Tara Westover – Author of “Educated: A Memoir” Ep. 881-882

We are excited to release our interview with Tara Westover, author of the New York Times bestseller “Educated.”

In addition, Mormon Stories Podcast is excited to announce that we will be hosting Tara Westover in Salt Lake City on 3/29/2018. We will host a public book signing and Q&A that evening in conjunction with the King’s English Book Store.  (Now that this event has taken place, a recording of this event may be found here.)

Registration for the event can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/qa-and-boo…

More about “Educated”:

“[A] searing debut memoir… Westover recounts her upbringing with six siblings on an Idaho farm dominated by her father…who tried to live off the grid, kept four children (including the author) out of school…and stockpiled supplies and guns for the end-time…When she finally escaped the toxic atmosphere of dogma, suspicion, and patriarchy to attend college and then grad school at Cambridge, her identity crisis precipitated a heartbreaking rupture. Westover’s vivid prose makes this saga of the pressures of conformity and self-assertion that warp a family seem both terrifying and ordinary.”

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  1. Thank you for another lovely interview tara, so beautifully spoken with such sincere genuine and heartfelt feeling, it was very touching and inspiring to listen to and l thoroughly enjoyed it, thanks Jon.

  2. I enjoyed your story here, Tara, and on NPR. You definitely lived in the heart of Mormon country whereas my wife and I lived on the edge even though Idaho is 24% LDS. You mentioned that in the 60’s and 70’s, the survivalist mentality was being replaced slowly by mainstream Mormon ideas. Maybe where you lived, but not where I live. Our county had several families who lived off the grid, worked their kids rather than home schooled them, never went to doctors. Even in the early 2000’s I home taught a couple, with a wife who had taken correspondence courses in abundance on natural healing so her cancer-infested husband slowly died even though she treated him and prayed for him. But when we arrived in our super-patriotic community in the early 90’s, Mormons and non-Mormons were in survival mode.

    Our ward was split between main-streamers and survivalists who talked about the Illuminati, the Bilderbergers, and the Tri-lateralists. Survivalists believed that they had come to this region because it was to be a gathering place for the remnant talked about in the Book of Mormon. And people had come because of the Spirit testifying to them to come and gather. Many, including me, thought that John the Revelator would soon take the righteous into the wilderness preparing to eventually build the temple in New Jerusalem while the other righteous would be housed in tent cities avoiding the “coming” tribulation. But this gathering by the spirit was not a welcomed thought by our stake president. In one priesthood meeting, I will never forget, our visiting stake president asked a question to the men, “Why did you come to this area?”, and a member who was a Shoshone-Piute member stood and said that the Spirit had told him to come and the stake president told him that he was wrong in saying that and that he should have said something to the effect that he had moved here for employment. Then a recently returned missionary stood up and questioned the stake president on his words and was told to sit down and be quiet. Then another outspoken member of the ward stood up and strongly criticized the stake president saying that he was not a lawyer and had no right to badger these good members. He was told, “You sir, sit down and shut-up”. “I will not sit down and shut-up”, was the reply. From then on until the ward was split, there would be a continuing battle between the main-streamers and the patriotic survivalists.

    Over the years the survivalist mentality did change into mainstream, but with the election of Donald Trump, it is on the rise again but this time it is even stronger with non-Momrons. Evangelical Christians seem to be even stronger along these lines and women are put down, some due to the supposed teachings of Paul in the New Testament. It seems that no matter what transpires, women have the worst times, just like you did.

    Thanks, again, for the words you have provided especially for women of the church and the world.

  3. John can I get her book online ?
    What an amazing strong good hearted woman .
    This is such a hopeful experience she has shared . This restores my faith in humanity and the human spirit .
    Her ability to climb out of the crab bucket and give a rebirth to her gentle loving heart .
    This is true honest to goodness power of the human spirit .

  4. I found Tara and her story fascinating. Every now and then I’ll be listening to a story like this and think to myself that what I thought was Mormon,is actually just plain mental illness, and worry if I also have a mental illness. And I begin to wonder if and when Mormonism became a home for the mentally ill? I absolutely loved how Tara described Mormonism as simply an influence, without judgment or prejudice, and of course I loved and resonated with how she felt she felt she just didn’t fit the mold, despite seeing the good in it because that’s how I often feel. Excellent introspective opportunity here, and I may actually buy the book! Thanks Tara for coming to Mormon Stories!

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  5. I am part way through the first interview and over half-way through the audio book, and have found both to be thought provoking and sad (although it appears that it will ultimately be triumphant for Tara). I too grew up during the eighties and nineties and believed I would be walking back to Jackson County Missouri at some point with my family. My father had stock-piled guns, and we lived on a small self-sufficiency farm where food storage, 72 hr back pack kits, home health, and anti-socialism were woven into the fabric of my up-bringing. I believe my step-mom was bi-polar and ADD, and my father an OCD rager. Fortunately they had limits, which I believe were in-part imposed by our close proximity to neighbors, and I went to school and was allowed to have a softer version of dooms-day prepping than others like Tara.

    I think Tara’s thoughts about mental health and Mormonism are accurate in that mental health disorders exist independent of Mormonism. However at the same time, I believe religious systems in general are woefully unprepared to address the intersectionality of mental health and doctrine, and have done very little to address the intended and unintended harmful consequences of their doctrine. I know it would be asking a lot for the church to provide informed consent, but I believe it would be the first ethical step in the right direction. Although beliefs are mostly ignored by science, which is fine, the way in which the beliefs are operationalized cannot be. It is my experience that sanctioned religions provide space to aberrant social behavior that is also exempt from scrutiny, even when it is destructive and harmful. All the while the moderate individuals within the religious system claim that such individuals “took things too far.”

    I suppose when I hear these sad stories, I’m left wondering, who’s to say how much, is too much? And, are religious systems complicit when they do little to nothing to inform, or protect their most vulnerable, or disabuse their members of harmful practices?

  6. Okay folks, I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve just got to know. Where is Shawn today? Please tell me he is locked up somewhere and not roaming around southern Idaho free to abuse women. I don’t know if I can handle reading the book just yet. Maybe it would be therapeutic. I’m married to a beautiful woman from southern Idaho that was abused by her temple going, active mormon father. Our marriage of 30 years has been extremely difficult as a result. I am the father of four daughters, two of which are married, and two are still single. My stress level is on the high end right now. Tara I want to get in my car right now, leave happy valley and drive up to Idaho to avenge for you for all of your pain. Even in my mid 50’s I am a big scary looking guy. As long as I have unmarried daughters I will be a big scary looking guy. On the inside I feel pain. My eyes are teared up so that I am having difficulty typing this. Please know Tara that there is one father in the world that believes you and believes in you.

  7. Tara’s father was right. His comments about losing his daughter to education became true. Tara’s education cost her relationships, belief in the LDS church and who knows how many hours of anguish. Remaining uneducated would have sustained her path to what was viewed as “her place” on the mountain. I wonder if there was no abuse in her family if she would have left. It seemed the abuse was the motivator for her and some siblings to leave. There are probably many members in similar situations that have no motivation to leave and accept the path they are put on.
    This book is about mental health. However, combining the crazy of the LDS doctrine and the crazy of “an unhinged” father will lead to bad things. It takes a strong person to break a cycle of a family they are born into. Tara is one of these people.

  8. I have read the book & listened to the podcast…I was very moved & enjoyed the book tremendously. My interest is has Tara been able to form relationships & have the children that she wanted….. is she working & if so what is she doing….is she still distanced from her mother & father…. r they still alive?! I hop e that she has formed the relationship & had the children that she wanted…. thanks for sharing this incredible story!

  9. I just finished reading your memoir, and I was hooked! While reading it, I felt so many emotions, and wondered how someones life could be like that, and thankful how Tara got out. I brought happiness, sadness, elation, anger, fear for her, frustration, and many more emotions. But by the end of the book, it brought me peace. I thank you so much Tara for the experience of a lifetime to read your memoir.

  10. This episode uses a pretty broad brush. I hear sarcasm against any skepticism regarding government or allopathic medicine or just an old uneducated farmer tying to find a way to make money being in poor circumstances. To think that modern public education is not without significant problems belies an unawareness of the history or current situation. The thing lacking from this episode is information to refute the approach that the father took. To label him as mentally ill without a specific diagnosis is less than scientific. What has brought people out of the LDS mindset but skepticism? After reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire book set by Gibbons, on finds that there was one political conspiracy after another. Reading the Federalist Papers, one finds that the founding fathers tried to structure a government that would protect individual rights against conspiring groups. Nazi Germany was a conspiracy based on the philosophical social engineering concepts of Plato, enhanced by Kant and pretty well completed by Hegel. If one would like to understand the modern Outcome Based Education model, read The Leipzig Connection as a starter. I would suggest that, even though her father was an imperfect individual …even dysfunctional…it does not mean that all of his understandings were incorrect. Just recommending that concepts need to lead to judgments based on evidence and reason and not just an overall assessment that reaches too broadly.

  11. I read Tara’s book recently and was pleased to find this interview so as to hear her voice and learn more about her. I was struck by her intellect but more so by her determination and perseverance. Few have these qualities to the degree Tara has displayed.
    Her statement ,” Mormonism can work well for those people that fit the mold “ struck me as important. Indeed, and therein lies the ‘ rub’ doesn’t it? Many do not fit and they have little recourse other than to leave the faith entirely ( or be shown the door) . I had many questions growing up in Logan and on my mission to France. There was never one single person I knew that I could dive into gospel subjects with. The doubts grew and as I gained lifes experiences and a better understanding away from Utah I could see the inconsistencies and falsehoods of what I had been taught. Just as Tara has done , and so many others. To keep people ‘ in line ‘ you have to keep them uneducated. That has been a truism throughout human history. Education is power and John you did a great job bringing that out in your interview. Plato’s dialogue in The Republic entitled “ The Cave “ is a great illustration of this concept. When I crawled out of my LDS ‘ cave ‘ to the entrance and saw the daylight and it’s possibilities my life really opened up . Peace is the result . Thank you Tara. You are such a gift . And thank you John .

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