By Robert Jones Jr.
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 masterfully 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] often lyrical and rebellious love story embedded within a tender call-out to Black readers, reaching across time and form to shake something old, mighty in the blood…The Prophets attempts to give its Black characters and Black audience the same gifts—our right names, our Black knowing, a freedom outside of time and circumstance....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
“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
“Robert Jones, Jr.’s debut novel The Prophets feels like it might be a classic one day….Kaleidoscopic…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