Megan Phelps-Roper grew up as a cherished daughter of Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for its inflammatory rhetoric and protest signs. The third of 11 children, she joined her first picket line at age five, and spent her childhood and adolescence fervently spreading--and believing in the rightness of--Westboro's message. But in her 20s, her engagement with Westboro's critics on social media made her wonder if the church had a monopoly on rightness.
Her memoir, Unfollow, chronicles her upbringing in her family and the church (which comprised many of the same people), the years she spent working for the church alongside her mother and her gradual disillusionment with, and detachment from, her former community. Now an activist and speaker who encourages thoughtful dialogue among those who disagree, Phelps-Roper paints a nuanced portrait of Westboro as a group of human beings capable of both spreading hate-filled messages and living out their deep love for one another.
In a time of polarizing rhetoric, Phelps-Roper is a gentle, powerful voice speaking for compassion and thoughtful conversation. She explores the contradictions in Westboro's thinking, and is candid about her own ability (and later her increasing struggle) to gloss over the cognitive dissonance required to remain "faithful." By leaving Westboro and wrestling through several dark, lonely seasons, Phelps-Roper has found her way to a different understanding of the world: one filled with humility and hope instead of hatred. Unfollow is a fascinating insider's account of life at Westboro and an urgent, timely call for dialogue and understanding. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams