Up@dawn 2.0

Saturday, July 27, 2019


I've finished our freshman read, and realize it's not merely (!) the incredible story of a remarkable young woman's perseverance and resilience in overcoming a brutal childhood, raised by fundamentalist survivalists in a primitive atmosphere of violence, ignorance, and deprivation (actually it would be more accurate to say she raised herself, in spite of that debilitating atmosphere)... it's also a powerful testimonial of identity-formation and truth-seeking, in the face of inexorable untruth. She became the person she is because she committed herself so diligently to the pursuit of truth, and repudiated the lies and viciousness of those who were supposed to be her protectors and nurturers. Echoing Bill Gates [g'r]: I thought I was a pretty good autodidact but nobody's ever been as good a self-learner as Tara Westover. One of her epigraphs is from John Dewey, "education must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience; the process and the goal of education are one and the same thing." I look forward to meeting her when she comes to campus next month.

“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon: it was me.” 

"The decisions I made after that moment were not the ones she [16 year-old Tara] would have made. They were the choices of a changed person, a new self. You could call this selfhood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education."


  1. I was overcome by this book. It is really empowering to see someone over come their childhood. I was so disturbed by her family (mostly her father, mother, and brother). It is powerful to read, and it is perfect for the entering MTSU undergrads. I was so excited to see that she will be speaking at MTSU! I marked the date in my planner and tried to share the news to people I knew (outside of MTSU).
    This is so far one of the most powerful books I've read this year. Another is In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park (2015). I highly recommend both.

  2. You're right, so many kids arrive at college feeling like ill-prepared impostors when the reality is that most of us have something in our past or our very natures to overcome. And we do. But boy, did Tara ever overcome adversity!