Dec. 18 – Robert Jones, Jr. – The Prophets: A Novel [Advent Calendar]

The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2021
Advent Calendar
December 18


Robert Jones The ProphetsThe Prophets:
A Novel

Robert Jones, Jr.

Hardback: GP Putnam, 2021
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The overriding message of “The Prophets” is difficult to pin down if it’s not the transparent one: that Black queer love is not meant to thrive within the confines of Western paradigms. Or perhaps it’s in Samuel’s assertion that “[white people] needed his people for one thing and one thing only: to be his words. Ink-black and scribbled unto the forever, for they knew that there was no story without them, no audience to gasp at the drama, rejoice at the happy ending, to applaud, no matter how unskillfully their blood was used.” But this sentiment too sounds familiar. In fact, it’s the premise of Toni Morrison’s critical masterwork, “Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination.”

In the end, it’s not the lessons that will endure but the exceptional storytelling — the powerful experience of reading this novel. There is no minor character in “The Prophets,” which delivers a dazzling gallery of unforgettable portraits. Jones imbues even the brief players, such as Adam, the cart driver fathered by Paul, with rich interior lives and complex histories that energize the slow-paced plot. 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.


*** LISTEN to an interview with the author …



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