Robert Jones, Jr. with Maisy Card
Please join us for a virtual program with Robert Jones, Jr., the author of an extraordinary, newly published debut novel, The Prophets (Putnam). He will be appearing in virtual conversation with novelist Maisy Card, herself author of last year’s critically acclaimed These Ghosts are Family. We've never read anything quite like The Prophets, a novel which eloquently portrays the love and intimacy between two men during a time in which relationships (and personhood) were not respected or acknowledged by those enslaving them.
Here's some of what Robert Jones, Jr. has to say about his book: “As a Black queer person who has felt so cut off from my lineage, the question I wanted to ask: Did Black queer people exist in the distant past? Of course they did, but it’s often the way of a traumatized people to erase the past, shun excavation of it, deny it ever existed, or pretend that it looked some other erroneous but glorious way. This is understandable. Who would want to explain the horrors of yesteryear with no way of stopping the pain from returning? Terrified that I might discover the answer, I went searching. I read every book about the pre-colonial African societies and the American antebellum period that I could get my hands on. In pre-colonial African historical data, queerness was often presented clinically, as convenience in the absence of the opposite sex, as custom or ritual. In the antebellum period queerness was mentioned briefly at most, and almost always as something despicable or synonymous with rape. This prompted another question: What about love? Love, in all of its permutations, is the discovery at the heart of The Prophets; hard or soft; withheld or freely given; healing or wounding, but always revealing. Love is also why I wrote this book: for the ancestors who were wiped from the record, who spoke to me when I almost didn’t listen. To give me a line to walk back to and a tree to lean against and shake when the mood strikes. Sometimes, I don’t even think of The Prophets as a book but as a prayer, a testimony, maybe even a witnessing.”
“The Prophets is easily the most superb tutorial in writing and loving I have ever read. I’m convinced Morrison, Baldwin, and Bambara sat around sipping wine one night, talking about the day we’d read an offering like The Prophets. Robert Jones, Jr. is a once-in-a-generation cultural worker whose art thankfully will be imitated for generations.” –Kiese Laymon. Kiese Laymon also sang praise for Maisy Card’s splendid novel, These Ghosts Are Family: “I suspect many readers will talk about the consequences of unspoken generational trauma in These Ghosts Are Family, but I'm most amazed by the deft use of characterization, place and embodiment here. This book is a master class in writing home as a collection of odd spirits and a mobile metaphor.”