One Book South Dakota

2020 Selection: 'Unfollow' by Megan Phelps-Roper

The most recent selection in the 17-year history of the One Book South Dakota program is "Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church" by Megan Phelps-Roper. Since 2003, the OBSD program has encouraged people across South Dakota to read and discuss the same book through the year. Groups receive the current OBSD on loan from the SDHC lending library and host a SDHC scholar for their event. 

Click the button below to host a One Book South Dakota discussion featuring "Unfollow" and a scholar to lead the discussion. More on the selection and author can be found by scrolling down the page. 

!! Due to the coronavirus pandemic, SDHC's grant-sponsored programs will be virtual-only through the end of July, at which point we will reevaluate public safety concerns and decide if it is safe to hold in-person gatherings. Please contact us at info@sdhumanities.org with questions. !!

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Megan Phelps Roper signs copies of her book,

Megan Phelps-Roper signs copies of her book, "Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church" after it was revealed as the 2020 One Book South Dakota Dec. 3.

2020 One Book South Dakota

The 2020 One Book South Dakota is "Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church" by Megan Phelps-Roper of Clark, S.D.

Readers around the state, including those participating in SDHC-funded book club programs, will read and discuss Phelps-Roper's book leading up to the Oct. 2-4, 2020 South Dakota Festival of Books.

The granddaughter of infamous religious zealot and Westboro Baptist Church pastor Fred Phelps, Phelps-Roper grew up protesting funerals with messages like "God Hates Fags" before leaving the Westboro Baptist Church — and by extension, most of her family — behind in 2012 and eventually moving to Clark, S.D., where she lives with her husband Chad and daughter Sølvi. "Unfollow" chronicles her life in Kansas from childhood through adulthood, her departure from the church during her mid-20s, and the unlikely series of events that led her to South Dakota.

Phelps-Roper said after an unveiling celebration that she's eager to share her story with fellow residents of the state she now calls home.

"It was actually six years ago yesterday that I made South Dakota my home and I'm so, so excited to share with the beautiful people of this state how the power of civil dialogue changed my life for the better," she said to the audience members who attended the celebration. "So, thank you again so much for this opportunity and I cannot wait to get started."

Having been featured on "Good Morning America" and excerpted in People Magazine, "Unfollow" is on the national radar. It received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which said, "Phelps-Roper's intelligence and compassion shine throughout with electric prose ... She admirably explicates the worldview of the Westboro Baptist Church while humanizing its members and recounts a classic coming-of-age story without resorting to cliché or condescending to her former self."

Now an educator on topics related to overcoming ideological extremism and improving communication across religious and political divides, Phelps-Roper has spent much of her life in the national spotlight, from appearing on national news programs like "The Tyra Banks Show" during her protest days to performing a Ted Talk with more than eight million views after leaving the church.

"We're pleased to feature such an inspiring story of national significance, and we're especially excited that it's told by one of our state's own residents," said Jennifer Widman, director of the South Dakota Festival of Books, which hosted Phelps-Roper as a presenter in October as the book debuted. "This book will lead to valuable conversations about civil discourse and the miraculous ability of humans to change their minds and habits. Exploring what it means to be human is the cornerstone of our mission."

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Any organization is eligible to participate in One Book South Dakota.

(*Grant fee of $50 required prior to grant approval. Payment options are listed within the application. Sponsoring organizations should have no "open" grants residing in our database. Open grants entail missing paperwork or grant fees from previously approved or completed programs.)