‘The Prophets’ Explores Black Love and Memory in a Time of Trauma

‘The Prophets’ Explores Black Love and Memory in a Time of Trauma

‘The Prophets’ Explores Black Love and Memory in a Time of Trauma

‘The Prophets’ Explores Black Love and Memory in a Time of Trauma

What is so adored at first, and then corroded in the eyes of the others by Amos, is Isaiah and Samuel’s choice to love, their consent, their choosing and choosing and choosing of each other, a choice outside of force or order, in a nature we (we!) have long forgotten.

One of the blessings of “The Prophets” is its long memory. Jones uses the voices from the prologue to speak across time, to character and reader alike. These short, lyric-driven chapters struck me as instructive and redemptive attempts at healing historical wounds, tracing a map back to the possibility of our native, queer, warrior Black selves. These voices are Black collective knowledge given shape, the oral tradition speaking in your face and setting you right.

Another way this blessing takes shape is through a subplot centering on Kosii and Elewa, two gay (I’m using our word, my looking to name this old thing for us) lovers who precede Isaiah and Samuel. We meet Kosii and Elewa through flashback scenes, on their wedding day, on the eve of their village’s invasion by Dutch enslavers. From their wedding to captivity on the stinking haul of a ship en route to America, Kosii and Elewa’s love, torture and eventual rebellion act as a direct echo of Isaiah and Samuel, lovers beloved by their people, interrupted by the wickedness of whiteness.

Through these characters and their stories, “The Prophets” calls, across time, on queer warriors, woman kings, root women and boys in love to paint a long queer Black history, a history of rising against, of ever making one’s way back to freedom.

Is Jones pointing to the current moment we find ourselves living in? Black people, once again, same as always, dying and fighting the murderous avatars of white greed for another piece of freedom. After another summer in the streets fighting for our collective life — at marches often led by Black women and Black queers whom whiteness and its God have taught us to hate so well — I arrived at this book both gracefully and loudly saying, “Remember who you have long been.” 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.

All of it — the seven voices, the midnight blue lovers, the warrior women, the shadows fat with ancestors — pressed upon my Black heart asking me to remember before the boats, to not turn from the horror of the fields and see what has always been most beautiful and unkillable in us — our ways, our fight, our magic, our love. “The Prophets” attempts to give its Black characters and Black audience the same gifts — our right names, our Black knowing, a freedom outside of time and circumstance.


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