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Tara Westover: It was important for me that people would know that this actually happened

Tara Westovers life has been so unlikely that she was afraid no one would believe her if she told them about it. When she began to write what eventually became memoarboken ”All I had to learn” the plan was only to write a novel. But she realized that the story was so unimaginable that it wouldn't work as fiction.

" I don't think that the protagonist of such a novel would have been deemed as particularly credible. I realized that I had to write about it as a real story instead. It felt important to me that people would know that this actually has happened, that this is the way it can go to. If there had been such a book when I was growing up, so it would have helped me.

Tara Westover has received the 200,000 five-star reviews on the platform Goodreads. Photo: Paul Stuart

an unassuming diner on Manhattan's Upper West Side, where she now lives. After seven years in Cambridge and London, she has returned to the united states. She has been gone long enough to forget some of the details about daily life in the united states. When we sit down she looks at the menu and whispers to me:

– Sorry, but I have forgotten what the difference is between the ”home fries” and ”french fries”?

Returning to the united states may be facilitated a little by the unimaginable success with her debut book. In the fall, she received a phone call by Barack Obama, who wanted to tell me how much he liked the book. He praised it as a story about a young woman who ”strives for the formation at the same time as she shows an incredible understanding and love for the world she leaves behind”.

a popular platform where the reader can review and recommend books, ”Everything I had been taught” got the 200,000 five-star reviews. I can't find a single current, serious book that comes close. Tara Westover do not believe me when I say this, but instantly takes out his phone.

" Holy shit! You have the right. 201.000 reviews. And Bill Gates's review is at the top! This is so crazy.

It was not obvious that Tara Westover would end up right here. She grew up in a desolate mountainous area in Idaho's sparsely populated areas, in a family of radikalkonservativa mormon survivalister who were convinced that doomsday was at the turn of the millennium. They prepared themselves by shielding themselves from society's institutions, including the school system. She did not set foot in a school until she was 17, because her father was convinced that the schools run by the illuminati, a sinister, worldwide conspiracy. She learned instead to read on their own, by practicing with The book of mormon. She had six siblings, two of whom were brothers who abused her viciously, both verbally and physically.

for the first time as a 15-year-old call big brother Shawn her for a whore. In one of the book's many brutal parties, he takes hold of her hair and drags her into the bathroom, where he dips her head in the outside of the toilet bowl water.

Father forces her to work on the backyard junkheaps, where she is constantly the victim of serious injuries. The parents refuse to allow her to use medicine or hospitals, so instead they rely on mom's home-made recipes of alternative medicine, or ”God's pharmacy” as it is called in the household. When she gets strep throat, my dad says to her, standing outside with my mouth open, so that the sun can shine down in the neck; she makes it every day for a month. It could be called a dickensk childhood, but the book has had such an impact that it is possible to imagine that we, in a hundred years, going to talk about a westoversk childhood.

”All I had to learn” all about Tara Westovers long journey to self-esteem. Photo: Donatella Giagnori

But ”All I had to learn” is above all a book about the long journey as Tara Westover finally began, as a 17-year-old, against education, knowledge and self-esteem. In a beautiful lot in the book, she describes the vertiginous feeling of to arrive at the Brigham Young university and browse to the folder with the courses.

"I remember it as an almost manic feeling that knowledge was something infinitely more," she says now.

the university that she didn't know who Martin Luther King or Napoleon was. She had never heard of the Holocaust. Classmates laugh at her or think she is a racist. The teacher says contentedly that he is facing a living Eliza from ”Pygmalion”. Mormons at the university encourage her to marry early, become a housewife, to know their place. Instead, she receives a scholarship to study at Cambridge university in England. Then Harvard. She is a doctoral student in the history of ideas and the beginning of the work with writing that then became this acclaimed book.

" I fought a long time to find a voice and a tone of voice that I enjoyed. The first drafts I wrote were a little bit. I was in a small club with authors and writers in London and all solid my draft completely hopeless.

She drew inspiration and ideas from Hilary Mantels historical novels and from Joan Didions memoarböcker, where she often depicts the traumatic memories with a restrained prose. Above all, she fell for the canadian author Mavis Gallants fiction, which often deals with life in exile and about a rootless existence, about characters who have broken up from their home environment but could never do away with dark memories or burdens of the past. In The complex, thickening, short stories, multiple traumatic decades, the glimpse presented in a single subordinate clause.

" I realized that I write best in the shorter format. It is so my brain works. Each chapter in the book is a short novel, and it means a lot of limitations that I think are attractive. You cannot afford to waste the reader's time, you can not add a bunch of malware.

”I have many journals from growing up, but where I described usually my brother's version of the course of events,” says Tara Westover. Photo: Paul Stuart

a quote by Virginia Woolf: ”The past is beautiful because one never is aware of a sensation during the time. The extended later, and so we have complete emotions about the present, just about the past.” During the work with the book she had once and for all cut ties to his family. It was a painful process that she still seems to struggle with. The father had reluctantly accepted that she left home to train himself, but he could not tolerate the fact that she talked so openly about his brother Shawn's furry. ”In families like mine are no worse crime than to tell the truth,” said Westover in a previous interview with The Guardian.

One of the driving forces with to write the book was to find out what really happened during childhood.

" I have many journals from growing up, but where I described usually my brother's version of the course of events. So I followed up with interviews with my relatives, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins. I tried to use the methods and approaches I learned as a historian, in order to scientifically document what has happened to me. Memories can be tricky and not always reliable, so it was very valuable to hear perspectives from all of the others who were with while growing up, " she says.

in the London and Cambridge gave her a healthy distance to his childhood trauma. Now she has decided to return to the united states. She has started work on a documentary about education in the united states and, in particular, if the gap between urban and rural areas.

"Our school systems today are so incredibly unequal, because the schools' budgets are determined by the fastighetsskatterna in the area. So we have much better schools for rich children than for poor. Despite the fact that it should be a public service. I think that is absolutely crazy. And we pay teachers so poorly that they can barely live on their wages.

Tara Westover still has contact with his mother and two brothers. Photo: Paul Stuart

Dokumentärprojektet have meant that she was travelling around the US again. It means that she's been given several chances to return to his childhood Idaho. When we meet she has just been in Boise, Idaho, where several relatives live. Her father and several of her brothers have cut all ties with her, but she still has contact with two other brothers and mother.

– We send you e-mail a few times a month. But it is very basic information. I tell them how I feel, where I am.

her book have been surprised over the love and forgiveness she shows for her family members, even those that treated her the worst. Now, when we talk about her family, it is clear that the wounds of separation have not healed, that they may never heal. During the interview, she gives a thoughtful and at times slightly melancholy impression, which is common among people who have had to cut away the whole of their past, cut the ties of childhood and large parts of their family.

I ask about the trips back to Idaho reminded her of something she lacks. She thinks for a long moment.

" the Horses. I have so many beautiful memories from when I am small and my brothers and I are riding on horses through the mountains. The wild horses in Idaho, the I miss.

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