I’m bad with non-fiction.
Maybe it’s because I associate it with dense maths journals and research papers? But it tends to happen that I end up slinking away from the non-fiction table in Waterstone’s, instead looking for a magical, fantasy world to run away to.
But this habit has slowly been changing and my biggest champion for the case of reading non-fiction is my last read: Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover. Award-winning and hugely recommended book from everywhere, I was set up with high expectation.
In a nutshell, it follows Tara’s life; born in rural Idaho to a family of ‘survivalists’, who don’t believe in many things and in particular, public education and doctors. Defying all odds and having never entered a school, she ends up getting into university, going on to doing her Master’s at Cambridge on a scholarship and then a fellowship at Harvard where she did her PhD.
As an educational reformist, I thought the most powerful theme to this story would be her educational journey and how her story proves that the conventional system is not working! But as I read, I realised that this learning journey is indistinguishable to life; a tangle of family, passion and self efficacy.
Westover has a way of writing that feels as though she is sat in front of me, recounting her story in the rawest of forms. The emotions and mental turmoils lift out of the words and pages and leave you gripped in their wake. And the thing that brought out a deep sense of fear was her exploration of the unreliable power of memory.
“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”
Rushing to the end late last night, I was left numb and contemplative, drawing parallels and contradictions in my own life.