Are you in charge of picking out the next read for your book club? Have no fear! We’re here to help! I recommend Educated by Tara Westover. Westover was born into a family of preppers in rural Idaho. She had no formal schooling, no access to modern medicine, and she was on the receiving end of devastating mental and physical abuse. Yet somehow, this incredible woman found her way to Brigham Young University, then Trinity College, and on to Harvard. Skillfully written, Educated packs an intense emotional punch. Westover’s courage, both in surviving her childhood and in baring her soul on the page, is heroic. This is a story worth reading. You can read my full review here: Educated by Tara Westover.
Once you’ve chosen the book, you probably have to create the discussion questions. Let us help! Feel free to use some or all of the questions below to kick-start your conversation. Happy reading!
- Why do you think that Tara Westover chose the following Virginia Woolf quote to begin her memoir? “The past is beautiful because one never realizes an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only the past.”
- We are introduced to the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, a gunfight between Randy Weaver and the FBI. How does this incident influence the Westover parents and children?
- When Westover’s brother Tyler announces that he’s going to college, it impacts the family. Why does Westover’s father, Gene, object to formalized education?
- Westover recounts not knowing what the word “holocaust” means when she first attends Brigham Young University. How would you have reacted?
- How did birth order affect Tara Westover’s development? Would the book be different if she were the oldest, or middle child, rather than the youngest?
- Tara asked a professor for advice and he encouraged her to apply to Cambridge. Did you ask questions or ask for advice from authority figures? Why or why not? Why was it so difficult for Westover to talk to her professors?
- How do you think Tara’s relationship with her father changed throughout the book? Her relationship with her mother? What were your thoughts on her parents?
- After reading Educated, has your perception of what makes up an education changed?
- A difficult scene is when Westover realizes that Shawn has killed his dog Diego after coming to her parents’ house with a knife in hand. What was your perception of Shawn & his relationship to his family? How did this moment impact Westover?
- One professor describes Westover as “Pygmalion,” while Westover says she believed she could “be remade, my mind recast” at her university. At the end of the book, Westover stated that she is a “changed person” from the person she was as her father’s daughter, and from her 16-year-old self. “You could call this selfhood many things,” she writes. “Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education.” What do you make of these final lines?
- If you could ask Tara anything after reading her memoir, what would it be?
- Which character, aside from Tara, would you most like to meet?