Book REVIEW: The Prophets : Robert Jones Jr

March 2, 2021

The Prophets

Robert Jones Jr

This powerful exploration of the magnificent unconditional power of love between two black queer enslaved men is stunning, its lyrical beauty contrasting the brutal realities of the protagonist’s lives.  Samuel and Isaiah are two enslaved men on a Mississippi plantation, tending the livestock and each other, dedicated to each other since boys, encircling their own meagre private intimacy with solace and trust in the vicious brutality of their self-appointed masters.  The emotion on the pages is raw, real and leaches into your skin, Jones writes horrific scenes of the believable daily life of the lovers.  Their passionate love powers them but when Amos, an older slave becomes evangelical, spreading the master’s gospel, poisoning that which was always accepted, turning people against each other, dividing, denying and destroying, what they have is judged as sinful and threatening.  Jones brings the many voices of the planation strongly, wrapping the strength of the enduring slave women tightly into the narrative as the tension rises. Giving voices to the mysterious spiritual prophets and delving into the history of the ancestral Kosongo people and their fluid ideas of sexuality and gender, a culture destroyed by brutal interventions.

Examining the ambitions of the slave master and the toxic eroding heritage of slavery and the legacy of generations of abuse, both on the enslaved and those that lord it over them.  The explosion when it comes is astonishing in its depth of suffering, Jones’s prose picks out simple small moments which expand with fractal pain to detonate in the mind, the suffering is enormous, the caustic reduction of people to things, hopes to dust, bodies to ash, shatters you.

This book is astonishing, but through this awful exploration of exploitation and vicious power runs a thread of pure refulgent hope, of love’s redemption and the power of standing with your lover in the present,  stanch in the face of evil, understanding that nothing is stronger than love given freely and trembling with the unassailable volcanic power of being cherished by another human being. It gives Black Queer love a triumphant, raging, unstoppable voice, fierce with passion, undefiled by others, with a deep and culturally distinct African history, and true to its own sacred self. Written with an inventive, redolent prose.

Go read this, it’s a superb debut from this young black queer writer.

Out Now

Hardback £18.99

For more info or to order see the publishers website here: