The Chills at Will Podcast podcast

Episode 155 with Robert Jones, Jr., Exemplary Literary Citizen, Reflective Changemaker, and Founder of the Powerful Son of Baldwin Platform and Author of 2021 National Book Award Nominee, The Prophets

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Episode 155 Notes and Links to Robert Jones Jr.’s Work 


   On Episode 155 of The Chills at Will Podcast, Pete welcomes Robert Jones, Jr., and the two mainly discuss, among other things, the festive national Book Awards 2022, his early reading of comic books, his life-changing exposure to James Baldwin’s work, his incredible Son of Baldwin platform, a dearth of representation for Black queer people that led him to write the book he wanted to read, the wonderful literary community and its inspiration for his work, and the work of art that is The Prophets, with its myriad standout lines, memorable characters, and structure that makes it a true classic and work of art.

   Robert Jones, Jr., is the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, The Prophets, which won the 2022 Publishing Triangle Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction and the 2022 NAIBA Book of the Year Award for Fiction. It was also a finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction and was named a notable book by The New York Times and one of the best books of 2021 by Time, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, NPR, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post, among many others. His writings have been featured in The New York Times, Essence, and The Paris Review, as well as in the critically acclaimed anthologies Four Hundred Souls and The 1619 Project. Subscribe to his newsletter Witness at

Buy The Prophets


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Robert Jones, Jr.'s Website


July, 2022, from NPR’s All Things Considered-“Son of Baldwin — a place for discussions of race, sexuality and gender — retires”

2021 Review of The Prophets from The Guardian-by Holly Williams: "The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr review – outstanding debut"



At about 7:10, Robert describes the incredible experience he had at the recent National Book Awards 


At about 8:10, Robert outlines his early reading and writing influences, and the indelible mark left by comic books, libraries, and Wonder Woman


At about 11:30-15:50, Robert’s response to Pete’s question about representation in what Robert read growing up connects to ideas of connectedness and internalized and external ideas of queerness, acceptance, and inspiration for his own writing 


At about 15:50, Robert discusses loneliness versus uniqueness and the ideas of “polic[ing] gender”


At about 18:40, Pete wonders about James Baldwin’s impact on Robert-Robert talks about being introduced to Baldwin “rather late” but being swept away by “Here Be Dragons,” among many other of Baldwin’s works, and how a quote from James Baldwin’s brother in the documentary, The Price of the Ticket  was the catalyst for the Son of Baldwin platform


At about 22:35, Pete talks about how closely Son of Baldwin and James Baldwin have been linked in recent years, including an incorrect attribution of an important quote


At about 25:15, Robert lists and describes some of the countless people to whom he gives credit and love for their inspiration and encouragement, as seen in his book’s extensive Acknowledgments 


At about 27:50, Pete and Robert sing the praises of Kiese Laymon, and Robert speaks so highly of Kiese tremendous help in getting Robert and his book 


At about 30:05, Robert talks about contemporary writers like Deesha Philyaw, Dawnie Walton, Maisy Card, Mateo Askaripour, Jason Mott, and Xochitl Gonzalez whose work thrills and inspires and challenges him, and he shouts out an outstanding upcoming 2023 book from Jamila Minnicks 


At about 32:50, Robert gives background on research for The Prophets, the time spent writing it, and the seeds for the books that largely came from his university studies


At about 37:25, Robert responds to Pete wondering what Robert was able to do by making his book fiction and not nonfiction 


At about 39:00, Robert and Pete discusses connections between the invasion of African countries by Europeans, and how the forced religiosity connects to an encroaching and new homophobia and white supremacy 


At about 41:50, The two discuss Amos from The Prophets and the “conundrum” that he faces with regards to Isaiah and Samuel, as well as Amos’ role as preacher and Christian convert, as well as connections to modern preachers


At about 45:25, the two discuss Isaiah and Samuel, the book’s protagonists, and their love and their backstories and their shared knowledge of being alone and “loaded onto a wagon like stuff”


At about 47:55, Robert responds to historical ideas of homosexuality sometimes seen as a tool to disrupt Black communities and explains how Paul, the book’s slavemaster, sees Isaiah and Samuel’s relationship and a “threat to capitalism”


At about 50:40, The two connect the hypocrisy of Paul and his philandering and 


At about 51:45, Pete cites the book’s unique/Biblical structure and talks about the book’s starting with “the ancestors”; he asks Robert about the “you” to whom the ancestors spr


At about 53:10, Robert describes a dream that was hugely influential and transformative for his book


At about 55:00, Robert discusses the ways in which Isaiah and Samuel are unified, and how they are rendered as distinct 


At about 58:25, Robert talks about the importance of names for enslaved peoples and for the slave owners, and he talks specifically about Isaiah’s original name, its significance, and its importance in his relationship with Amos


At about 1:01:00, Robert and Pete discuss tovo and toubab, Beninese and Wolof words, respectively, and their connections to early African encounters with European invaders


At about 1:02:35, the two discuss the book’s parallel storyline that involves Isaiah’s familial lineage in Kasongo, a mythical kingdom in Africa; Robert homes in on the vastly-different ideas of gender identity in pre-colonial Africa


At about 1:05:30, Pete wonders about the role of Timothy in the book and Robert expands upon ideas of rapists and rape


At about 1:07:45, Robert discusses sympathy and writing characters who are seemingly 100% detestable, and ideas of oppression and oppressors and their connections with Timothy, Ruth, James, and Paul 


At about 1:11:00, Pete focuses on Paul’s behavior and his rush to justify his evil behavior through the Bible and Christianity; a scene from the book involving Adam, Paul’s son, is highlighted 


At about 1:12:35, The two discuss a scene of degradation and Robert highlights it as a scene where a lot is happening behind the scenes/under the surface with the crafty Essie and Maggie 


At about 1:14:00, Pete highlights the incredibly-skillful ways in which Robert homes in on individual stories to draw the reader’s attention and sympathy/empathy


At about 1:15:20, Robert talks about an exciting upcoming project, a second novel

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   Please tune in for Episode 156 with Namrata Poddar. Namrata writes fiction and nonfiction, serves as Interviews Editor for Kweli, and teaches literature and writing at UCLA. Her work has appeared in several publications including Poets & Writers, Literary Hub, Longreads, The Kenyon Review, and The Best Asian Short Stories. Her debut novel, Border Less, was a finalist for Feminist Press’s Louise Meriwether Prize.

   The episode will air on December 13.

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