Robert Jones Jr. is an author from New York City and the creator of the social justice community “Son of Baldwin.” His debut novel is “The Prophets,” written with a lyricism that honors the style of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin. The book tells the love story of two enslaved men working on a Mississippi plantation.
Robert Jones Jr. joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes for a conversation about his new novel.
Robert Jones Jr. on his influences:
“I’m certain that Morrison’s influence and even the influence of Marquez plays a role in some of how I decided to write this, how I decided to combine myth and reality. The way that myth often functions in this book is to give you a reprieve from the brutal reality of it. It is to allow the characters flights of fancy so that they can become fuller, more realized characters outside of the violence. That they can have a kind of beauty and a respite from it, a reprieve and something to dream about. It was necessary that they had something to dream about.”
“What I realized about the pre-colonial spiritual ideas is that they were closely tied to family, that these godlike figures, for lack of a better term, were not hovering over these pre-colonial Africans in a way that Jehovah hovers over modern day. These are people that you have already loved that have loved you, who cannot wait to embrace you again, to sit you down at the table and, and, and break bread. These are not angry, giant sky daddies who hold lightning in their palm and wish to do you harm if you don’t do everything, as they say, precisely, as they say, hidden under the superficial cover of choice. There is a distinctly different manner about spirituality between precolonial African societies and Western societies, in that the goal is in punishment. In pre-colonial African societies, that’s enlightenment. Whereas Western societies and Western religions, there always seems to be the central component of punishment.”