Tara was born in 1986 and was raised in a jagged patch of Idaho in the shadow of a mountain called Buck’s Peak. She is one of seven children born to parents of Mormon faith and untrusting of government institutions. Because of their feelings toward public education, her parents took her three older brothers out of school and never allowed her and three younger siblings to attend public school.
Tara’s mother had been raised by parents that provided a structured orderly upbringing, completely contrary to the way she and her brothers and sisters lived. Her father’s family, were more suited to the mountain life style but were often alienated from them because of her father’s obsessive behavior. To support the family, Tara’s father kept a junk yard and sold scrap metal to eke out a living. Her mother learned to be a midwife. Tara and her siblings were all expected to work for their parents and not to question their lack of education.
Tara describes in great detail what life was like living with a father that she later is able to label bipolar and a mother that is completely subservient to him. They refuse to recognize the mental instability of their son Shawn and his violent and dangerous behavior towards his family and others. As the children grow up, several of them leave to create another life away from the mountain. Her brother Tyler encourages her to prepare to take an entrance test to go to college and she starts on the path to achieve this lofty goal.
Tara was accepted at Brigham Young University and received her BA in spite of her struggle with the shame of her upbringing and her lack of formal schooling. When a professor recognizes her as an exceptional student, he helps her secure a Gates Cambridge Scholarship in 2008. She then earned an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009 and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge and received her PhD in history in 2014.
Tara’s story is an amazing one that describes a dedicated young woman that continuously over achieved scholastically. While dealing with the conflicts of what she had been taught to believe was true about people and a woman’s place in the world, she ultimately is able to recognize that she cannot change the past, but can look to a brighter future that she created herself with an education.