Academic First Year Experiences

Educated: Faculty and Staff Resources


Educated book coverEducated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover, will be CSUN's Freshman Common Reading for 2020-2021. During spring 2020, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to join colleagues for a series of workshop-style book discussion exploring ways to teach and discuss the book. Dates will be added to this page soon. Workshop handouts, notes, and assignment ideas from those discussions will be available below.

We've got a deal for interested Faculty and Staff!

UPDATE! We do still have physical books left, however we will not be able to distribute them until normal campus activity returns. In the meantime, there are alternative ways to read the book. 

The deal is: you get one free copy in exchange for your promise to speak about the book with at least one new CSUN freshman in fall 2020. Some possible conversation starters:

"Have you read Educated yet?" Or:
"I see you are reading Educated. How do you like it so far?" Or:
"I read this book over the summer. I thought the most powerful part was __________. Have you read that part yet?" Or:
"Are you reading this book for a class? Which one?"

This is a limited offer, and will last only until we run out of books! You can email Susanna Eng-Ziskin (susanna.eng[at] and include your campus address (with mail code), along with a promise that you will talk about the book, however briefly, with at least one new CSUN freshman in fall 2020.  

Resources for teaching and discussing the book

With your help ( and contributions from book discussion leaders and participants ), this collection of resources will continue to grow. Please suggest additions by emailing susanna.eng[at]

About the book: reviews and more

College students & mental health


Mistrust in Government and Science

Education Deserts

Ruby Ridge and Survivalism

Further reading. If you liked EDUCATED, you might also like

Book Discussion Notes - Facilitated by Autumn Fabricant

In this session, Autumn and the group discussed:

  • Risks of education (guilt, leaving your family behind, cultural estrangement from family, racial issues)
  • Education deserts and urban vs rural poverty
  • How does this book fit with current events linked to Covid-19 (politics, survivalism / preppers, science denial, anti-vaxxers
  • Self reliance vs asking for help
  • Our obligation to ourselves vs our family vs society
  • The process of becoming independent

Please see Autumn's fantastic handout, with additional resources included like maps that show education deserts.

Book Discussion Notes - Facilitated by Lindsay Brown

During this session, Lindsay guided the group through discussion questions that faculty can think about on their own, as well as questions they can ask students after they read the book. We discussed:

  • Whether religion played a role in one's decision about where to attend university. Why did Tara seek out a religious institution of higher learning?
  • The difference between an education and school? What does it mean to be an Educated person?
  • Education takes effort. You get what you put into it. Beyond a degree, what are your goals for being educated? Are you ever done being educated?
  • In her first year of college, Tara didn't know what the Holocaust was. As faculty, what strategies do you use when students aren't aware of something you thought was common knowledge? How do you teach without shaming a student for not knowing what you think they should already know?
  • The idea of putting a glossary in your syllabus, so students begin to understand academic terminology they may not have heard before.
  • What does it mean to be free? As a child, Tara was given tremendous amounts of freedom (sometimes to her detriment). What does freedom mean to you?
  • How to connect services and spaces at CSUN to the common needs of first year students

See Lindsay's comprehensive handout for great discussion ideas for your class.

Book Discussion Notes - Facilitated by Jamie Johnson

Jamie came prepared to this discussion to talk about a variety of different themes in the book, including:

  • Perseverance
  • Patriarchy
  • Memory
  • Education
  • Fundamentalism/Religion
  • Gaslighting
  • Survivalism
  • Mental Illness
  • Mental Health/PTSD/Mental Breakdown
  • Family Relationships
  • Institutional Fear (Education/Medical/Government)
  • Herbalism vs homeopathy

See Jamie's thorough handout, which includes these themes, relevant passages from the book, and discussion questions.