I generally don’t give up on books too easily, but I had no choice with this one. I could not get through even a quarter of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I think W. Kamau Bell is a super cool guy and I love United Shades of America, but he’s not an engaging writer. The tone was far too informal and the details were just rambling. I can see how the stories would be interesting if he was actually talking about them; I just didn’t think they translated well on paper.
I’ll give him an A for effort and for being an awesome guy.
….or as it could also be known: “a tale of how deep money and power run.”
This novel was THRILLING! It chronicles Ronan’s investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Ronan relentlessly chases down the facts by encouraging the victims to go on record, which they eventually do, leading to the expose in The New Yorker.
There were a few things about this story that I found interesting. First of all, how did someone like Lisa Bloom become so corrupt? Her whole career was based on helping women….but I guess it doesn’t matter when there are millions of dollars at stake. Also, speaking of corruption….NBC!! I understand covering up for Matt Lauer because he was their star anchor, but to disregard taped stories of Weinstein’s sexual assaults from his actual victims is beyond unethical. There was even a taped confession of Weinstein admitting to sexual assault, but again, I guess money took priority over honest journalism.
Ronan describes how he was followed by the Black Cube — an Israeli spy agency — in an attempt to intimidate him into dropping the investigation. This really drives home the point I made in the first sentence: Weinstein was so rich and powerful, not only did he have the American media in his back pocket, he also was able to pay out millions of dollars to an international spy agency. As it turns out, it wasn’t enough to save him from those guilty charges (note that Catch and Kill was written before Weinstein’s trial began)
I want to circle back to Matt Lauer for a second. The details are horrific, and Matt was clearly manipulating his female coworkers into sleeping with him because he knew he had power over them. He was fully aware that NBC would cover up his actions by paying off his accusers and forcing them to sign an NDA. Matt’s affair with Brooke Nevils was a central part of this scandal. Just to recap, they slept together one night while on a trip to the winter Olympics in Sochi. When they returned to New York, they continued having an affair until he supposedly called it off. Brooke was obviously concerned that if she reported Matt, she would lose her job, as many of her other female colleagues had. As an adult, she made a choice to do what it took to keep her job. Again, it’s clear that Matt was a bully, but we all have choices in life. I don’t think it’s fair for Brooke to play the victim card, when she was engaging in a consensual affair with him. She only did what she had to do to survive, and it is what it is.
One minor criticism I have of the novel is that it dragged a bit at the end. There was way too much detail about Black Cube, then the story randomly jumped to Trump having an affair with the Playboy model, then jumped to Weinstein. Finally, Ronan gets to the part about Matt Lauer. I felt the writing got a bit sloppy, and the storylines above could have been condensed into a maximum of 5 chapters.
The MeToo movement has done wonders in creating conversation around sexual assault and harassment. If we dig a little deeper though, will any company choose firing their number 1 money maker in favour of doing right by the assistant, who is completely replaceable? The top priority of any company will always be to earn the maximum amount of revenue possible, and I just don’t see them easily sacrificing money in the name of integrity.
Let’s start by taking a look at Westover’s overall narrative: If you persevere enough, even the impossible becomes possible. The author emphasized in the book that her parents did not believe in continuing her homeschooling past elementary school, resulting in her not getting a high school diploma or GED. She also mentioned this on the March 14, 2019 episode of Ellen. Here we have the first inconsistency. Anyone who has ever applied to college (myself included) can attest to the fact that you need to meet all the minimum requirements, one of which is having a high school diploma or equivalent. According to Brigham Young University’s (BYU) website, all homeschooled applicants must submit any high school work, and if they did not finish high school, they must submit your GED score or any high school equivalency exams.
Westover also prides herself on scoring a 28 on the ACT (88th percentile), but again, how was this possible when she claimed that the last math function she learned was long division? What about the English portion of the test, which would require an advanced level of reading and writing in order to pass? I cannot even get started on what must have happened with the science portion.
Learning is built upon a foundation. Going from having an elementary school education to scoring in the 88th percentile on the ACT is like trying to build a house with only the foundation and the roof. It’s not happening. The only explanation is that the author was homeschooled, but admitting it would not have allowed her to create such a sensational story. As I read on, I started to think this was not the only major detail Westover omitted.
Let’s fast forward to the author’s college days. Aside from being the worst and most unhygienic roommate on Earth, Westover never specified how she got the money to travel home from BYU, and later from Cambridge. According to Google Maps and Google Flights respectively, the first would be approximately a 3 hour drive , and the second would be roughly a $1500 flight. Even if the author did not lead an extravagant lifestyle, gas, food, water, and other basic necessities all cost money. It is unlikely that she saved up tens of thousands of dollars from her job at the local grocery store, so how was she able to fund her trips home and basic living needs? The only explanation would be that the author’s parents funded all her incidentals, while she supposedly got a scholarship for her tuition.They were not poor since they were able to afford all those excess supplies, two cars, plus TV, phone and internet. This leads me to believe that Westover grossly exaggerated the extent of the family’s “poverty”, again, so she could look like a heroine.
Lastly, there must be something in that Clifton water that makes its residents superhuman. I mean, how else could anyone survive having their leg half chopped off, life threatening burns to the entire body, and blows to the head to the point of their brains spilling out, without proper medical care? Either that or those herbs and oils must be something really special.
Okay jokes aside, there are actual burn victims who have died in the hospital while receiving professional medical treatment. So, in my opinion, it is highly unlikely that her father survived those burns, and her brothers survived other life threatening injuries, with herbs alone. Another reader pointed out on Goodreads that Mrs. Westover had a photo of her husband on her Facebook page, which was supposedly taken after the fire, but yet he had no burns. However, I am unable to comment any further on this, as I could not find said photo on Facebook or anywhere else online.
Educated has been praised as an inspirational story of a woman who succeeded against all the odds. She managed to thrive in life, at prestigious universities, despite physical abuse and most importantly, a lack of education. But sometimes, when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Which is exactly how I feel about this book.