Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she grew up preparing for the end of the world, with virtually no education or medical attention. Eventually, Tara’s quest for knowledge took her to Harvard University and then to Cambridge University, where she awarded a PhD. Her extraordinary memoir, Educated, explores the heart of education and what it offers. Tara appears in conversation with writer James Roy.

Presented with Varuna, the National Writers’ House.

Tara Westover (International)


Tara Westover was born the youngest of seven children in rural Idaho. Raised by Mormon survivalist parents, she grew up preparing for the End of Days—she spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected. Her father opposed public education, so she was never put in school. She had no birth certificate, medical records, or formal education until the age of sixteen, when she decided to educate herself. She was admitted to Brigham Young University and upon graduation was awarded a Gates Cambridge Fellowship to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, where she pursued a MPhil in Intellectual History and Political Thought. She received her PhD in the same subject from Cambridge in 2014. Her first book, Educated, is a tale of the transformative power of education. It is also a story of fierce family loyalty, and the grief that comes with the severing of the closest of ties.

James Roy (Australian)

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James Roy is the author of over thirty books for young people, including Town, winner of the NSW Premier's Literary Award, and One Thousand Hills, co-written with Noël Zihabamwe, which won the 2016 NSW Premier's History Prize.