While deleting and organizing my emails about a few weeks ago, I came across an invitation to attend a lecture at the Franklin Park Conservatory introducing an author by the name of Tara Westover; who wrote the book called; Educated A Memoir.

Cover design: Patrik Svensson

Educated is a book about growing up in the mountains of Idaho with parents who were survivalists raising seven children away from mainstream society. 

Tara Westover was home-schooled, worked in her father’s junkyard and endured different forms of violence and abuse.

When Tara’s brother got himself into college; she decided it was time to find her place in the world beyond the mountain. So, she taught herself all the basic subjects and was admitted into Brigham Young University.

But her education continues on to Harvard and Cambridge University.

I was intrigued by her story so of course, I attended her lecture.

As I was driving there with my friend Michele, I kept thinking about what her very unique experience and what made me really want to hear her story. I was hoping my questions would be answered as we settled into our seats.

It was more crowded than I expected and we ended up sitting off to the side which ended up being the perfect place because as she was introduced I was surprised by her very petite frame which was casually dressed in black pants and a blazer with her blond hair pulled back in a loose ponytail.


Tara looked younger than twenty-nine years old, but her words of wisdom were far beyond her years as she describes how her quest for knowledge transformed her, yet how difficult it is to be ostracized from most of her family.

Photo credit: Paul Stuart

She tells a story of a time when she had a friend named Charles over for dinner and her brother Shawn grabbed her hair and took her from the kitchen into the bathroom as he shoved her head into the toilet. The humiliation was too much so she ended her relationship with Charles and began believing she could rise above it all and become untouchable.

There were many compassionate people that began to see that she needed help and one of her professors said something very profound to her that I believe began to steer her towards who she was really meant to be.

He said, “You are not fool’s gold, shining only under a particular light. Who you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were. It was ALWAYS in you. Not in Cambridge. In you. You are gold.” 

He told her “the most powerful determinant of who you are is inside you,” until she believed in herself… it didn’t matter what she wore. 

Tara finished her lecture discussing rural education and how important it is to her to get the message out to educators and administrators to change this system and make a difference in the world; one small community at a time!

Well, I was quite surprised that there would be a question and answer period afterward where she was very quick-witted in tackling some interesting questions but the one that floored me was when someone asked, “What gave you the courage to leave the mountain?

She gently answered, “It was the music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, my brother let me listen to his CD’s and I was allowed to sing in church. 

They asked her if she would sing something for us and she waited for a moment and began to sing “How Great Thou Art.

My eyes filled with tears and they are right now, I will never forget the purity of her voice because she sounded like an angel. The atmosphere in the room became very still and almost sacred as we all listened to this beautiful woman who has been through so much, gracing us with her story, her singing, but what was most inspiring to me being a witness her courage as she so willingly shared with her whole heart. 

Educated is a book you will not be able to put down. It resonated with me in so many ways… the love and pain of family, the persistence of the human spirit and how the power of education can change a person’s life!

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