Robert Jones, Jr.
Creator of Son of Baldwin and author of The Prophets
Photo Credit: Alberto Vargas RainRiver Images
About Robert Jones
Robert Jones, Jr. is the creator and curator of Son of Baldwin, an online community which aims to be an honest, inclusive, and self-reflecting space to critically discuss topics such as race, sexuality, gender, and disability from the Black queer perspective. While reading James Baldwin’s “Here Be Dragons” as a freshman at Brooklyn College, Jones was inspired to continue Baldwin’s work of dismantling the human-made structures that oppress marginalized groups. He created Son of Baldwin in 2008 as a place to understand and combat injustices and inequalities through meaningful conversations on oppression and privilege. Son of Baldwin currently has over 250,000 followers across all of its various platforms.
Robert Jones, Jr. has become well-known for his unapologetic yet sincere and relatable tone. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times and Essence. Jones has also spoken about navigating his way through the complexities of Black manhood as a Black queer man. He has also discussed his experience as a Black writer in a white patriarchal America. In 2018, he was featured in The New York Times Magazine as one of the “Black Male Writers For Our Time,” alongside 31 other distinguished writers who are producing literature essential to understanding America.
In Jones’s entry into literary fiction, he delivers a powerful historical love story that explores Black homosexuality and gender fluidity, centering around the forbidden relationship between two enslaved Black young men on a cotton plantation in antebellum Mississippi. The Prophets is the reimagining of America’s slavery and exploitation that has fostered violence, greed, cruelty, and injustice. Beautifully written with lyrical yet incisive prose, The Prophets was named as one of the 2021 books to read by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, and TIME, and received rave reviews from critics.
Robert Jones, Jr. lives in New York City. He received his B.F.A., magna cum laude, in creative writing, and M.F.A. in fiction from Brooklyn College.
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The Testimony of the Black Queer Person
Often marginalized and minimized or asked to give full loyalty to one or the other of the intersecting identities, the Black Queer Person often walks a fine line in Black communities that can often to hostile to LGTBQIA+ identities and LGBTQIA+ communities that can often be hostile to Black identities. Where, then, does the Black Queer Person find home? In this engaging conversation, Robert Jones, Jr. speaks about finding that home inside himself.
The Sole Black Writer in a Writing Workshop with White People
What is it like to be in a classroom where you are the sole Black writer and relying on white writers to offer feedback that might offend them because you are often writing from your experience as a Black person in a white supremacist capitalist patriarchal society, which means you are writing against the master narrative and implicating those who have been taught to believe that their perspectives are the natural and default perspectives of humankind? Robert Jones, Jr. speaks about his daunting, but also instructive experience.
Praise for Robert Jones
Robert Jones, Jr. was a superb speaker who prepared a serious lecture specifically for this event. He was responsive, open, and generous in the virtual class session with Marygrove high school students, who asked wonderful questions and received thoughtful answers. In every interaction—at the reception/dinner and book signing—he engaged seriously with audience members and spoke appreciatively of their engagement with his work. The lecture audience was very much taken with him.— Marygrove Conservancy
Praise for The Prophets
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
A lyrical and rebellious love story.— The New York Times Book Review(Editors’ Choice)
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
Robert Jones, Jr.’s debut novel The Prophets feels like it might be a classic one day….Kaleidoscopic…Audre Lorde wrote ‘Unless one lives and loves in the trenches, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.’ An ambitious debut, The Prophets is right there in the trenches, firing shots.— San Francisco Chronicle
Extraordinary. . . . [A] defiantly poetic story of great love growing in a place of hate. . . . Jones handles the multiple moving parts and perspectives masterfully — joy and beauty juxtaposed against pain to devastating effect. Truly, this book gutted me and I was grateful for it.— BookRiot
The Prophets, Jones’ debut novel, is a marvel, as much an extraordinary queer love story as a devastating and inimitable portrayal of the agony endured by slaves in the antebellum South. Jones’ stunning storytelling crafts deep and powerful portraits….Each chapter is its own work of art, delving deep into each character’s heart and mind and creating a rhythmic tapestry of profound love and unbearable pain….The Prophets is a novel, but feels almost like poetry, with every word holding a weight and power that will continue to astound those who lose themselves in its pages.— Associated Press
Along comes Robert Jones, Jr., who taps into his brilliant dome to unearth an engrossing and magically written debut novel, The Prophets….The Prophets is packed with otherworldly, and supremely artful storytelling, and readers will surely get lost in a radiant romance.— USA Today
[A] tender and passionate story of queer Black love, told with a lyricism that justifies the many comparisons to Toni Morrison he has received.— TIME
Robert Jones, Jr.’s debut novel The Prophets feels like it might be a classic one day….Illuminates Black experience by using effortless and artful entry into multiple consciousnesses, biblical allusion and supernatural elements….Audre Lorde wrote ‘Unless one lives and loves in the trenches, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.’ An ambitious debut, The Prophets is right there in the trenches, firing shots.— San Francisco Chronicle
A striking debut…Exceptional storytelling…There is no minor character in The Prophets, which delivers a dazzling gallery of unforgettable portraits….And by highlighting lives over plantation life—the humanity of the slaves over the inhumanity of slavery—the narrative remains centered on a Blackness with an imagination that doesn’t need whiteness in order to exist, breathe or even be free.— Los Angeles Times
[A] panoramic vision of love and cruelty…An unsparing portrayal of a barbaric system.— The New Yorker
In his powerful debut novel, The Prophets, Robert Jones, Jr. depicts in exquisite, often excruciating detail the social ruination that slavery brought to the antebellum South….Labeling The Prophets a ‘gay slave story’ fails to fully describe its ambition and imaginative richness. Jones’ astounding achievement is to open a world where love somehow dares to speak its name alongside our greatest national shame.— Minneapolis Star Tribune
Jones, and his stunner of a novel, embody what can only be called art….Lush language artistry characterizes the book from beginning to end, even as it nimbly changes perspective in every chapter….As the story layers itself and picks up to a devastating pace toward the end, it bursts forth in a crack of lightning and the reader is left aflame. The Prophets is an astounding book, at once potent and universe-level expansive, a sky unto itself. With it—and with his work at Son of Baldwin—Jones establishes himself as a writer, thinker and creative force to watch.— The Seattle Times
A sprawling epic centered on the tortured love story of two enslaved Black men on a brutal Southern plantation, The Prophets transcends all preconceived notions of historical fiction, shining a new light on America’s past as it explores notions of community, oppression, and freedom, as well as the inextricable bonds of love, family and hope.— The Root
[A] bewitching literary debut…Jones’ strength lies in his ability to build interior worlds so imaginative and lush that it would be dreamy if it weren’t such a nightmare for the enslaved people tethered to it….[An] important new work and an integral addition to this period’s literary canon alongside works such as Charles R. Johnson’s Middle Passage and Marlon James’ The Book of Night Women.— Atlanta Journal Constitution
An incredible read…A masterpiece.— New York Magazine
Powerful…This beautifully written story is heartbreaking and inspiring all at once.— CNN
Pick up The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. for the exceptional writing. Stay for the tale of a forbidden love between two enslaved young men on a Mississippi plantation and the betrayal that threatens their existence.— Parade
It’s impossible to write about the literary world’s queerest and dearest of the year without including this Baldwin-inflected debut novel about two enslaved young men in love….[A] deeply moving novel about suffering, hope, and love.— Harper’s Bazaar
A polyphonic novel, with exactingly rendered characters, about the love between two men enslaved on a Mississippi plantation.— Vanity Fair
In The Prophets, Jones takes readers back to a time in history when being Black and queer was unspeakable, and those who dared to love and be loved were true activists….Poetic.— Elle
A devastating and beautifully written novel.— Marie Claire
A brutal and beautiful love story between two enslaved men on a Mississippi plantation, a tale of rage and grace, of refuge among the ruins.”— O, the Oprah Magazine
A love story of the most tragic proportions, revered writer Robert Jones, Jr. uses his debut novel to pry open our collective hearts.— Entertainment Weekly
In this powerful novel about a Deep South plantation, enslaved Isaiah and Samuel share a private, abiding love that’s a refuge from the daily brutality they endure—and that has consequences for everyone around them. The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. is an original, heartbreaking testament to love, and to the supremacy of good over evil.— Real Simple
The book proves love’s power and the deeply felt dejected history of the country.— San Francisco Magazine
[A] magnificent story of love thriving despite the heavy backdrop of slavery.— Business Insider
The Prophets heralds the arrival of a monumental talent in Robert Jones, Jr., whose debut novel has the vibrating power of a thunder clap and the tender intimacy of a secret whispered by a loved one in the darkest night….Though Jones, Jr. is unflinching in his portrayal of the evils of white supremacy and fanaticism, he threads his novels with shimmering strands of hope, of heroism, and of reminders of how humanity has persevered even in the most inhumane of times.— Refinery29
This beautifully written debut novel—and likely award magnet—is a love story about two enslaved men, Isaiah and Samuel, whose devotion to each other leads to trouble on a brutally run Mississippi plantation.— AARP
Kaleidoscopic…Anchored by the love story of two young men, this lyrical story evokes a vast spectrum of emotion and creates an epic that feels epic in scope, but also like each chapter is its own private universe.— Northern Virginia Magazine
Jones explores queerness through a new lens that has rarely been explored in literature. The Prophets is one of the most powerful Black queer historical novels ever written.— Electric Literature
An epic tale of Black queerness…With The Prophets, it is clear [Jones] is following in James Baldwin’s literary footsteps….Magnificent.— Hey Alma
Powerful and beautiful…The lyricism of The Prophets will recall the prose of James Baldwin. The strong cadences are equal to those in Faulkner’s Light in August. Sometimes the utterances in the short interpolated chapters seem as orphic as those in Thus Spake Zarathustra. If my comparisons seem excessive, they are rivaled only by Jones’s own pages and pages of acknowledgments. It seems it takes a village to make a masterpiece.— Publishers Weekly (starred Signature review by Edmund White)
Robert Jones Jr.’s remarkable first novel, The Prophets, accomplishes the exceptional literary feat of being at once an intimate, poetic love story and a sweeping, detailed and excruciating portrait of life on a Mississippi plantation….Though this is his first book, Jones is already a master stylist, writing gorgeous, lyrical and readable prose about some of the ugliest things that human beings feel and do to one another. Sometimes the prose reads like scripture. At other times, it’s poetry…[A] beautifully wrought, exceptionally accomplished queer love story about two men finding extraordinary connection in the most hostile and difficult of circumstances. This debut will be savored and remembered.— BookPage (starred review)
Brims with so much confidence and artful flourish that it’s hard to believe it’s Jones’s first book. Following a line of esteemed authors, he explores the story of enslavement in America and makes it his own….Jones’s expertly drawn characters have depth and purpose, and the writing is beautiful despite the subject matter. A work that will resonate with those moved by Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.— Library Journal (starred review)
“Exquisite…Jones conveys powerful truths with well-chosen words in spare prose….A masterfully told story that will haunt readers from beginning to end.— Booklist (starred review)
An ambitious, imaginative, and important tale of Black queerness through history.— Kirkus Reviews
How devastating and glorious this is. Epic in its scale, intimate in its force, and lyrical in its beauty. The Prophets shakes right down to the bone what the American novel is, should do, and can be. That shuffling sound you hear is Morrison, Baldwin, and Angelou whooping and hollering both in pride, and wonder.— Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf
What a rare marvel this book is. The Prophets fashions an epic so rich in erudition, wisdom, clarity, and power, so full of hard-earned yet too-brief joys, that it reaffirms for me literature’s place as both balm and scalpel for the mind and soul. You can feel the decades of thinking embedded not only in these sentences but in how they question and build a world shamefully amputated from textbooks. Rarely is a book this finely wrought, the lives and histories it holds so tenderly felt, and rendered unforgettably true.— Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
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, author of Heavy: An American Memoir
I’ve loved the writing of Robert Jones, Jr., for years, and The Prophets is an absolute triumph, a symphonic evocation of the heights and depths of pain, joy, and love.— R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
In The Prophets, Robert Jones, Jr.’s lens is at once epic and microscopic, equally capable of evoking historical crises and interpersonal ones. Painfully harsh and painfully tender, this inventive, kaleidoscopic love story is a marvel.”— Helen Phillips, author of The Need
Books by Robert Jones
Media About Robert Jones
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- Robert Jones travels from New York City, New York
“What a rare marvel this book is. The Prophets fashions an epic so rich in erudition, wisdom, clarity, and power, so full of hard-earned yet too-brief joys, that it reaffirms for me literature’s place as both balm and scalpel for the mind and soul. You can feel the decades of thinking embedded not only in these sentences but in how they question and build a world shamefully amputated from textbooks. Rarely is a book this finely wrought, the lives and histories it holds so tenderly felt, and rendered unforgettably true.” –Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous