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Interview: 'The Prophets' Raises Love Above All Else

'I was paying tribute to Black womanhood...I rendered their voices as authentically as I possibly could...'
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  • The Prophets
  • 'I was paying tribute to Black womanhood...I rendered their voices as authentically as I possibly could...'

Publisher's Summary

Finalist for the National Book Award

Instant New York Times best seller 

"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 new kind of epic...A grand achievement...While The Prophets' dreamy realism recalls the work of Toni Morrison...its penetrating focus on social dynamics stands out more singularly.” (Entertainment Weekly)

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.

©2021 Robert Jones, Jr. (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

Longlisted for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

Shortlisted for the Crook's Corner Book Prize

Number one Indie Next pick 

One of: 

The New York Times Book Review's Books to Watch for in January 

The Washington Post's 10 Books to Read in January 

Real Simple's Best New Books to Read in 2021 (So Far) 

USA Today’s Best Books of 2021 So Far

PopSugar's Best Books of 2021

Time's 10 New Books You Should Read in January

O, the Oprah Magazine's 32 LGBTQ Books That Will Change the Literary Landscape in 2021

Cosmopolitan’s New LGBTQ+ Books to Add to Your Reading List

Entertainment Weekly’s 14 Books to Read During Black History Month

Good Morning America’s Best Books to Read this January 

Marie Claire's Must-Read 2021 Book Releases by Black Authors 

CNN’s Best Books of January

NBC News’ 10 Best Fiction Books by Black Authors in 2021

Harper's Bazaar's Winter's Best New Releases

Reader's Digest's Most Anticipated Books of 2021

BuzzFeed’s Most Anticipated Historical Fiction of 2021

Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2021

Electric Literature's Most Anticipated Debuts of 2021

The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of 2021

Thrillist’s 30 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2021

"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) 

Featured Article: The Best Black Audiobook Narrators to Listen to Right Now


A skilled performer has the ability to take the written word to new heights, infusing an author’s work with empathy, warmth, and excitement. And representation matters just as much for audio as it does for any visual medium: listeners should feel and hear themselves in art driven by powerful performers and authentic deliveries. We’ve gathered a few of the best Black audiobook narrators in the business and their can't-miss performances.

Editor's Pick

A must-listen for fans of Toni Morrison
Talk about setting a high bar for 2021— The Prophets is a debut novel by a writer with an extraordinary gift for storytelling. Robert Jones, Jr.’s prose is lyrical, challenging, beautiful, and horrifying. This epic historical fiction tells the story of Samuel and Isaiah—two enslaved men in love on a Deep South plantation. They have always been known as an inseparable pair, but as their romantic love is revealed to others, they begin to find themselves in increasing danger. Told from the perspective of an array of characters, the narrative is largely in third person, with each chapter coming from a different perspective. Mixed in are chapters told in first person plural—where the old gods of Africa, watching over the descendants of those who worshiped them, share wisdom and serve as witnesses. This is where I became completely mesmerized by narrator Karen Chilton’s performance. I listened, and relistened, and will surely go back again to reexperience the profound beauty of this masterpiece. —Tricia F., Audible Editor

What listeners say about The Prophets

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LOVED IT

Finally finished ‘The Prophets’ by Robert Jones Jr aka Son of Baldwin. Let me first say that this book had some of most beautiful writing that I’ve ever read. On multiple occasions, I stopped and reread a sentence, purely out of amazement for the word play. I toggled back and forth between the physical book and audible recording. The narration by black woman’s soulful voice made me feel like she loved the characters and me! 😂

Secondly, the story touched every emotion for me: anxiety, fear, elation, love, heartbreak, despair. At times, I had to take week long breaks in between chapters, just to settle myself. Then, just when I thought that I was prepared for the ending....I.WAS.NOT!

Finally, even as a fictional story, the perils that black people have faced through the centuries resonated with me and rung my core like a bell. I love us.

GO AND GET YOUR COPY
ALL THE PRAISE ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
ALL THE STARS ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

7 people found this helpful

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lyrical

“The Prophets” by Robert Jones Jr is a lyrical love story of two gay boys during antebellum time in Mississippi. Jones wanted to write a story about gay slaves because none have been written. What was breathtaking to me was his lyrical prose while writing of the evils and horrifying conditions of slavery. His melodious tones make the indignities deeper in the soul.

It took a long time for me to get into the story. I listened to the audible production narrated by Karen Chiton’s soothing voice. It was her voice that kept me listening when I might have given up. Her voice is pitch perfect.

Jones writes a beautiful love story of two souls attempting to find dignity in the hellish conditions they find themselves. The slaves themselves and their lives are the focal of the story. The plantation owners occupy less of the story, as it’s mostly the slaves finding ways to survive unwieldly commands and ridiculous demands. It’s a story of survival.

This isn’t really a hard edged slave story, for me anyway. The prose creates a literary, almost dream-like (at times) story of perseverance during a horrendous time in Black history. It’s difficult to explain how lyrical prose affects blinding cruelty. Jones has written a deeply moving story.

6 people found this helpful

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Excellent

Wonderful story and beautifully narrated. I couldn’t put it down. The prose is woven in wonderful detail like an intricate quilt. The characters came alive with depth and emotion. A must hear for the story and the narration.

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Brilliant!

The words are silk and the performance is outstanding. I expected nothing less from Robert Jones Jr., but this piece has far exceeded my expectations. Thank you, Mr. Jones.

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Fresh Old News

Just when you figure you've read enough slave literature- something old, something borrowed, something blue

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Disjointed & hard to follow

I gave it my best shot but I had to put it down. It's hard to follow. Perhaps it would be better if I had a physical book in my hands to go back & re-read again but in audiobook format, I just felt like I was always lost.

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Amazing story.

Amazing story, beautiful narration. Unfortunately, there were a few audio quality issues/inconsistencies at times, but overall a really fantastic listen.

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Compelling

A truly compelling story that is more truth than fiction. The writing is damn impressive and flows from his pen like it was Robert’s blood writing it. Each character is fully developed and his writing makes you feel like you know their inner thoughts.

Can’t wait for the next chapter in his book of life.

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Brilliant elegant but

Oh I loved the first 80%; I wish Jones had made a different plot decision with Samuel and Timothy. An ambitious and stunning book. Some Morrison; some Angels in America. Lots of originality. But....

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Disappointing

After the expectations and reviews--I really anticipated appreciating this more that I did--hopefully his next ventures will be more fulfilling for me.

1 person found this helpful