Ingenting att läsa på väg hem från semestern, och kanske 20 böcker att välja mellan på flygplatsen. Jag valde, rätt omotiverad, den bok med en titel som talade tydligast till mig – Educated – a memoir, av en Tara Westover.
Tara, född 1986, har en extrem uppväxt i Idaho, med en kanske schizofren pappa vars tilltagande paranoia yttrar sig i en fundamentalistisk mormontro. Världen är på väg att gå under flera gånger om, och Tara och alla hennes syskon lever i ständig beredskap, samtidigt som tilliten till att det blir som Gud vill är tvingande. Allt, utom livet på berget där de bor, är hjärntvätt, varför barnen inte går i skola. Möjligheten att få utbildning blir allteftersom vägen ut för några av dem. Andra blir kvar. Familjens splittring är oundviklig.
När saker dras till sin spets, när allt verkar vansinnigt och kaotiskt, blir ibland känslor och beskrivningar av reflektioner och lärdomar kristallklara. Taras upplevelser som tonårstjej är samma som alla andras, fast mångfaldigade. Vi andra upplever samma saker, fast i mycket mindre drastiska kontexter, i mindre skala. Tara uttrycker så många allmängiltiga känslor utifrån sin trängda situation när hon slutar var flicka och blir till kvinna, tankar många kvinnor känner så väl igen. Hon välkomnar hos in i en fjortonårings hjärna.
Righteous women do not wear tight clothing. Other women do that. … This speech would stay with me in a way that a hundred o fits precursors had not. I would remember the words very often in the years that followed, and the more I considered them, the more I worried that I might be growing into the wrong sort of woman. Sometimes I could scarcely move through a room, I was so proccupied with not walking or bending or crouching like them. But no one had ever taught me the modest way to bend over, so I knew I was probably doing it the bad way.
’You’re special, Tara,’ Shawn said.
Was I? I wanted to believe I was. Tyler had said I was special once, years before. He’d read me a passage of scripture from the Book of Mormon, about a sober child, quick to observe. ”This reminds me of you”, Tyler had said.
The passage described the great prophet Mormon, a fact I’d found confusing. A woman could never be a prophet, yet here was Tyler, telling me I reminded him of one of the greatest prophets of all. I still don’t know what he meant by it, but what I understood at the time was that I could trust myself: that there was something in me, something like what was in the prohpets, and that it was not male or female, not old or young: a kind of worth that was inherent and unshakable.
But now, as I gazed at the shadow Shawn cast on my wall, aware of my maturing body, of fits evils and of my desire to do evil with it, the meaning of that memory shifted. Suddenly that worth felt conditional, like it could be taken or squandered. It was not inherent; it was bestowed. What was of worth was not me, but the veneer of constraints and observances that obscured me.
I lookat at my brother. He seemed old in that moment, wise. He knew about the world. He know about worldly women, so I asked him to keep me from becoming one.
Med utbildning får hon grepp om en ny verklighet, och möjligheten att sätta sig emot andras behov av kontroll och makt. Educated handlar om den makt över sig själv som bara utbildning kan ge.
”OUR NIGGER’S BACK!”
I don’t know what Shawn saw on my face – wheather it was shock, anger or a vacant expression. Whatever it was, he was delighted by it. He’d found a vulnerability, a tender spot. It was too late to feign indifference.
”Don’t call me that,” I said. ”You don’t konw what it means.”
”Sure I do”, he said. ”You’ve got black all over your face, like a nigger!”
For the rest of the afternoon – for the rest of the summer – I was Nigger. I’d answered to it a thousand times before with indifference. If anyting, I’d been amused and thought Shawn was clever. Now it made me want to gag him. Or sit him down with a history book, as long as it wasn’t the one Dad still kept in the living room, under the framed copy of the Consitution.
I couldn’t articulate how the name made me fell. Shawn had meant it to humiliate me, to lock me in time, into an old idea of myself. But far from fixing me in place, that word transported me. Every time he said it –”Hey Nigger, raise the boom” or ”Fetch me a level, Nigger” – I returned to the university, to that auditorium, where I had watched human history unfold and wondered at my place in it.