A Word on Words | NPT


The Prophets | Robert Jones, Jr. | A Word on Words | NPT

“I felt entrusted with this story by these ancestral voices who said to me, in no uncertain terms, we actually endured this, the least that you can do is witness it and share our testimony.” Author Robert Jones, Jr. talks with NPT host Mary Laura Philpott about his new book THE PROPHETS.

AIRED: April 30, 2021 | 0:02:30

(typewriter typing)

(upbeat music)

- [Robert] I'm Robert Jones, Jr and this is The Prophets.

A story about two young men on a plantation in Mississippi

who are in love and how that love,

transforms everyone around them whether enslaved

or enslaver.

- How long did you work on The Prophets.

- 14 years.

- Where did it start with for you?

- As an undergrad, I was an Africana studies minor

and it struck me as kind of odd

that prior to the Harlem Renaissance

there's absolutely no mention of black people who are queer.

And that was just curious to me, like where are they?

Where were black queer people prior to that?

So I started scouring the cannon, looking for examples

and only could find them in the context of sexual assault

or rape culture.

And my question was, what about love?

(upbeat music)

- What was it like for you psychologically speaking to dwell

in the time and space that this book occupies?

- It was rather difficult in many ways.

One of those ways was how much it reminded me

of the current times that we're living in.

I found so many commonalities in the anti-blackness,

in the violence against black people,

that it was a bit traumatizing to come

to the conclusion that although times have changed,

so many things have remained the same.

So what I did, I would meditate, I would go for long walks,

I would visit the botanical garden,

I would go hang out with my nieces and nephews

and hear children's laughter things to sort of restore me.

But then at the same time, I felt a bit of guilt

about walking away from the story

because I felt entrusted with it by these ancestral voices

who said to me in no uncertain terms,

"We actually endured this."

"The least that you can do is witness it

"and share our testimony."

And that's what kept me coming back.

- For more of my conversation with Robert Jones, Jr.

Visit awordonwords.org and keep reading.

- My father bought me my first comic book,

which was "Wonder Woman."

At age six I decided to write my own wonder woman story

with me as her sidekick (giggling)

and that was where I fell in love with writing.


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