The Prophets

Finalist, National Book Awards 2021 for Fiction

ISBN 9780593085684
G. P. Putnam’s Sons / Penguin Random House
Robert Jones, Jr.

Robert Jones, Jr., formerly known on social media as “Son of Baldwin,” is a Brooklyn-based, award-winning writer. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel, The Prophets, which was a Finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction and winner of the 2022 Publishing Triangle Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction. More about this author >

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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 masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.

Judges Citation

Robert Jones, Jr.’s The Prophets captures the horrors of the enslaved by honoring their means of survival, in this case, the sustaining love of two Black men. Jones’s deeply rendered characters and incantational prose lift the story to the level of a vision. And in focusing on the triumph of a Black, same-sex relationship, Jones directs readers to shift their gaze to the quiet, revolutionary power of love.


Robert Jones, Jr., 2021 National Book Awards Fiction Finalist, reads from THE PROPHETS