Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

by Megan Phelps-Roper


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The activist and TED speaker Megan Phelps-Roper reveals her life growing up in the most hated family in America

At the age of five, Megan Phelps-Roper began protesting homosexuality and other alleged vices alongside fellow members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Founded by her grandfather and consisting almost entirely of her extended family, the tiny group would gain worldwide notoriety for its pickets at military funerals and celebrations of death and tragedy. As Phelps-Roper grew up, she saw that church members were close companions and accomplished debaters, applying the logic of predestination and the language of the King James Bible to everyday life with aplomb—which, as the church’s Twitter spokeswoman, she learned to do with great skill. Soon, however, dialogue on Twitter caused her to begin doubting the church’s leaders and message: If humans were sinful and fallible, how could the church itself be so confident about its beliefs? As she digitally jousted with critics, she started to wonder if sometimes they had a point—and then she began exchanging messages with a man who would help change her life.

A gripping memoir of escaping extremism and falling in love, Unfollow relates Phelps-Roper’s moral awakening, her departure from the church, and how she exchanged the absolutes she grew up with for new forms of warmth and community. Rich with suspense and thoughtful reflection, Phelps-Roper’s life story exposes the dangers of black-and-white thinking and the need for true humility in a time of angry polarization.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374275839
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 10/08/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 33,405
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Megan Phelps-Roper is a writer and activist. She left the Westboro Baptist Church in November 2012 and is now an educator on topics related to extremism and communication across ideological lines. She lives in South Dakota.

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Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Chad Guarino 3 months ago
You all know the Westboro Baptist Church. You all know the pickets, the obscene slogans, and the charged, emotional scenes between members of the church and counter protesters. What you may not know is the powerful, moving, and borderline unbelievable story of Megan Phelps-Roper, the granddaughter of longtime pastor Fred Phelps. Raised in an environment where the majority of her extended family were church members, Phelps-Roper began picketing at the tender age of five, and spent the majority of her childhood and young adulthood firmly entrenched in the church's teachings. Her personal recollections of her family, the church's dealings, and the infamous pickets are told with vivid detail, offering glimpses into a world few beyond the church's members have access to. The real story here however is the journey of growth Phelps-Roper undertakes. Her evolution from ardent and loyal church member to escapee is nothing short of a testament to the human spirit. From the subtle ways she begins to question church doctrine to her harrowing and heartbreaking flight from her family, the second half of this book is so engrossing I couldn't put it down. There's not much need to say more...simply read this book. It's one of my favorites of 2019, and instantly one of my favorite memoirs of all time. **I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux.**
Anonymous 18 days ago
A very good insight to the Westboro Church. Megan did a great job with this. She and the other family members who have left are so brave. I hope some day the remaining members speak to her and her sister, brothers, and cousins. For years I despised Fred Phelps for his out pouring of hate, but when I read how his children treated him in his final days, my heart went out to him.
Anonymous 28 days ago
This book is enthralling. I could hardly put it down, but was compelled to do so when work and life got in the way. Megan Phelps-Roper pieces the story together not unlike a jigsaw puzzle, slowly, methodically, fitting one piece after another until the picture comes into view, incomplete at first, but finally as one broad landscape that includes many scenes. I had to set it down for a while after I finished reading page 203. And again on page 254. And again when I turned the last page.... The true beauty of this book is the manner in which Megan (I feel like I know her well enough to call her by her first name) manages to simultaneously paint a picture of the hatefulness and the beauty of her upbringing so seamlessly, without bitterness, and her irreconcilable desires to leave, and to stay, neither of which could happen without rejecting the other. Her metamorphosis from automaton to a fully-formed person who questions contradictory principles is a beauty to behold. It was pure pleasure to join her, vicariously, “in the wandering path of doubt and skepticism and confusion and wonder and awe at how different the world was than we had believed.” I highly recommend this book!
Anonymous 7 days ago
A beautifully written story about a journey out of one kind of faith and into another. Megan Roper-Phelps should be applauded for her honesty, her intelligence, her fierceness and her great capacity for understanding. May this book inspire us all to be more tolerant and to challenge our own firmly held beliefs.
Anonymous 8 days ago
This book had everything: an important lesson on fanaticism and how to counteract it, a love story, and the uses of social media for good and bad. It is very relevant to our era.