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HPPR Arts, Culture & History

The Cost of Forgiving

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Hello, welcome to High Plains Public Radio, this is Freddy Gipp, I’m an enrolled member of the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma and my Indian name is “T’sa(N) T’hoop Ah(N)”, meaning Lead Horse in the Kiowa language.

I was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, where I graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 with a degree in Strategic Communications from the William Allen White School of Journalism. I currently run my own small consulting firm called Lead Horse LLC, which focuses on utilizing Native American Powwow celebrations as an effective economic driver for urban and rural communities.

Educated is a book with many challenging viewpoints, sometimes teetering on believability that it is Tara Westover’s lived experiences. There is not one great way to approach any chapter since each one begs the examination of her life at a different angle. She has lived through abuse, being ostracized from the majority of her family, and a journey toward a self-determined education.

Throughout the memoir, Westover follows the pattern of a circle when it comes to her education. In her early years, she is more accepting of the doctrine that is her father, Val. He runs the family as a dictatorship and most of the members are none the wiser for a period of time. However, her father’s reign is governed through a cloud of mental illness. Throughout the chapters he often seems to not process the life threatening situations he puts his children and himself in while scraping. His devout beliefs in religion and god almost send many members of his family to an early resting place. With this kind of upbringing, the initial lines of what might be considered “healthy” are blurred for Westover and often lead her to second guessing herself as she ages.

In its essence “Educated” is about abuse, and the many ways both the abusers and enablers distort reality both for their victims and themselves. On countless occasions the actions of Westover’s family members, specifically her father and brother Shawn, are diluted or denied in an effort to undermine the pain being inflicted. This hazy cloud of protection keeps Tara coming back to “the scene of the crimes” on more than one occasion. It is almost as if she is trying to prove to herself the abuse and instability are real. Almost as if the longer she if away from her home in the mountains, the more likely it is that she is embellishing her experiences and should go home.

Throughout the majority of this memoir Westover allows the narratives of others to be imposed upon her. From the early rants of her father to the violent outbursts and apologies of Shawn. Every step that she takes to define herself and her own thoughts come at a price. She is constantly making decisions to either confine herself to the strongholds of abuse or piece together an understanding of the world for herself at the cost of forgiving and releasing her past.