by: Hannah Holliday
The Common Read is a program instituted at both of Emory University’s campuses. aimed at uniting the entire school community through an annual reading of the same book. Each student receives a copy of this book in the fall before the beginning of school.
This year’s Common Read book was Educated by Tara Westover, which is the author’s memoir on her own life and experiences. Tara Westover was born into a family of survivalist Mormons. She was born without a birth certificate, went her entire childhood without going to a doctor, and did not receive any formal education until her freshman year of college. When she arrived at college, she was hit with a whiplash of new knowledge and different perspectives. She learned about the Holocaust for the first time and was fully exposed to many different beliefs and viewpoints from which she had been sheltered. She realized she had truly been isolated from the world.
In college, Westover pursued history and philosophy. She now has a doctorate in intellectual history. Her decision to pursue education and align with different ideas from her family’s has caused a great schism between them.
On September 26th, 2019, Tara Westover visited the Emory Student Center on the Atlanta Campus for a question and answer session. The Office of Undergraduate Affairs offered a free shuttle service to the Atlanta campus for Oxford students. During the session, Westover recounted her feelings during her first year of college. She told a brief story about how her views on homosexuality were altered after she had an argument with one of her classmates. After rethinking the fight, she came to the conclusion that she needed to rethink her beliefs.
Westover told the audience that writing the book was much more therapeutic than the publishing process. She described her feelings and thought processes about including or excluding details. For example, in one of the events, she included dialogue with a racial slur, completely uncensored. She admitted during the session that she is still unsure if she made the right decision.
Tara Westover did not write her book to gain popularity. She admitted that she did not believe many people would read it. She did not expect it to attract as much attention as it has. She admitted that she is, in fact, still processing how popular her book has become.