A Selection of Writing by Robert Jones Jr.: Background information when reading The Prophets

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The Prophets

by Robert Jones Jr.

The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. X
The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2021, 400 pages

    Feb 2022, 416 pages


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A Selection of Writing by Robert Jones Jr.

This article relates to The Prophets

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Robert Jones Jr. The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. is a work of historical fiction that follows the relationship between Isaiah and Samuel, two enslaved men in love on a plantation in the Antebellum South. While the book is Jones' debut novel, he is an established essayist, blogger and cultural critic. Below are a few notable examples of his published work.

"Let It Burn," which was published in The Paris Review in June of 2020 during protests following the murder of George Floyd, reflects on the general phenomenon of antiblackness in the United States and more specifically on police brutality. Jones points out that the American police force cannot be separated from its origins in Antebellum South networks dedicated to controlling Black people through state-sanctioned violence. He asserts that resistance is necessary "even if defeat is imminent," saying that he does not believe that liberation is possible "through superficial and incremental reforms," and uses the image of holding a flame to a tick's body as a metaphor for dismantling corrupt institutions rather than attempting to fix a system that is inherently broken.

In 2016, Essence published Jones' review of the film Moonlight, which would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, titled "A Necessary Story: How 'Moonlight' Allows Black Manhood To Exist Beyond Toxic Masculinity." The piece praises the film for creating a complex story of romantic love between Black men, and comments on how Moonlight shows manhood "as a space where vulnerability and imagination are acceptable."

In "Dear President: What You Need to Know About One Black Body," a short 2016 essay for WNYC that is also available in audio format, Jones shares a personal account of how his sexuality affected his relationship with his grandfather. In the process, he reflects on how Black men internalize the concept of manhood, and how his grandfather's existence as a Black man in America may have led him to be less accepting of Jones' identity as a gay man. The story ends on a positive note, with Jones recalling how his grandfather's attitude towards him seemed to shift later on.

In his 2015 essay "Humanity Not Included: DC's Cyborg and the Mechanization of the Black Body" for the culture blog The Middle Spaces, Jones analyzes the comic superhero Cyborg and shows that his physical makeup and social positioning reveal harmful stereotypes and ideologies that have gone into his creation. Jones demonstrates how the character can be viewed in terms of the real-world effect white supremacy has on Black people. Through his in-depth look at Cyborg, he also takes the opportunity to explore how marginalized superhero characters are generally limited by the imaginations of white creators and used to support rather than challenge white supremacy.

Jones has published some of his writing under the name "Son of Baldwin," as a tribute to the writer James Baldwin, and has created a social justice media brand of the same name.

by Elisabeth Cook

Photo of Robert Jones Jr. by Alberto Vargas, RainRiver, courtesy of Penguin Random House

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This article relates to The Prophets. It first ran in the January 20, 2021 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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