3 Books Like 'Educated' By Tara Westover To Read When You're Finished With The Memoir Everyone Is Talking About
This week, one book seems to be attracting more attention than any other: Educated by Tara Westover, a gutting memoir about one woman's experience growing up with religious fundamental parents — a survivalist father and midwife and herbalist mother, to be exact — in the mountains of Idaho. She had no telephone and no birth certificate, and she didn't attend school. Yet, as she recounts in the memoir, she found a way to detach from her family's unconventional and dangerous lifestyle to get an education, eventually earning a PhD at Cambridge University.
Memoirs about difficult childhoods are nothing new, of course, but every writer brings a fresh perspective to these stories about growing up in a family situation that runs counterintuitive to what are believed to be the core principles of family: That family is safe. That family wants what is best for you.
"I found when I was losing my family that I became very aware of the fact that we tend to get the same few messages about family and loyalty, over and over again," Tara Westover told Bustle writer E. Ce Miller in an interview about the new book. "We have a lot of stories about family loyalty, but we don’t have a lot of stories about what happens when loyalty to family comes in conflict with loyalty to yourself. We have a lot of stories about forgiveness, but most seem to conflate forgiveness with reconciliation, or see reconciliation as the most desirable form of forgiveness. That hasn’t made sense to me. I had no idea if reconciliation was in reach for me, and I needed to find more complicated ways to think about family loyalty and forgiveness. I needed a more complicated story than that. And I didn’t really find it. So, I told the story."
For three more stories similar to Educated, try these:
'North of Normal' By Cea Sunrise Person
In the late 1960s, Cea Sunrise Person's family left behind their comfortable life in California to live off the land in the Canadian wilderness. They wanted a no running water, no electricity, clothing-optional, lots of pot, lots of love kind-of-life. But as a teenager, Person begins to question the foundation of her parents' controversial decision to live off-the-grid — and begins to search for a way out.
'The Glass Castle' By Jeannette Walls
If you (somehow) haven't managed to read The Glass Castle yet, consider this your notice to do so. Jeannette Walls painful-yet-magnanimous account of a childhood spent on-the-road with emotionally unstable parents is pretty much the essential memoir about a woman reclaiming her life after an abusive childhood.
'Fun Home' By Alison Bechdel
"Tragicomic" is the best way to describe this wrenchingly beautiful memoir from the legendary Alison Bechdel. In Fun Home, the cartoonist recounts her childhood growing up with a funeral home director/English high school teacher for a father, who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder that she attributes to his closeted homosexuality. Despite moments of pure love, this memoir is a dark, twisty examination of familial trauma and the way it extends long past childhood.