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Thread: Tara Westover: 'Educated, a Memoir' interview with the author, Wow!

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  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW MaeZe's Avatar
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    Jun 2016
    Ralph's side of the island.

    Tara Westover: 'Educated, a Memoir' interview with the author, Wow!

    Just watched an interview on C SPAN After Words with this author. This woman's life tops Wrapped in the Flag by Claire Connor about her life raised by her John Bircher extremist parents.

    Tara Westover was raised in a survivalist family in rural Idaho. She had an abusive brother and parents who didn't believe in medical care or formal education. She educated herself and broke free from the brainwashing which literally controlled her beliefs for all of her youth. She eventually went to Harvard and Cambridge earning a PhD.

    Those are incredibly impressive credentials for someone who never set foot in a school until she was 17.

    The book is only being released this month. I've ordered a copy.

    Vanity Fair: Tara Westover Turns Her Isolated Childhood into the Gripping Memoir Educated
    In the early 2000s, Tara Westover was a preteen living in Idaho with her fundamentalist Mormon family. They were isolated from other people, even her extended family, except for at church. Her father didn't believe in doctors or “government schools,” putting the children to work in a family-owned junkyard. Eventually, she and a brother taught themselves enough math to attend Brigham Young University. When Westover arrived, she fully believed she would return home eventually, marry, and live in the way her father intended.

    Today, Westover lives in a flat in London. She visits doctors, has a doctorate from Cambridge, and had a fellowship at Harvard University. How she made that disorienting jump is the subject of her memoir Educated, out now from Random House. Westover’s story is as much about her difficult childhood and what it’s like to grow up on fringe beliefs as it is about seeing the world through the eyes of a singular, intelligent, and observant person.

    Westover still has a western twang in her voice, and is prone to voicing her thoughts out loud, showing her quick mind at work. She sat down with Vanity Fair to share some of her story, and her feelings about education and changing your mind.
    I can't wait to read it.

    And for all of us learning to write fiction:
    You decided to write a book about your upbringing after you finished your Ph.D. Did you feel prepared to write a memoir?

    I knew how to write like an academic, so I knew how to write academic papers and essays and things. But the things that are great for an essay are unbearable in narrative writing. I had no idea how to write a story or a narrative when I started. And I was pretty bad at it. I have a writing group in London, and they were brutal. They would say to me, “This is really shitty. It’s really bad.”

    How did you go from having something your writing group said was shitty to having a finished book?

    A friend of mine was talking about this thing, the short story. I’d never read a short story before. I’d never even heard of short stories. I didn’t grow up in a family that . . . Well, we had books, but we didn’t have those kinds of books. I thought, ‘Yeah, I need to get a grip on this thing called narrative arc,’ whatever that is. First I tried Googling it, which was of limited use. I thought, “Well, I’ll just read a bunch of stories, and then I’ll get a sense of what that means.” I realized reading books takes a long time. So when I heard of the short story, I thought, “Well, I can read more of those because they’re shorter.”

    I read a lot of Mavis Gallant, David Means, other New Yorker writers. I started listening to The New Yorker fiction podcast, with Deborah Treisman, which is just amazing, because you have these writers, they come on, they pick a short story by another writer, they read it, and then they discuss it. They point out all the little tricks, the writer’s mechanisms that they use to make things work. Each chapter [in Educated] is structured like a short story, because I was so obsessed with them.
    There's hope for me.

    And I'm going to have to check out The New Yorker Fiction Podcast.
    Last edited by MaeZe; 02-25-2018 at 08:59 AM.

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