Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church

Lauren Drain, Author, Lisa Pulitzer, With
Lauren Drain, with Lisa Pulitzer. Grand Central, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4555-1242-3
Reviewed on: 12/24/2012
Release date: 03/05/2013
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-1-4555-1241-6
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4555-1243-0
Hardcover - 978-1-61969-280-0
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-4789-7852-7
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A move with her family to Topeka, Kans., in 2001 precipitated years of immersion in a virulently antigay, hate-fueled church, which Drain, now in her late 20s, depicts in this somewhat incongruously matter-of-fact, emotionally one-note memoir. The Drain family moved from Florida at the instigation of her father, a documentary filmmaker whose critical work about the notorious gay rights–picketing Westboro Baptist Church evolved into a highly admiring portrait of this small Calvinistic sect that believed in the imminent end of the world, the frightening wrath of God before the innate sin of mankind, with a slim few chosen for “election.” A small, insular sect started in 1955 by the loud curbside preacher Fred Phelps, the WBC was mostly run by his dozen children and grandchildren, who all lived in a compound around the Topeka church, maintained tight control over communal behavior, and regularly picketed events such as gay pride and AIDS marches with incendiary language and signs designed to provoke outrage (e.g., “God hates fags”). Obedience and conformity were pillars of the church, and increasingly hard to swallow for the then-teenage author whose few forays into adolescent flirting got her branded a “whore.” Her narrative of these horrifying pickets are detailed (“we became almost possessed”) and particularly chilling in her recitation of being absolutely cast out by her own family without any compunction. Agent, Lisa Grubka, Fletcher & Co. (Mar.)
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