Biography of Tara Westover

Tara Westover was born in Clifton, Idaho in 1986. Due to her parent's Mormon survivalist beliefs, Tara was not issued a birth certificate and her exact date of birth is unknown. She is the youngest child of seven siblings (five brothers and one sister), and she grew up in an isolated rural community. Tara's father, who she refers to as "Gene," was highly suspicious of hospitals, schools, and the federal government. As a result of his radical beliefs, Tara and her siblings were homeschooled and worked in her father's scrapyard. Tara's mother, "Faye," was an herbalist and an alternative healer.

Westover taught herself to read through Mormon scripture. Her mother's homeschool curriculum was very loose, and Tara never took an exam or formally demonstrated a knowledge of reading and writing. As Tara grew older, her father grew more paranoid about the government and was convinced that his individual liberty was being suppressed. Tara later realized the harmful effects of her father's extremism. After watching her brother, Tyler, leave home to attend Brigham Young University, Tara realized that college could allow her to escape home. At 17, Westover purchased textbooks and independently studied in order to take the ACT college entrance exam.

In 2004, Tara passed the ACT and was awarded a scholarship to attend Brigham Young University. Although she initially had a difficult time adjusting to the academic rigor of college, she became a highly accomplished academic. After graduating magna cum laude from BYU, she was awarded the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She later went on to earn a MPhil from the University of Cambridge, and, in 2010, she was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. While at Harvard, Tara confronted her parents about the physical and psychological abuse she experienced at the hands of her older brother, Shawn. Her parents denied Tara's claims and she became estranged from her family. In 2014, Westover received her PhD in Intellectual History from Trinity College, Cambridge. Tara's 2018 memoir, Educated, details the history of Tara's life and familial estrangement.

In 2019, Westover was the A.M. Rosenthal Writer in Residence at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard Kennedy School. Currently, she is a Senior Research Fellow at the Shorenstein Center, where she works on projects related to media and political polarization.

Study Guides on Works by Tara Westover

Educated is a memoir written by Tara Westover. The story recounts Tara's unusual upbringing as the daughter of extremist Mormon survivalists. Westover's father, referred to as "Gene" in the memoir, does not allow his seven children to go to school...