From Mormon Idaho, Through Youngstown, to Everyone in Palestine and Israel

Book review of Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Sam Bahour
9 min readMay 3, 2020


Educated: A Memoir
by Tara Westover
Random House (February 20, 2018), 352 pp, $23.99

How does a book become a bestseller? This question has intrigued me for as long as I can remember, coming in second to the question that tops my list, How is it that some people and communities simply can’t see that their understanding of the world is just seriously flawed? Without a doubt, reading Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover significantly advanced the answers to both questions. Gently placed within every chapter of this memoir are deep life learnings, ones that emerge from Idaho, but relate to my upbringing in Youngstown, Ohio and current residence in Occupied Palestine.

Author Tara Westover

Educated is the story of Tara Westover. Her Mormon fundamentalist parents were survivalists living in the remote mountains of Idaho. She had a difficult life, having to do hard labor in a junkyard, and having to face domestic violence from her brother. Growing up she did not go to school. Her father was so adamantly against educational institutions, including mere textbooks, that even homeschooling was out of the question. He clutched a conspiracy-theory view of the world and lived solely for his faith and to prepare for the day that the State would seek them out. After self-teaching herself as best she could, at seventeen Tera walked into her first-ever classroom. Her amazing journey took her from Brigham Young University (where she graduated magna cum laude) to Cambridge University in the UK and Harvard University. The result of all this was a Ph.D. in history in 2014. Then she wrote her first-ever book, Educated, which became an international bestseller.

At times it felt like I was reading fiction and I had to remind myself that this was a real person and a real-life story. At points, it pained me that someone would have to endure such a lifestyle. Then, I took a mental step back and reflected on the fact that this was not about her specific life, per se, albeit that’s what the book chronicles, but rather it was reflecting on entire communities, in the US and elsewhere, that are living in totally parallel realities than…