The Prophets

Regular price $ 18.00

by Robert Jones Jr.

G.P. Putnam's Sons

02/28/2022, paperback

SKU: 9780593085691


A singular and stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence.

Isaiah was Samuel's and Samuel was Isaiah's. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man -- a fellow slave -- seeks to gain favor by preaching the master's gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel's love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation's harmony.

With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr., fiercely summons the voices of slaver and enslaved alike, from Isaiah and Samuel to the calculating slave master to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries -- of ancestors and future generations to come -- culminates in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets fearlessly reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.


"An extraordinary, vivid novel written with heart and imagination.... The Prophets really dazzles." -- NPR, Weekend Edition

"[An] often lyrical and rebellious love story...Jones seems to be reaching across centuries of blood and memory in an attempt to shake awake a warrior armed with weapon and wit that lies sleeping in his imagined, beloved, Black reader....Jones proves himself an amazing lyricist, pulling poetry out of every image and shift of light....What a fiery kindness that ending, this book. A book I entered hesitantly, cautiously, I exited anew--something in me unloosed, running. May this book cast its spell on all of us, restore to us some memory of our most warrior and softest selves." -- The New York Times Book Review

"A lyrical and rebellious love story." -- The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)

"With this epic novel, Jones, who is known for his blogging and Twitter presence as Son of Baldwin, marks his entry into the literary arena... The greatest gift of this novel is its efforts to render emotional interiority to enslaved people who are too often depicted either as vessels for sadistic violence or as noble, superhuman warriors for liberation... Jones's debut novel is an important contribution to American letters, Black queer studies and the present moment's profound reckoning with the legacy of America's racialized violence." -- The Washington Post

"A stunning debut novel . . . Jones, Jr.'s writing hearkens to the lyricism of Toni Morrison, evoking pain and suffering as well as truth and love. -- San Francisco Bay Times

"The Prophets, Jones' debut novel, is a marvel, as much an extraordinary queer love story as a devastating and inimitable portrayal of the agony endured by slaves in the antebellum South. Jones' stunning storytelling crafts deep and powerful portraits... Each chapter is its own work of art, delving deep into each character's heart and mind and creating a rhythmic tapestry of profound love and unbearable pain... The Prophets is a novel, but feels almost like poetry, with every word holding a weight and power that will continue to astound those who lose themselves in its pages." -- Associated Press

"Along comes Robert Jones, Jr., who taps into his brilliant dome to unearth an engrossing and magically written debut novel... The Prophets is packed with otherworldly, and supremely artful storytelling, and readers will surely get lost in a radiant romance. But most important, Jones adds to the growing body of literature that reimagines slavery--Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, Ta-Nehisi Coates' The Water Dancer -- and to queer theory, in which Jones' predecessor James Baldwin shed light on, disrupted and intersected with race." -- USA Today

"[A] scintillating portrait of Black queerness and a bleak account of slavery in the antebellum South, captured in Jones' lyrical yet incisive prose." -- TIME

"Robert Jones, Jr.'s debut novel The Prophets feels like it might be a classic one day... Illuminates Black experience by using effortless and artful entry into multiple consciousnesses, biblical allusion and supernatural elements... Audre Lorde wrote 'Unless one lives and loves in the trenches, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.' An ambitious debut, The Prophets is right there in the trenches, firing shots." ­-- San Francisco Chronicle

"A striking debut... Exceptional storytelling... There is no minor character in The Prophets, which delivers a dazzling gallery of unforgettable portraits... And by highlighting lives over plantation life -- the humanity of the slaves over the inhumanity of slavery -- the narrative remains centered on a Blackness with an imagination that doesn't need whiteness in order to exist, breathe or even be free." -- Los Angeles Times

"[A] panoramic vision of love and cruelty... An unsparing portrayal of a barbaric system." --The New Yorker

"In his powerful debut novel, The Prophets, Robert Jones, Jr. depicts in exquisite, often excruciating detail the social ruination that slavery brought to the antebellum South... Jones takes a discursive approach, lacing his main story with chapters inspired by the Bible (mainly the Old Testament) or fueled by incantatory tales from pre-colonial Africa... Allow them to cast their spell. Together they bring historical sweep, magic and leavening flights of lyricism to the blood, sweat and tears of an earthbound world... Labeling The Prophets a 'gay slave story' fails to fully describe its ambition and imaginative richness. Jones' astounding achievement is to open a world where love somehow dares to speak its name alongside our greatest national shame." -- Minneapolis Star Tribune

About the Author:

Robert Jones, Jr. is a writer from New York City. He received his BFA in creative writing, and MFA in fiction from Brooklyn College. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Essence, and The Paris Review. He is the creator and curator of the social-justice, social-media community Son of Baldwin, which has over 275,000 members across platforms. The Prophets is his debut novel.