Reflections on Educated by Tara Westover

Robert M. Vunabandi
2 min readDec 29, 2020

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Reading Educated was such a rollercoaster. As I was going through it, I kept asking myself, “Am I reading fiction?”—just because of how unreal Tara’s story is. While I can imagine that there are isolated communities around the world that live and act in their own ways that’s completely different from everyone else, this showed me what this can look like in a place like the U.S.

Educated’s book cover

A core theme that I want to retain from Tara’s story is the power and influence of simple things in our lives, and how the lack of education and awareness makes them much more influential to change our lives. Tara’s family’s (and community’s) beliefs caused her to suffer from experiences that you’d wish upon nobody—like how they never went to the hospital for any injury whatsoever because the hospital is part of a government that is “out to control you”, or like how Tara wasn’t able to go to primary, middle, or high school because they didn’t believe they needed that education.

Overall, I want to remember the following lessons:

  • Be careful with how someone may use something that you believe in to coerce you into doing something or justify themselves for doing something that is wrong
  • Be careful with taking any belief to extremes
  • Understand the value of education and understand the privilege that you have for having an education
  • Don’t assume bad intent or make judgements if someone comes off as ignorant, disrespectful, or bigoted—be forgiving to other people’s missteps
  • Keep asking questions

One of the moments that stuck to me was how Tara, having grown up in a world that’s completely segregated from history and regular life, went to college without knowing what the Holocaust was. Then, she was in a class and kept seeing that word repeated in multiple slides, and so she raised her hands to ask what it meant. People around her thought that she was joking—in what was a predominantly Jewish school, and this caused many people to despise her.

It’s shocking, and sad. If I was on Tara’s end of that, I can’t imagine how it would feel to ask a question because I genuinely don’t know the answer and that causing me to then become alienated with the entire class. There are things we assume that everyone knows, but it could be the case that someone just doesn’t know.

There are many more stories in this book, and many of them just drives me to be more open minded to the circumstances of other people’s lives and be more forgiving. So, I write this as a way to remind myself of the important lessons from this book.

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Robert M. Vunabandi

Learning through life experiences and books, I share my ever-evolving understanding of the world and the niche-sphere of life that I live in.