cover image Girl on a Wire

Girl on a Wire

Libby Phelps and Sara Stewart. Skyhorse, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5107-0325-4

Phelps tells the riveting story of growing up in “the Most Hated Family in America,” led by her grandfather and family patriarch Fred Phelps, who founded Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kans. Seeking out the spotlight for controversial religious reasons, Libby’s family rose to national prominence after protesting the funerals of 9/11 victim Father Mychal Judge, murdered teen Matthew Shepherd, and numerous fallen U.S. soldiers with signs that read “God Hates Fags,” “Fags Doom Nations,” and “God Sent IEDs”—arguing that these deaths were the consequence of American society’s move away from Christian values. At one time Phelps agreed with that position, but, over the course of the book, she reveals how her thinking has changed. At age 25, she had a traumatic break with the church and her family after an argument with her father. “On the outside,” she writes, “I felt terror at what might become of me when the day of reckoning was at hand.” Phelps now finds ways to “undo the legacy of hate” she helped to create, including by volunteering with Equality House, the LGBT-advocacy office located across from Westboro Baptist Church. From the inside of one of America’s most infamous churches, Phelps delivers a captivating study of how free speech can become a vehicle for cruelty and hatred. (Aug.)