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Common Read: 2019-2020 Educated: A memoir: Viterbo University Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions - National Endowment for the Arts

Reading Guide and Discussion Questions for ‘Educated’


Educated: A Memoir


This Fall, you will find yourself in a classroom exploring questions about identity, values, and the purpose of a college education. One of the primary texts all first-year students will use to explore these questions is Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. This reading guide reflects the types of questions you will be asked to ponder, discuss, and write on in your first weeks as a Viterbo student. During this summer of transition, we hope this book and guide will help you come to appreciate, as Westover’s memoir reminds us, “the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, [is] at the heart of what it means to self-create” (p. 304) Pax et Bonum!

Values: What are Tara’s values at the start of the book? How do those change and develop throughout parts two and three?  What influences that development? Jot down evidence from the text to support your response. What are a few of your own values you are bringing with you as you start college? What has influenced the development of your values?


Identity: What or who helps create our identity? Throughout the text, Tara critically reflects on her own identity and sometimes struggles with knowing who she really is. Identify and write down quotes and passages in the book that show you Tara’s reflections on her own identity. What factors is she considering?  How does her identity dilemma help you think about the way your identity has been shaped? What can you learn about how identities, in general, are constructed?

Education: On several occasions, Tara expresses her idea of what it means to be educated. As you are reading, jot down specific quotes or scenes that reveal her thoughts on the subject. What is your reaction to her definition of education? What is your own definition, and how does that align with or differ from Tara’s?  What are you hoping to gain from your own college education?


Resilience: “We are all of us more complicated than the roles we are assigned in the stories other people tell.” (p. 334) Tara finds herself in many difficult situations and must contend with various, often emotionally complicated threats to her identity as well as her physical, mental, social, and spiritual health. Along the way, she discovers resources in unexpected places and people that help her creatively and courageously respond to an imperfect world. As you read, take note of the resources you draw on when confronting adversity in your own life. If Tara had been a Viterbo student, what resources might have been offered to her? How would she have experienced hospitality, one of our core values? Some examples we hope Tara would have found helpful:


Viterbo University Resources

Counseling Services

Student Development Center, 608.796.3825

Free counseling resource to students.

Confidential Viterbo Support Resources

LeeAnn Van Vreede, Director of Counseling Services: 608.796.3808

Fr. Conrad Targonski, University Chaplain: 608.796.3904


National Resources

National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 800.799.SAFE(7233)