Educated - Self Identity From Scratch

Oct 7, 2019

Credit Wikimedia Commons

This is Nicole English coming to you from Fort Hays State University for HPPR's Book-Bytes. This is a discussion of the book, Educated: A Memoir.

The book describes Tara Westover's memories growing up in a very conservative, strict, religious family in rural Idaho.  Her memoir is an emotionally wrenching, yet inspiring story of her journey from an isolated, rural life to her attaining her PhD, and studying at Oxford. 

For this segment, I would like to focus on the Westover's experiences in Graduate School. For me, Westover's struggles through Graduate School was another part of her education journey that spoke to me.

Westover describes the stress she experienced applying to college, her feelings of isolation, her lack of confidence due to her perceived shortcomings (due to her restrictive background), and ultimately the struggles of whether she was "deserving" of higher education and the scholarships she earned.  

Another toxic emotional issue was her chaotic household, and their demands upon her.  Not only were her family members not supportive of her educational aspirations, they actually strongly disapproved of her pursuing higher education, and denigrated her efforts.  Ultimately, she was faced with having to choose between the threat of family rejection and giving up her hopes of an academic career. 

This inner conflict lead to an identity crisis and emotional breakdown.  Westover had to rebuild her self-identity basically from scratch, without family approval or support.  Coming from a large, rural, religious, and close-knit family, this was an extremely difficult thing for her to do. 

Having come from a rural family fraught with its own history of domestic violence and abuse, Westover's memoir stirred up my own memories of coming to terms with feelings of "un-deservedness" as I pursued my life-long goals of Graduate School and becoming an academic in my own right.  It was this academic pursuit that allowed me to grapple with these feelings of inadequacy, and push through the experience to more confident, more centered self-esteem and identity. 

Anyone who has had to come to terms with rebuilding their identity in the wake of an abusive family can relate to Westover's story.... Reading Westover's memoir seem (at times) to be a rugged exercise, but it is also a richly engaging, enlightening, and validating experience. 

Again, this is Nicole English from Fort Hays State University wishing you happy BookBytes.