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Littler Books cover of Educated: A Memoir Summary

Educated: A Memoir Book Summary, Notes, and Quotes

Tara Westover

3.7 minutes to read
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What it's about in a one sentence summary:

A powerful and inspiring memoir of a young woman's journey from a strict and isolated childhood to a world of knowledge and self-discovery.

Bullet Point Summary, Notes, and Quotes

  1. Educated is a memoir by Tara Westover about her journey from growing up in a strict, isolated, and abusive household in rural Idaho to becoming a scholar at Cambridge University.
  2. Tara grew up in rural Idaho mountains without formal education or medical care.
  3. Despite being raised in an isolated household, Tara learned valuable skills such as bottling peaches, and enjoyed playing in nature.
  4. Her father, Gene, was deeply religious and anti-government, while her mother, Faye, was a traditional Mormon woman who worked as an unlicensed midwife.
  5. Tara's grandmother offered to take her to school, but Tara ultimately chose to stay with her family.
  6. Tara and her siblings were not properly homeschooled and were left to educate themselves with limited access to learning resources.
  7. Tara's brother Tyler's decision to attend college sparked her curiosity about higher education, and she began to study religion and other subjects in her spare time.
  8. Despite her father's opposition to education, the idea of going to school lingered in Tara's mind.
  9. At the age of eleven, most of Tara's siblings had left home and Gene shifted the family business from farming to the junkyard.
  10. Tara started her own babysitting business to earn money and gain exposure to the outside world by taking dance and voice lessons.
  11. However, Gene forbade her from dancing, claiming it was immodest, but allowed her to take voice lessons.
  12. Tara's talent in singing led to her being given a part in a play staged at the local Worm Creek Opera House.
  13. Gene believed that the world was on the verge of the Days of Abomination, so he stockpiled food and weapons in an emergency bunker he had dug out in the field. But despite all his fears, nothing happened when January 1, 2000 arrived.
  14. After the failed Y2K prophecy, Tara's family went to visit their grandmother in Arizona, but on the way back, they got into a car accident.
  15. Despite the injuries, the family refused medical care and relied on spiritual healing and medicinal herbs.
  16. This wasn't the first time they didn't go to the hospital. The family had a history of refusing medical assistance and ignoring dangers.
  17. Shawn, Tara's violent brother, attacked her for wearing makeup, but her parents didn't take it seriously.
  18. Tara began to believe she was emotionally invulnerable and tried to convince herself that she only cried due to physical pain.
  19. Tara was uncertain about going to college as her family's plan was for her to get married and learn herbal healing and midwifery.
  20. However, her brother Tyler encouraged her to consider leaving home for college, and she began studying for the ACT test.
  21. After two attempts, she eventually scored a 28 and got accepted into Brigham Young University.
  22. While her mother was supportive, her father opposed her decision to go to college, claiming that the Lord told him that he's displeased with it.
  23. Despite her father's objections, Faye drove Tara to BYU and saw her off.
  24. Tara moved to Provo, Utah for college with only a few jars of canned peaches and some clothes.
  25. Her roommates shocked her with their immodest clothing and disregard for religious principles.
  26. Tara struggled with the noise and unfamiliarity of the city and found her college classes overwhelming, with textbooks full of impenetrable terms.
  27. She especially struggled with a Western civilization class, but managed to almost get straight As in her other classes by the end of the semester.
  28. She learned the benefits of modern medicine after her friend Charles convinced her to take ibuprofen for an earache.
  29. Tara's roommate also helped her overcome her fear of doctors when she came down with a sore throat.
  30. The local church helped Tara accept financial assistance when she couldn't afford her college expenses, including a necessary dental operation.
  31. Tara learned to accept help when faced with health and financial challenges.
  32. At 19, Tara qualified for a student-aid loan and was able to live without financial worries for the first time in her life.
  33. As she continued her education, she learned about bipolar disorder and realized that her father's behavior and delusions fit the symptoms perfectly.
  34. She was angry that her family had been brainwashed by his delusions for so long.
  35. Tara rushed home when she learned that her father was likely to die after a gas tank explosion. Despite suffering serious injuries, Gene miraculously survived.
  36. Tara originally intended to focus on music in college, but her true interests were in history and politics.
  37. Her professor recommended her for a study-abroad program at the University of Cambridge, where she was assigned the respected professor Jonathan Steinberg for her research. Steinberg was impressed with her work and promised to help her get into graduate school.
  38. Tara was eventually awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship and became a local celebrity in Idaho.
  39. Tara returned to England for graduate studies at Trinity College and began to feel like she belonged. She made friends, started to relax some of her old rules, and opened up about her family's past.
  40. However, Tara received a disturbing email from her sister about Shawn attacking her, and she promised to support her sister and confront Gene about Shawn.
  41. Meanwhile, the family's new business is a success, but Gene expectedly turned down a $3 million buyout offer.
  42. Tara continued to thrive in her studies at Trinity College, delved into books on feminism and investigating Mormonism academically. She won a place at Cambridge for her PhD studies.
  43. Things in Idaho remained tense as Shawn threatened Tara and her sister, Audrey, and their parents did little to help. Tara confronted Shawn and her parents, but they dismissed her accusations and demanded proof.
  44. Shawn continued to threaten to kill Tara, but her parents refused to intercede and instead chose to help their son rather than protect their daughters.
  45. Her father demanded that she accept a priesthood blessing and forget Shawn's previous acts of violence and threats, which Tara refused to do.
  46. Her parents' demands led to Tara having a mental breakdown and panic attacks that almost cost her PhD. However, she regained her focus, cut contact with her parents, and completed her thesis.
  47. Tara visited Idaho years later to attend her maternal grandmother's funeral. She reconnected with Tyler, his wife, two maternal aunts, and her other siblings, most of whom still supported Gene and Shawn.
  48. Tara remained in contact with only a few family members and came to terms with the fact that she needed to distance herself from the Idaho mountains.
  49. Tara came to understand that education was not just about obtaining knowledge, but also about discovering who she was and what she wanted out of life. Despite the challenges, she persevered and achieved her goals, ultimately becoming a successful academic and writer.

Bonus: Tyler Westover's since-removed Amazon review on the book.

Educated: Resources