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Some provocations to consider while reading pages 1-122 of The Prophets...
1. In the opening chapter, Judges, the novel offers this refrain: "Our responsibility is to tell you the truth. But since you were never told the truth, you will believe a lie. Lies are more affectionate than the truth and embrace with both arms. Prying you loose is our punishment" (p. 2). How do we reflect on this opening, both in the context of the novel's opening and, today?
2. How does this first third of the book introduce us to Isaiah and Samuel's relationship? How do we come to know them as individuals? As a couple? What work does the novel do to introduce this Black queer love story, in the context of 19th century plantation life?
3. We return to an opening question from our "before reading" reflection: what is the significance of Jones, Jr. naming multiple chapters in this work after books in the Bible? We will revisit this question after each section of our reading. Here, reflect on it for this section of the book, as we are introduced to major characters, the landscape of the novel, and the intonation of the story we are to experience in this book.
4. We meet Amos and Brother Gabriel in this section - who are they? What do they each represent in plantation life? What about Maggie and Ruth?
5. Do we see the beginnings of Christianity suggested within the plantation community, in this section of the novel? If so, how does it emerge?
6. This section offers an opening to think about gender in plantation life in various ways. For example, on page 98, the novel offers, "Everywhere a girl existed, there was someone telling her that she was her own fault and leading a ritual to punish her for something she never did." How does this section of the novel immerse a reader into questions about gender, from not only the perspective of Isaiah and Samuel, but from multiple women?
7. REFLECTION ACTIVITY: PAGES 1-122
Sit down and write about your reactions to meeting these characters, and about the world they inhabit. Who are you drawn to? How do you experience the violence of plantation life, as you read our characters experiencing and witnessing it? What do you most react to, as you're reading thus far? What questions, thoughts, emotions, and reactions do you have, as you ready yourself to move ahead into the next parts of the book?
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