I originally read “Educated” by Tara Westover because it was on one of Bill Gate’s reading lists. He has fantastic reading lists that usually lead me to new, insightful reads.
He and I liked the book for different reasons though. He loved how it grappled with the concept of education, especially rural education. I liked it because it perfectly captured the experience of religious deconstruction.
It told Tara’s personal experience with growing up in a high demand religion - one that shaped everything about her beliefs, culture, behavior, and everyday actions.
It perfectly captured how those who grow up in these environments don’t even have the language to describe what they are experiencing. They don’t have enough experience with the outside world to know what is different about their lives.
Her writing resonated with me because I also grew up in a high demand religion. I grew up at a Southern Baptist Camp. It wasn’t until I left the camp for boarding school that I began to develop the vocabulary and perspectives that helped me to leave that constricting belief system behind.
Another aspect I appreciated about Tara’s story was that it was not a Cinderella story. She did not leave home, gain new understanding, and live happily ever after. She still went back and grappled with her family. She still questioned herself and was unsure about many things. She ventured back out into the secular world and still experienced a mental breakdown.
I think this is very accurate of religious deconstruction. It is not a linear process. Furthermore, just because one leaves home or gains new experiences or education does not mean that someone has addressed the mental and emotional impacts of growing up so religious.
I highly recommend this book for anyone in the midst of religious deconstruction or just beginning their journey. It will provide a much needed dose of humanity and self-compassion.
Thank you for reading. If you’d like to read more, sign up for my FUNletter. If you'd like another great book about religious deconstruction, I recommend “We Have Always Been Here” about a queer muslim woman.