Robert Jones Jr. Is Son of Baldwin, and More

In his 1985 essay “Here Be Dragons,” James Baldwin wrote: “At bottom, what I had learned was that the male desire for a male roams everywhere, avid, desperate, unimaginably lonely.” America’s attitudes toward sexuality, he added, are tragically, inextricably linked with its “ideals” of hyper-masculinity and racialized violence.

A few years later, a gay Black freshman at Brooklyn College named Robert Jones Jr. read that essay and felt a sense of relief. Here was the clearest statement of Black homosexuality and gender fluidity he had ever encountered in writing.

Out on Jan. 5, his debut novel, “The Prophets,” is in many ways a culmination of the homage he’s been paying to Baldwin ever since. At heart a love story, it centers on Samuel and Isaiah, two enslaved young men on a cotton plantation in antebellum Mississippi, and the consequences of their relationship for everyone else in their world, both Black and white.

In his 1985 essay “Here Be Dragons,” James Baldwin wrote: “At bottom, what I had learned was that the male desire for a male roams everywhere, avid, desperate, unimaginably lonely.” America’s attitudes toward sexuality, he added, are tragically, inextricably linked with its “ideals” of hyper-masculinity and racialized violence.

A few […]

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