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The Prophets  By  cover art

The Prophets

By: Robert Jones Jr.
Narrated by: Karen Chilton
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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

Best Book of the Year: NPR • The Washington Post • Boston Globe • TIME • USA Today • Entertainment Weekly • Real Simple • Parade • Buzzfeed • Electric Literature • LitHub • BookRiot • PopSugar • Goop • Library Journal • BookBub • KCRW

Finalist for the National Book Award

One of the New York Times' Notable Books of the Year

One of the New York Times' Best Historical Fiction of the Year

Instant New York Times Best Seller

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
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: LGBTQ+

Critic reviews

Winner of the Publishing Triangle’s Edmund White Award
Finalist for the Ernest J. Gaines Award For Literary Excellence
Finalist for the Crook's Corner Book Prize
Finalist for the Prix Médicis Etrange
Finalist for the Chautauqua Prize

Longlisted for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

Longlisted for the Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award

"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

“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

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