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Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  8,291 ratings  ·  1,167 reviews
As featured on the BBC documentary, 'The Most Hated Family in America' it was an upbringing in many ways normal. A loving home, shared with squabbling siblings, overseen by devoted parents. Yet in other ways it was the precise opposite: a revolving door of TV camera crews and documentary makers, a world of extreme discipline, of siblings vanishing in the night.

Megan Phelps
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published October 8th 2019 by riverrun
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Laura Floyd
Hi. I'm Laura from Chapter 8. This is NOT an unbiased review.

Some framework: I have the great privilege and pleasure to call Megan a beloved friend. I have been by her side - always metaphorically, sometimes literally - since the events of Chapter 8. As a person, I find Megan to be one of the most vibrant, passionate, and brave human beings I have ever met. The strength it took her to not only survive all the events of this book, but also to be the driving force behind them, takes my breath awa
"We behaved as if everyone in all the world were accountable to us, as if they all were steadfastly bound to obey our preaching—because we were the only ones who knew the true meaning of God’s Word. Presidents and kings, judges and governors... —all were subject to our understanding and our judgment. And all the while, we ourselves were accountable to no one..." ~Megan Phelps-Roper

The Westboro Baptist Church is notorious for their invidious messages of hate, especially towards those in the LGBTQ
A surprisingly insightful memoir, Unfollow is so much more than the standard ‘escape-from-a-cult’ narrative. It’s the story of Megan Phelps-Roper growing up in and eventually leaving the repugnant Westboro Baptist Church. Rather than being a salacious My Weird Life book, it is sensitive and generous, and is genuinely enlightening as to why intelligent, educated, rational people can behave so abhorrently in the name of religion.

Megan’s story is one of a gradual awakening, of scales falling from h
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a queer person, attacked in the past by vicious homophobes, I never thought I would cry at a description of Fred Phelps's last days. But I did, I wept as this book ended. The infamous 'Gramps' was subject to the cruelty of the church he created in his final days, while sick and only semi-lucid, taken out of his home and marriage and put into a hospice, alone.

This is a memoir as much about a family as it is about a religious cult known for its GOD HATES FAGS signs. Megan Phelps-Roper is a wond
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." -- Ephesians 4:32

There are books that put me through the proverbial wringer, and there are books that almost cause me to shed a tear or two (but out of 'things will be alright' happiness, not sadness). Phelps-Roper's memoir is one of those books. This is the first great non-fiction book I've read this calendar year.

The author is the granddaughter of the founding minister for the Westboro Baptist Chu
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I, myself, am agnostic/non-religious, but I don't have an issue with others believing in a higher being as in this life, we need to hold dear those things that bring us comfort. The trouble really begins when a religious group turns into a cult. I first heard about Westboro Baptist Church through Louis Theroux's programme some time ago and finding it intriguing I knew when I spotted this that it was right up my street. Megan Phelps-Roper delivers a scathing attack on the indoctrination and behav ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is memoir 4 of my Non-fiction November memoir project.

Unfollow chronicles Megan Phelps' journey out of the Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for anti-gay protests and general awfulness. Megan shows it from the inside (her grandfather started the church) and I think anyone interested in cults or extremism will learn a lot about the tactics used to make people behave in ways that seem so unforgivable, and also to understand the keys to helping them work their way out.

As a person coming fro
Jenna Bookish
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This post will be a little different than most on my page; I’d like to post less of a formal review and really talk more about why this book is so important to me. In terms of quality, I’ll be brief. Megan is eloquent and this subject matter of her memoir is totally riveting. Every time I had to set this book down to take care of real life felt like a chore.

But beyond being an enjoyable read, a lot of what Megan had to say feel so terribly timely. We live in truly weird times. The internet is fo
“God hates fags.” If you know one thing about Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, it’s that this slogan plastered their signs and was part of their armory of in-your-face chants at nationwide protests. Megan Phelps-Roper grew up in the Church, which was founded by her grandfather, Fred Phelps, and made up mostly of her extended family: Phelps had 13 children, and Phelps-Roper is one of 11. In 1989 Phelps learned that nearby Gage Park was a gay cruising spot and wrote in disgust to the may ...more
Canadian Reader
Rating: 2.5–rounded up

Phelps-Roper’s memoir tells of a young woman’s growing up in an extreme, cult-like, and bigoted Christian-fundamentalist church, also providing some general details about how she managed to break away. The book is too long by at least a third. Phelps-Roper includes lots of text messages, plenty of tears, and an excess of scriptural passages—a reader understands quickly enough that church members’ acts were based on literal interpretation of the Bible, and he does not requir
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing

A brave book

Meghan is one of the granddaughter’s of the once afeared
leader and pioneer of Westboro Baptist, after many years she has left and this book details her childhood and life in the church, her decision to leave and then the repercussions of her leaving and finally her life now

I had great sympathy for her throughout the book as basically she was born into a family cult of hate masquerading as Christianity and as a child knew no better and at a very young age was made to go to daily pick
Oct 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can imagine Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church is the biography the author, Megan Phelps-Roper, needed to write, but publishing just the sequence of events doesn't make it nearly as interesting of a read as it could have been. The book is missing scrutiny and the story ends when her healthier life starts.

The author seems very successful at putting herself back at that age in that place. And she touches many unimaginably emotionally sensitive times in her life
Ross Blocher
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Megan Phelps-Roper was born into the Westboro Baptist Church. Normally, attending a Baptist church would be nothing special - that describes some 50 million people in America - but Westboro is set apart for its reputation as (in the words of the Southern Poverty Law Center) "arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America". They're known for public protests with large, garish signs that hurl offensive zingers like "THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS", "YOU'RE GOING TO HELL", "GOD HATES JEWS ...more
Carrie Poppy
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Westboro Baptist Church has been a staple of Topeka, Kansas—and the American religious landscape—for decades. The inflammatory rhetoric of its congregants, who spread condemnation and cheer on tragedy, has brought them both worldwide fame and notoriety. Megan Phelps-Roper, as a granddaughter of the church’s founder, grew up with this as her backdrop, where protesting homosexuality and soldiers’ funerals with vulgar signage were regular occurrences. With an upbringing steeped in extremism, Ph ...more
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Arguably the most extraordinary episodes of Louis Theroux’s documentary series were those in which he visited Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. ‘The Most Hated Family in America’, the activities of the Phelps were not well known, if at all, in the UK before the first programme was broadcast. Extremism in any form is frightening to see but was particularly difficult to watch because so many children were involved. They were raised in an environment of pure hatred portrayed as God’s will. We wond ...more
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing

UNFOLLOW by Megan Phelps-Roper

This is a memoir by the granddaughter of Fred Phelps, the infamous pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church. We get a view of the emergence of the church, Megan's childhood, and her eventual leaving.

1. Wow. Just wow. Not only do I have such a huge respect for Megan, but it definitely makes me stop and remember that although many of us are sickened by the message of the WBC, that these are real people, who have been born into this rel
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Megan Phelps-Roper is the voice we all need to hear in an increasingly polarized, angry and hateful world.

It's so much easier to think of the Westboro Baptist Church as a bunch of evil, stupid loony tunes. It's so much easier to think of a lot of people as evil, stupid loony tunes (and of course some of them are).

But by introducing her family as intelligent, loving and complex human beings (with an abhorrent and hateful worldview) *in effect if not in intent*, Megan forces me to consider that a
Jessica Woodbury
You know when a book involves religion that I am going to start my review with a caveat: my experience with this book was incredibly specific to my own history, brought up in a conservative patriarchal religion that I eventually left after a difficult internal struggle. It was probably the biggest thing that ever happened to me but it was an incredibly lonely and isolating experience. Even so many years later when I've had the opportunity to talk to many people with similar experiences, I don't ...more
After watching Louis Theroux's original visit to the Westboro Baptist Church over a decade ago, and his visit around 2012 (either just before or just after Megan left), I was fascinated to know how someone so embedded in a familial culture of hatred could see the light, as it were, and leave that culture behind, especially knowing that it would likely mean excommunication from the family.

So, needless to say, I am UNBELIEVABLY curious and excited to dive into this one!
I started to understand that doubt was the point - that it was the most basic shift in how I experienced the world. Doubt was nothing more than epistemological humility: a deep and practical awareness that outside our sphere of knowledge there existed information and experiences that might show our position to be in error. Doubt causes us to hold a strong position a bit more loosely, such that an acknowledgment of ignorance or error doesn’t crush our sense of self or leave us totally unmoored if ...more
Second Verse, Same as the First:

Don't feed the damn trolls, kids.

Don't do it.

And while she spoke in vaguer terms at the end, the author's got a good message about tribalism, and a total unwillingness to "give a platform" to speech you deem as "harmful", unwillingness to debate, etc, etc.

I mean, just two days ago I was on Tumblr and- no joke!- witnessed one of the unironic, infamous instances of "Um, excuse me, I thought I should tell you that this person you're reblogging from is a Republican,
Toni Kely-Brown
I’ve always had an interest in the human construct of religion (particularly high control groups). Having really enjoyed Tara Westover’s Education (and this being compared to it), I was disappointed. Megan shares her story of being raised in the Westboro Baptist Church (one of those American fire-and-brimstone religions). She was indoctrinated from birth and sincerely believed she was spreading the truth of "God". She left the church (which meant her family and everything she ever knew) when she ...more
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
It’s hard to imagine what it was like for Megan to grow up in a hateful, deluded and arrogant religion that was invented by her Grandfather but then also be part of a clearly loving, intelligent and well educated family?! This memoir is written with gut clenching honesty, I felt physically sick and so angry at times but Megan’s beautiful writing and search for her ‘truth’ carry you through. Up there with Educated and The Glass Castle as some of the best memoirs of people over coming their twiste ...more
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This book had me feeling things I did not expect to feel...

I remember years ago watching Louis Theroux's two documentaries about the Westboro Baptist Church. Before that, I had no idea these people even existed. Watching the documentaries for that first time, I can remember feeling uncomfortable and intensely angry, and I remember even laughing at some moments because I just couldn't believe the nonsense coming out of these people's mouths.

See, it's always been easy for me to dismiss and even ri
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley-read
Book Review: Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church
Author: Megan Phelps-Roper
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Review Date: May 16, 2019

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m aware that I had had access to the book months before publication. I usually wait until closer publication time to read and review NetGalley books. But in this case, I was very interested in the book and didn’t
I was slack-jawed to realize that there was more than one way to read the text—that from one passage, multiple meanings could be deduced without contradicting the language in the original. That interpretation was a phenomenon with real implications for believers.

That quote basically summarizes why we are here today and why this book was written. Before reading this book I did not know about Megan and the Westboro Baptist Church. I decided to give this book a read because of the blurb and beca
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wow, this book was so riveting I sped right through it!

When I first read about WBC in the news, I wrote them off as either lunatics or trolls. As with most things in life, things are more nuanced than we would like to believe.

Megan's book is so well-written, and it is full of surprises.

I love the way she uses frequent scripture quotations throughout to show how much power the beliefs of the church had over every aspect of the members' thoughts and actions.

Really interesting with a powerful me
Rebecca Crunden
... that open discourse and dialectic is the most effective enabler of the evolution of individuals and societies. That the answer to bad ideas is to publicly reason against them. To advocate for and propagate better ones. And that it is dangerous to vest any central authority with broad powers to limit the bounds of acceptable discussion. Because these powers lend themselves to authoritarian abuse, the creation of echo chambers, and the marginalisation of ideas that are true but unpopular. In s ...more
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-instagram
I remembered Megan Phelps-Roper from the BBC documentary, The Most Hated Family in America, so when I saw she left the church and wrote about it, I had to check it out. Although they suck, I was always fascinated with the WBC members. They weren't isolated on a compound; they lived in normal society with their kids going to public school, college, and even law school. They were educated and intellectual. It's just a different kind of story.

Unfollow is mainly the story of Megan's 24 years in
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“The discovery of internal inconsistency and hypocrisy as an important first step in seeing outside of group dogma.” 1 likes
“Doubt was nothing more than an epistemological humility: a deep and practical awareness that outside our sphere of knowledge there existed information and experiences that might show our position to be in error. Doubt causes us to hold a strong position a bit more loosely, such that an acknowledgment of ignorance or error doesn't crush our sense of self or leave us totally unmoored if our position proves untenable. Certainty is the opposite: it hampers inquiry and hinders growth. It teaches us to ignore evidence that contradicts our ideas, and encourages us to defend our position at all costs, even as it reveals itself as indefensible. Certainty sees compromise as weak, hypocritical, evil, suppressing empathy and allowing us to justify inflicting horrible pain on others.” 1 likes
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