- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: riverrun (October 3, 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1787477991
- ISBN-13: 978-1787477995
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 381 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2.729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Unfollow Paperback – 3 October 2019
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Megan Phelps-Roper is a beautiful writer, and her journey - from Westboro to becoming one of the most empathetic, thoughtful, humanistic writers around - is exceptional and inspiring. I met Megan shortly after she left her church. She said, 'I want to do good, but I don't know how.' With Unfollow she's figured out how. Unfollow is a book that speaks eloquently to our divided times: the tale of a young girl born into a family whose name is a byword for bigotry and how she grew into a compassionate young woman, leaving her family behind and forging an entirely new understanding of the world and her place in it. Full of insight, thoughtfulness and vivid detail, it is also the debut of a gifted new writer. For anyone who enjoyed Hillbilly Elegy or Educated, Unfollow is an essential text, a testament to the fact that there is no-one immune to childhood indoctrination, but also to the ever-present possibility of profound change. Megan Phelps-Roper has guts - maybe more guts than can comfortably be contained within one adult human. First, as a member of the scary Westboro Baptist Church, she had the guts to get into the faces of people she disapproved of, gays and Jews and less fiery Christians, and tell them why God hated them. Then - and this is where you and I come in - she had the guts to listen and to think, and to decide that everything she had built her life upon was wrong. This is a beautiful, gripping book about a singular soul, and an unexpected redemption. Megan Phelps-Roper is one of the most inspiring women I have ever met. If you want to see how a girl raised on religious fanaticism and sectarian hatred can be cured by the power of honest reasoning, read this book. Megan Phelps-Roper finds a way to tell the story of the girl she was raised to be from the perspective of the woman she became, without rewriting history or losing touch with the earnestness that made everything in her world seem ok, if not downright righteous. Despite a fundamental transformation of epic proportions, Megan's core, her soul, remains the same throughout: kind, passionate, and open. Her process is wildly brave and incredibly thoughtful and this book gives us the incomparable insight into a world we all, and yet, none of us, know. This book will leave you holding your heart. Rarely do you come across someone with the courage and clarity of Megan Phelps-Roper. From her story, we can learn things sorely needed in our age: empathy, openness, and how we can best build bridges across divided lines.
About the Author
Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church: the Topeka, Kansas religious group known internationally for its daily public protests against members of the LGBT community, Jews, the military, other Christians, and countless others. As a child, teenager, and early twenty-something, she participated in the picketing almost daily and spearheaded the use of social media in the church. Dialogue with 'enemies' online proved instrumental in her deradicalization, and she left the church and her entire way of life in November 2012. Since then she has become an advocate for people and ideas she was taught to despise - especially the value of empathy in dialogue with people across ideological lines. She lives in South Dakota.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
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 all the people I want to write off might also be intelligent, loving and complex human beings.
Furthermore, by writing about how good-faith human connection and engagement eventually changed her mind, Megan has challenged me to approach everyone in the world around me AS IF good faith human connection and engagement is the only way for me to ever get my point of view across or actually understand theirs.
Taking this message to heart makes the world a better place. It makes my life more interesting and keeps me constantly learning. It leads me to have conversations across differences I would have blanched at before. It leads me to a place where I can actually understand the position of people I disagree with so we can at least have a conversation in good faith.
Hearing Megan and Grace's story has made me a less hateful person. For that I will be eternally grateful to them. Everyone should read this book.
Acceptance and agreement are two different things. We don't have to agree on ANYTHING to love one another.
"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." (Phelps-Roper, Megan. Unfollow (p. 277). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition. )
If she can change, anyone can change, and if there's anything this book makes clear it's that compassion is the bridge that will take us there.
I'm so deeply impressed by how candid Phelps-Roper's prose is. With compassion and humility, she presents the whole truth of loving and leaving the Westboro Baptist Church.
We might expect such a book to be filled with spite and retribution, but there's none, only compassion.
We might also expect such a book to be filled with self-aggrandizing lies, but there's none, only humility.
This is a story told in good faith by a person who is deeply concerned and honestly motivated to change minds.
She's walked the path, and now guides others.
"Westboro is not unique," saving her rebuke not for her family or for the church, but for ideological extremism itself, and the human nature that makes us susceptible to it.
She rightfully recognizes these issues are much bigger than her experience of them.
"In truth, that idea is common, widespread, and on display everywhere humans gather, from religious circles to political ones."
The flawed nature at the heart of the Westboro Baptist Church exists in every one of us.
We all like to believe that if we were drawn or born into to an extreme ideology that we would have the courage and good sense to get out, but we are all surely wrong.
Most of us could never do what Megan did. We wander beaten paths, following the footsteps of many.
Megan though, and others like her have no clearly defined path. They must contend with the brambles and forge their own.
That's never easy, especially with an entire family and community beckoning you to cease your fool's errand and return to them.
Imagine the temptation!
How easy it would be to turn back and/or turn away entirely and walk the beaten path back to where you began.
It's what we cowards do all the time. It's why the world and people in it never change.
But, what Megan did was transformative.
Not only for her, but for the world around her. Stories like this give me such hope for humanity.
Maybe, just maybe, even in the age of Trump, amidst all the lies, gaslighting, toxicity, bigotry, and hate, there's still hope we might rise above ourselves and find salvation.
"Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding."