Tara felt overwhelmed looking around the immaculate and antiquated campus.

Her class pace moved quickly as each student was assigned a professor.

It wouldn’t be long until Tara found herself in Professor Jonathan Steinberg’s class; an expert on the Holocaust who was known for his strict yet keen eye when examining student essays.

To Tara’s surprise, his feedback on her final essay was more than encouraging; he told Tara that it was up there with some of the best essays he’d seen in all thirty years at Cambridge University!

Taking his word seriously, Professor Steinberg helped Tara get accepted into whatever graduate school she wished to attend after graduating from BYU if she wanted too which is ultimately what happened!

Finding A Place To Belong Gives Tara The Courage To Unravel Her Upbringing And Face Difficult Challenges

Tara had been to Trinity College before and felt in awe of how ancient and beautiful it looked, but this time her visit was different.

She wasn’t a visitor; she was a graduate student, with her own name written on her door!

It was the first time that Tara felt like she truly belonged somewhere.

She had begun to open up more socially and even tried things forbidden by the Mormon church such as drinking coffee or wine for the first time.

After making some friends, Tara soon received troubling news from back home in Idaho – her sister Audrey had emailed that their brother Shawn had been attacking her physically just like he did with Tara when they were growing up.

Knowing that nothing would be done about it due their family’s silence and denial of any troubling events, Audrey asked for Tara’s support to stand up to their parents and confront Shawn head-on.

Despite worrying about protecting both herself and Faye, she vowed to do so – all while Gene’s new family business flourished with a wildly successful line of medicinal oils which were offered an impressive $3 million buyout from a company.

How Tara’S Academic Studies Of Feminism And Mormonism Helped Her Fight Abuse

As Tara ventured deeper into her studies of feminism and the Mormon movement, it became apparent that her spiritual beliefs were at odds with her upbringing.

The traditionally male dominated roles she was expected to adhere to had been challenged and she was now armed with a new vocabulary to express the uneasiness she felt towards womanhood ever since childhood.

When she returned home for a break during her studies, Tara found out that she’d been accepted into Cambridge for her PhD program.

However, once back in Idaho, tension between Tara and her family grew as Shawn threatened her and Audrey.

He told them that he plans on putting a bullet in Audrey’s head and later placed a bloody knife in Tara’s hands which only added fuel to the fire.

The attempt at peace made by Gene through his lecture fell on deaf ears as Shawn’s threats continued, which left Tara feeling helpless when it came to receiving help from her parents – Gene demanded proof whilst Faye simply brushed aside their accusations.

Tara Westover’S Refusal To Bend To Her Parents’ Will Cost Her Much, But Led To Great Personal Growth

Personal Growth

In order to earn her doctorate, Tara Westover had to make a terrible choice.

She was offered the chance to attend Harvard with a visiting fellowship and, when her parents found out, they quickly booked tickets and planned on staying in her dorm room so that they could try and control her.

When Tara refused to accept their version of reality and denounced their attempts to put her in line, her father offered her a priesthood blessing – which she knew would mean accepting his delusions of grandeur as well as forgetting Shawn’s previous acts of violence – but if she didn’t comply then he said it would be proof she was under the influence of demons.

Due to this terrible dilemma put forth by Gene, Tara was forced to choose between following their wishes or continuing with pursuing an education.

It cost Tara dearly; she went through a period of severe mental distress that nearly cost her the doctoral degree she’d worked hard for.

But after pulling herself together, Tara achieved her goal: she graduated from Harvard with a PhD and earned the title of Dr.


Nowadays, even though she is no longer speaking with them, she has remained close with three brothers, an aunt and uncle through tough times.

Wrap Up

Tara Westover’s life story, as told in her memoir Educated, is one of remarkable personal growth and triumph over adversity.

She started off with a very nontraditional home life, raised in a Mormon family drenched with religious fanaticism and paranoia due to her father’s mental issues.

Despite the limitations set by her family, she was able to overcome them through her own independent efforts and become an extremely educated person – getting herself to the point where she eventually achieved a degree in history and became a doctor.

However, this new-found freedom would require Tara to completely separate from her family, fundamentally transforming her relationships with them.

Ultimately though, this was a sacrifice that Tara managed to make and it allowed her to truly be free for the first time in her life.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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