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Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  3,686 ratings  ·  576 reviews
Banished is an eye-opening, deeply personal account of life inside the cult known as the Westboro Baptist Church, as well as a fascinating story of adaptation and perseverance.

You've likely heard of the Westboro Baptist Church. Perhaps you've seen their pickets on the news, the members holding signs with messages that are too offensive to copy here, protesting at events su
Hardcover, 287 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2013)
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Petra X has permanently sun-burned eyes
What do they say, that actions speak louder than words. Lauren married a Jewish, Israeli web designer, David Kagan. Must have been like a rusty knife through her father's heart.

That's really putting two fingers up to the Westboro Church isn't it?

In the book, there is a lot about the Church picketing American servicemen's funerals and provoking trouble and riots with their homophobic rants, protests and pickets Lauren goes easy over how active the church was against Jews, just as much if not eve
Bill Kerwin
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, religion

I should know better than to pick a book totally on impulse. It seldom works. Lord knows it didn’t work this time.

Banished is the memoir of Lauren Drain, a young woman who was expelled from the Westboro Baptist Church for talking to “boys.” You know the WBC, don’t you? They are the ones who show up at the funerals of homosexuals and military men carrying “God Hates Fags” and “God Hates Dead Soldiers” signs, and who, a decade and a half ago, shocked all of the U.S. with signs which proclaimed “Th
Jul 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read some of the negative reviews of this book, and I have to say I don't agree with them at all. Far from feeling "positive" about the WBC, Lauren relates her feelings at the time she was in the church, which are not the same as her feelings after being banished. Of course her feelings at the time she was in the church are going to be happy -- that is what happens when you're brainwashed. Some reviewers have also complained she was a "whiny teenage girl trying to fit in." If you don't know th ...more
Alisi ☆ wants to read too many books ☆
rating: 2 ~ 2.5 stars

I'm not certain if it makes a difference but I'm not a Christian. I was raised Christian, but I'm not an angry ex-Christian with an ax to grind.

This book didn't impress me over all. Actually, I think I came away with two main points:

The first: that she still really wants to be in the church. All of her accounts were glowing and any "negatives" were sort of thrown in as an afterthought.

That really bothered me. Throughout the book she showed no actual change of her viewpoint.
Description: Lauren spent her early years enjoying a normal life with her family in Florida. But when her formerly liberal and secular father set out to produce a documentary about the WBC, his detached interest gradually evolved into fascination, and he moved the entire family to Kansas to join the church and live on their compound. Over the next seven years, Lauren fully assimilated their extreme beliefs, and became a member of the church and an active and vocal picketer. But as she matured an ...more
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
I would have preferred if Drain had written this book several years from now - when she'd had a little more time to organize her thoughts, when she truly seemed to know what she believed, and when she was ready to be open and honest about her deprogramming. The last two chapters were much more compelling for me than the rest of the book, which more or less parroted interviews with members of the WBC - in a few cases, taking scenes directly from Louis Theroux's 2007 BBC documentary.

Drain is clear
Lauren Drain became a member of the WBC when she was fifteen and was thrown out seven years later. This is a biography of her life, but it also showcases life in WBC minutely and depicts Drain’s perspective on the twisted message that the Church preaches.

The book starts off with Drain’s childhood. Father abusive, mother abuse enabler. It was a rather sad story but I kept wondering exactly how useful are the child protection services in USA when such blatant and obvious abuse gets overlooked. Th
Cathy Douglas
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jacob Simons
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I just finished a 4 hour reading binge of Lauren Drain's book BANISHED Surviving My Years in the WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH! Most of you have heard of this fanatical group through internet, headlines, articles, tv, etc. for picketing the funerals of dead soldiers and claiming we, as a society, are all going to hell. Well, here is the very descriptive, insightful, and well-written memoir that I was fully invested in for a whole week. She endured much mental abuse and manipulation from her former fel ...more
Apr 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I feel like this could have been so much better. She is from the Westboro Baptist Church for "God's" sake. It didn't so much confirm my feelings towards them and it certainly didn't change my views, it simply existed. The writing seemed so simplistic and like it was coming straight out of the mouth of a whiny sixteen year old. I'm sure Lauren Drain is a pleasant woman but it felt like she was lamenting how poorly she was treated, without really backing it up except to say things akin to "she yel ...more
Mallory Kellogg
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

First off, here's some background on me. I am a Christian. I believe in God. But am I a self-righteous nut? No. I believe in gay rights, my right to own guns and my right to freedom of speech. I am bi-sexual and in no way think that means I'm going to Hell. I believe in a loving God that wants us to rest in him and ease our worries. So, now you know from what viewpoint I'm coming from.

A Quick Rundown of the Westboro Baptist Church:
Before I begin this review, I would like to start by giving you a
♥ Marlene♥
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, non-fiction
Last week I discovered that Louis Therouz had made another documentary about the Most Hated family in America. The Phelps family. I loved the first documentary and I have always been curious why and how people can become so involved in a cult/church or whatever.
That is why I also have many books about fundamentalists mormons (and No spell checker I am not going to change it into Mormons) and other "religions."

It just fascinates me. Especially the young Phelps girls who speak exactly like their l
Ruth Turner

It's really hard to know how to rate this book. Before I started reading, I knew very little about the WBC, apart from a post some time ago on Facebook about them picketing funerals. Boy, did I ever learn a lot!

The story is well written and interesting, but it made me so angry that I had to have occasional breaks. These people have no decency, calling Princess Diana a whore, wanting to picket the funerals of the Amish children killed in their school house. I'm so glad that one didn't happen!

Allison (The Allure of Books)
You guys, I’m not gonna lie. I have been excited about reading Banished : Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain for months! I pretty much freaked out when I first saw that there was going to be a memoir from a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church. Unfortunately, I think I put a little too much emphasis on the word “former.” Because, after all, being banished means that Lauren Drain left the church unwillingly. I ended up having so many issues with this book th ...more
Lindsay Deutsch
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
Most everyone has heard of the Westboro Baptist Church, a tiny cult-like congregation in Topeka that's attracted more than its share of attention. Its goal is to be seen — even to be hated — by as many people as possible, and it does this by picketing highly publicized events like the funerals of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims, ceremonies for fallen soldiers and AIDS marches.
With the help of former New York Times correspondent Lisa Pulitzer, ex-church member Lauren Drain shares th
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
I'm going to review this tomorrow.


This was an interesting book. The writing itself was not that good, but that did not detract from the experience of reading this. I think Drain needed to write this, for herself: to vent, to rationalize, and it was a form of therapy for her. I respect that narrative.

I will say one thing about the WBC, it does not deserve our attention, our outrage, because they feed off it. They almost get off on it, to be crude. They, in my armchair psychologist analyst,
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've been fascinated by the WBC for 10 years, upon discovering them as a psychology & religion major in college. They seem to be contradictory; highly educated yet ignorant & sheltered, I wanted to understand them, their hatred & why they were so cruel. Over the years I've received answers for all my questions, often in one-on-one discussions (especially with now ex member Megan). But this book is, by far, the best source of information I have on them. I was surprised that Westboro still had the ...more
May 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I saw what a lot of other reviewers complained about in this book - her writing voice and sometimes over all maturity level seemed more like a young teen than an adult and what seemed like inconsistencies towards her actions in the"church" (yes, in this instance it deserves quotations.) were hard to miss.

However, here is what I took away:

Ms. Drain was raised in a verbally abusive, overly controlling household where they ricocheted from one extreme belief to another, before finally settling into
RD Morgan
Dec 29, 2012 rated it liked it
I feel this book would have been more successful had it been shaped into a history of the WBC and not this particular woman's memoir. I'm unsure about this book's tone, and I'm unsure about the way the book was edited. I do think, however, that the book gives a ton of insight into the WBC and its members. I think it's important because it is a nearly perfect example of how one's community -- in this case, one's religious community -- has the ability to shape nearly all aspects of one's life, inc ...more
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
At fifteen Lauren Drain moved from Florida to Kansas with her family to join the Westboro Baptist Church, famous for picketing the funerals of American soldiers killed in battle with huge signs and shouted slogans denouncing homosexuality. The church and its teachings were her world for eight years, and then she was banished. While a member of the church she embraced its belief in a wrathful God bent on punishing just about everyone. She didn’t see the church’s protest messages as hateful--she s ...more
Jean-Paul Adriaansen
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've never read a biography that seems to be so honest. The Westboro Baptist Church is very well known for their hatred towards gay people and for picketing on military funerals. Lauren Drain, who joined the Church as a young teenager, describes how she got completely convinced of the Church's mission and how hard she worked to become a full member in the eyes of the Church members and her parents. She also explains the inner working of this family driven religion. The combination of her asking ...more
Mar 05, 2013 rated it liked it
I don't condone the Westboro Baptist Church or their messages, but I have had some morbid curiosity about its inner workings. This book satisfied that curiosity. Lauren Drain had no choice but to join the Westboro Baptist Church (if you can call it a "church", cult seems more accurate) when she was a teen. Her parents' desire for acceptance in the church community was more important to them than their own daughter. They were overly critical of her, because any tiny mistake she made reflected poo ...more
Lord Beardsley
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read2013
Far from being a well-written or gripping book, the subject matter is utterly fascinating. As someone who grew up in Kansas and since I was 14 seeing the WBC picketing various places, this answers a lot of questions and confirms many theories I'd had about the members and their weird, perverse "church".

Drain and Pulitzer paint a disturbing, sad, pathetic, and ultimately humanizing depiction of what has been described as "The Most Hated Family In America." The biggest mistake in the way we look
Mar 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Drain recounts her experience with her abusive, mentally ill father who forced his family to move into the compound of an abusive, mentally ill cult known as the Westboro Baptist Church. The church is well known for picketing funerals and all manner of disasters with hateful and incendiary banners.

Initiated into the group as a young teenager, Drain attempted to gain approval by fitting in with the other teenage girls at the church. In mainstream American society, fitting in with a clique might i
Kelly Hager
Mar 29, 2013 rated it liked it
This is such a strange book to talk about. It's probably the most revealing insight into the Westboro Baptist Church but at the same time, I think it could've been better. In particular, I wish Lauren Drain had been more open about certain things. For example, she could've explained exactly why she agreed so readily with their doctrine. Instead, she said, "It made sense to me" or similar things.

It's also very obvious that a lot of the church's appeal is the fact that her dad was so into the memb
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was thrilled to read this because it is the first memoir from a former insider's perspective on the notorious Westboro Baptist Church. Unfortunately, I found it uptight and unconvincing, as if the "banished" Lauren Drain was unable or unwilling to express her feelings. Perhaps she is still (understandably) sorting out her memories and experiences, but her personality comes across as flat and restrained.

Though bored at several points, I did finish the book because I was hoping for some sort of
Lana Merry
Mar 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
An autobiographical account of Lauren Drain's excommunication from the Westboro Baptist Church. We all know about the crazy "Baptist" picketers, who have demonstrated their disgust for all things other than themselves.

Drains' stream of conciousness account of survival is at times interesting, but also very repetitive. She clearly needs further counseling, and book editing, as the cult did a fine job of brainwashing her, and she is still deeply hurt.

Throughout her account she speaks from the per
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
I had a lot of conflict with this book. Most of it seemed to circle around how "cool" the Phelps granddaughters were and how "cool" it was to protest. I honestly don't know why Lauren Drain continued to talk to the guy Scott after her church told her not to - to the point of getting kicked out.

My googling told me that a lot of other young people, including the smart and beautiful Megan Phelps, have recently left the church. That's interesting.

But Lauren never seemed to think that anything the WB
Jim Jenkins
May 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cults
Sometimes I think there should be a waiting period between when a person leaves an organization and when they write an account of it. Banished's only major failing is that Ms. Drain is still very much in the process of disentangling her identify from WBC and determining for herself who she wants to be. It's encouraging to see her begin that process, but I can't help but think the book would be even better if we heard from her in five years after she's further along that journey. ...more
Natasha Holme
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
This should have been a magazine article, not a book. There's just not enough material here. There is excessive padding and repetition surrounding a few crumbs of interest.

The ghostwriting is hollow. No personality comes through.

And the ultimate apology for the 'God hates fags' stance that Lauren Drain once wholeheartedly endorsed, sounds homophobic! Full marks instead to Nathan Phelps, son of Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps, who left the church at age eighteen, a straight man who now
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