Recommended by Jeri Hodder
I have two superheroes. One of them is Malala Yousafzai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17 for championing education for girls in the Middle East. Malala grew up in the Swat Valley in Pakistan and gave her first speech when she was eleven years old. It was called “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” and it led to her being shot through the head on a school bus four years later. After recovery, she still perseveres in her advocacy for education for all girls.
My second, more recent, superhero is Tara Westover. Though they come from opposite sides of the world, these two women are far more alike than they are different, and what defines them both is the fact that succumbing is simply not an option.
Youngest of seven children, Tara Westover was raised in a fundamentalist Mormon family in Buck’s Peak, Idaho. In an age when many Americans are plugged in 24/7, some remoter areas of America can actually slip off the grid and receive little attention from the rest of society. Tara’s father ekes out a living, along with his children as soon as they are able, by salvaging scrap metal. Tara’s mother is a faith healer and unlicensed midwife. Hospitals and Western medicine are not allowed to the Westover children.
Brutalized by enforced hard labor and injuries from the heavy scrap yard equipment, as well as by physical and mental abuse from an older brother, Tara also refuses to succumb. Too absorbed in their own lives, her parents become very lax in her home schooling, so she begins to educate herself from her brothers' schoolbooks. Despite the discouragement and never-ending terror and turmoil of the family drama, Tara manages to teach herself enough to pass the ACT test and enter Brigham Young University at the age of 17.
Though suffering severe culture shock, self recrimination and isolation in college, Tara progresses from needing to raise her hand in her Freshman history class to ask what the word holocaust means, to becoming a Cambridge scholar with a PhD in history.
I highly recommend this remarkable memoir.