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Reading guide for The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.

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The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.

The Prophets

by Robert Jones Jr.
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  • First Published:
  • Jan 5, 2021
  • Paperback:
  • Feb 2022
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. The Prophets is told from the perspective of slaver and enslaved alike. How did the shift in voice impact your experience reading the novel? Were there any view-points that surprised you the most?
  2. Before Amos's teachings, Isaiah and Samuel were not an aberration—nor was their relationship the result of trauma. Talk about the representation of queer love in The Prophets. How is it contextu-alized within the novel, as well as within the larger canon of Black literature?
  3. Women play a pivotal role in this novel. How do women—such as Maggie, Essie, Be Auntie, Sarah, and Puah—impact the larger community of the plantation? Dis-cuss how femininity and female strength are represented. How do women relate to one another and to themselves?
  4. The voices of distant ancestors are heard throughout the novel. How do the whis-pers of the ancestors guide the characters? How do they guide the reader?
  5. Differences in class are ever present on the plantations. How does class create tension and distinction between individuals—for example, between white mem-bers like Paul and James? Does James's lower class impact his relationship to the enslaved? If so, in what ways?
  6. Names play an important role in this novel. For example: neither Isaiah nor Samuel are birth names; the plantation is referred to as both Elizabeth and Empty. How does a name impose significance in The Prophets? How does it attribute or strip one of their identity?
  7. Part of The Prophets focuses on King Akusa and the colonization of the Af-rican continent. How does this story of the enslavement of native African tribes connect to the enslavement of those on Empty? Did the juxtaposition of the two narratives impact the way you thought about Empty, and the intergenerational experience of slavery?
  8. It is all but confirmed that Adam is a Hal-ifax. How does his biracial heritage influ-ence his sense of identity and his role at Empty? In what way do his feelings of belonging, or lack thereof, help him understand and relate to Isaiah and Samuel?
  9. How is physical space utilized in the novel? In what ways are distinct places—the barn, the Big House, the river—used to represent places of refuge, danger, or op-portunity? How do the characters relate to and inhabit these spaces?Why do you think Timothy becomes fixated on Isaiah and Samuel?
  10. How does Timothy's experience in the North impact his view of the plantation, and of the two men? Do you think this makes him more sympathetic, or perhaps a more dangerous evil?
  11. After Amos betrays Isaiah and Samuel to Paul, the story takes an explosive turn. What tensions do you think led to this point? Do you think the rebellion was inevitable?
  12. Discuss Isaiah's final vision of Samuel. What do you think happens to Isaiah in the end?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of G.P. Putnam's Sons. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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