How much must we betray people we love to grow up? Every one of us has a line to cross, to get older, to become the best version of himself, or at least to become the person he wants to be in his life. How far away from our parents, our siblings, our family this line will take us? It is up to us to decide.
I read this book during a “vacation” (together with my 3 kids, -10°Celsius and not equipped to be on the mountains). Thankfully I’m not a single parent, so I found the time to read. 352 pages that I devoured, icy hands, surrounded by the astonishingly beautiful Italian Alps.
Educated is the true story of Tara, a girl born at home in rural Idaho in 1986 (she doesn’t know the exact date, her birth certificate was never issued), last of 7 children, in a family where everything is mistrusted (the government, the mainstream medicine, the traditional school system ). Her father is a paranoid Mormon (yes maybe I am exaggerating, but this is my personal view on the book, take it or leave it), with a patchwork of beliefs that keeps his family away from every normal interaction with the rest of the world: kids don’t go to school (and don’t homeschool properly either), they never see a hospital (mother is midwife and a herbal healer), they work in father’s junkyard since a very young age, getting injured and not having medical care, surviving (literally: surviving) life at their own psychological and physical expenses.
Tara’s ability to perceive the reality is distorted through the lens of her father’s beliefs, she spends her childhood preparing for the End of the World, panicking about the ‘Illuminati’ or the ‘New World Order’, she relies only on herself when her older brother becomes violent and she is repeatedly beaten and abused, and little by little she starts realizing that the way her family lives is not the way most do, that she could get a formal education to ‘understand’ what is the world outside her survivalist family. She learns as much a she can by herself, enough to gain admission to college and to start her journey into her adult life. First day in class, at 17, she raises her hand to ask what the word Holocaust means…
It is not an easy book to read. It was really disturbing to me. She makes you go trough her process of growth and self-development with a harrowing clarity of details. Every step she takes will estrange her from her family. Today, with a PhD in History and as a best-selling author she is not in contact anymore with her parents and with some of her brothers: for the author to get an education meant escaping from her life. Ans this did not leave her unscathed. Choosing to be educated, to build her own ideas and vision of the world made her pay a very high price. Her experience is extreme, but in a way it is a process of self-discovery and identity development that everyone lives and goes through with his own parents, in his own transformative pattern of education.
A book on how hard can be to get your own perspective on things. A dark story to grasp, maybe reading it twice, if you have the guts.