Everyone who writes is supposed to read all the time. I certainly do that, in part because of increasingly chronic insomnia. But reading too much (and watching too much Netflix) gets in the way of actually writing. So I am cutting right back. But at the recent Sydney Writer’s Festival (the one sponsored by Varuna at Katoomba, and only for one short day unfortunately) I heard Tara Westover talk about her just-published memoir educated and I had to buy the book and read it at once. Not finished yet, and will write more about it soon, but am loving it so far, and finding it inspires me with confidence about the value of life-writing. I love the fiction universe of course, the worlds created there, but the actual real world is pretty amazing!
As mentioned last time, memoirs are at the front of my priority list at the moment. I realise in retrospect that I have been reading memoirs now for several years. Westover’s book is about a young woman who is raised in a fundamentalist Mormon household on a mountain in Idaho. The thing is, she never went to school – shock horror – and yet became a highly successful writer, historian and academic at the top universities in Britain. I haven’t found out exactly how she accomplished this, but I kind-of relate to it. Of course I did go to school, and my family was hardly survivalist or fundamentalist, but the ethos of my early life was pretty similar: anti-Government, pro-self reliance, no emphasis on education, the constant awareness that you weren’t like other people who took city life and money and happiness for granted. And of course, being in Australia in the 1950s meant something different: the shadow of World War Two, family disruptions, deaths and secrets and silences.
I have read – what? – maybe thirty or forty memoirs about growing up in communes or remote communities or outside the mainstream world. In many ways I was doing the same until the mid-1970s and then, strangely, I slid back into it, but that older life never leaves you, and I think, from what Tara was saying in her talk, it has never left her either.
And today I am reflecting on the strangeness of it: reading other people’s life stories allows you in some way to rescue or re-inhabit your own.
2 thoughts on “Memoirs to the rescue …Tara Westover’s “educated”.”
My book club is currently reading Educated by Tara Westover…In your review of the book you included a picture of a magazine article .. Could you tell me how I could find that article so that I could present it to my book club.
Hi Carol, thanks for the visit. The image above come from the Press-Reader at the Irish Daily – so it is an image of their page. However the original article is available on-line here, published by the Daily Mail (UK and Australia) 10/2/18.
You can click on that URL and download the article, then print it out if you like for your group. Good luck with it!