Have you ever finished a book and it left you a little breathless and dizzy, with its story and insights revealed? And then you know you will read it again, because there were passages that moved you so deeply, but you had to keep reading to get to the end, because it was so compelling?
That is what Tara Westover’s book Educated did for me. It is a powerful memoir about leaving home and what happens when we leave behind the strange beliefs our families may have tried to instill in us.
Though my own life story is very different from Tara’s, the idea of leaving behind a patriarchal family structure is probably familiar to a lot of women of my generation. I am grateful I had no brothers, and endured no significant violence that I remember. But the denial and rage and depression that occurs when you realize you have been “gas-lighted” by half your family is palpable.
It was a little like when I first read Martha Beck’s memoir Leaving the Saints, another powerful story. When we are little children and we are in the care of our parents, we must believe in them. It is our first act of faith, in a way. Babies and children are vulnerable and dependent. To reject our families means likely death. If they reject us, possibly it may take decades (and probably a lot of therapy) to recover our sense of worthiness.
As we become adults, and learn to think for ourselves, we can sometimes reconcile the pain and mental illness they may have lived through. As we begin to take on a new perspective on the world, and perhaps have different opportunities available (especially as women in comparison to our mothers), we realize their views do not have to be our views.
In 1974, the year I was born, the equal credit opportunity act was passed. Before that a woman could not necessarily open a credit card or bank account on her own. Now I would scoff if someone asked me my husband’s income to apply for my own account.
Educated… yes. More of us are educated. I am grateful for the privilege of being born at a time and in a place where this is an option. And I am so very grateful that Tara had the courage to share her story. It reminds me a bit of the Mark Nepo poem (Breaking Surface) I posted last April.
I am still a bit breathless at the beautiful rendering of her story. What books have left you breathless lately?