A conversation with best-selling Author Robert Jones Jr.

March 4, 2021

Join Chris Hyams and Robert Jones Jr., New York Times bestselling author, as they discuss Jones’ debut novel, The Prophets.

In this conversation, Jones delves into his passion for Black history and literature and why he felt this novel — which took him 13 years to write — needed to send a message of hope to its readers.

- Hello, everyone. I am Chris Hyams, the CEO of Indeed, and welcome to the next installment of Here to Help. This is our look at how Indeed has been navigating the global impact of COVID 19. Today is February 23rd. We are on day 357 of global work from home. Let that sink in for a second. At Indeed, our mission is to help people get jobs, and this is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what keeps us up at night, and what that means is that we care deeply about our impact on the world. And so with that in mind, I'd like to turn it over briefly to the person who leads Indeed's efforts around societal impact, LaFawn Davis. LaFawn is Indeed's group Vice President for ESG, or Environmental, Social, and Governance, and LaFawn is here to introduce our very special guest for today's episode.

- Thank you so much, Chris. I have the pleasure of introducing Robert Jones Jr. Robert is a prolific writer from New York City. He is also my bestie-in-law. He's the best friend of my wife, Sharice, for over 20 years, and she's in the acknowledgement section of his debut novel "The Prophets" which is available in 20 countries. So I am filled with joy, honor, and excitement that he's joined us for Here to Help today. And without giving too much away, "The Prophets" is a singular and stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence. Now, she wouldn't say this about himself, so I will say it for him. Robert Jones Jr. is a literary genius. Besides his debut novel, he's written for numerous publications, including "The New York Times," "Essence," "Paris Review." Robert is also the creator and curator of the social justice social media community Son of Baldwin, which has over 250,000 followers across platforms. A quote widely attributed to James Baldwin but was in fact coined by Robert Jones Jr in 2015 succinctly states the intention of the Son of Baldwin community. That quote is, "We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist." Robert, thank you so much for being here.

- LaFawn, how do I even speak after such a wonderful introduction? Thank you so much, sister, for that. I really, really felt that and I really, really appreciate it.

- Thank you. Chris, I'll hand it back over to you.

- Thank you, LaFawn, for the intro, and Robert, thank you so much for joining. I want to dive into the discussion, but before we do, I just have to say that "The Prophets" is absolutely breathtaking. I can't be any more articulate than all of the praise you've already received, but the novel is profoundly moving and beautiful, and I'm so grateful to have this opportunity to talk to you today.

- Chris, thank you so much for even wanting to talk to me and for having me and for welcoming me into this space. Thank you so much.

- Well, let's start where we always start these discussions with a quick check-in. How are you doing right now today?

- At this very moment, I am fine. There is some snow on the ground in New York City. It's an overcast day. I'm here with my husband. We are making it, checking in with family members, my mother and my sister, my brother, my nieces, nephews, and nibblings. Nibbling is the non-binary word for the child of your sibling. I am thankful that everyone is healthy and that everyone has the basic necessities that they need to survive. I am a little bit on the sad side because of all the things that are happening in the world and how slow we are to sort of get it together and to sort of build on collective good will to ensure the safety of everyone, but I am hopeful that we have people like Dr. Fauci who, despite opposition, continues to tell the truth about what we're facing, and I'm hoping with new leadership in the country, we can finally turn that corner and get us back to some semblance of maybe not where we used to be, because I'm not sure that that's a good measure, but to some place where we can finally look at each other and see our common humanity.

- Well, thank you for sharing that. I'd love to start by talking about the inspiration for "The Prophets". You quote Toni Morrison as saying, "If there's a book you want to read but hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." Can you tell us a little bit about the story that you felt was missing that you needed to hear told?

- Absolutely. I was in undergrad, and I'm a late adult returner to college. My first attempts at college were not very successful because I was not clear on why I was there. So I returned to college after watching an episode of Oprah where she says she was talking to a gentleman who said, "You know what your purpose is and you've been avoiding it your entire life. Don't think about the last step. Think about the next little you have to take in order to realize this dream." And that next step for me was going to college and actually getting my degree in writing or English. So I returned to college at 31 years old, 2002, and took as a minor Africana Studies because I always felt as though what I would receive as an education in my major would probably not be the whole story and wanted to supplement my education with Africana Studies, and actually found out that supplement is the wrong word. Africana Studies actually corrected my education by exposing me to the contributions of so many people of the African diaspora all around the world. But in reading these works, these great works by people like Zora Neale Hurston, and W. E. B. Du Bois, and so many others, something felt missing. And I noticed that it wasn't until the Harlem Renaissance that we begin to see figures who are living at the intersection of Blackness and queerness. So in 1929, the first work I encountered was written in 1929 by a gentleman by the name of Wallace Thurman. He wrote a book called "The Blacker the Berry", which was primarily talking about colorism in the African-American community, but also touched upon Blackness and queerness. So I thought, "Well, did we just pop up in 1929?" "Hey girl, here I am." Where were we before this? In particular, where were we doing the most harrowing period for us in American history, Antebellum slavery? So I scoured the canon, looking for any examples of this, and found two small examples in a slave narrative by Harriet Jacobs called "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." There is a line, one sentence, where she describes... Trigger warning for rape culture and sexual assault. She describes a situation in which a white slave owner rapes a male slave. Then in the late great Toni Morrison's masterpiece, "Beloved," there's a scene in which one of her characters, Paul D, is sexually assaulted by a male overseer. And I thought, "Yes, true, but what about love?" And that is what I wanted to explore. Where was love during this period between Black queer figures? And so, as you said, because Toni Morrison said, "If you can't find the book you wish to read, then you must write it," I went about the terrifying journey of writing this book. And it was terrifying for me because it had not yet been explored in the way that I thought it should be explored. And I knew that I would receive pushback from people in in particular communities because one, I was dealing with a time period that was sacrosanct for many people. Two, it would require a particular criticism or critique of particular religious beliefs. And three, it would counter the narrative that there was no such thing as queerness during this time period and push up against the idea that this might have been me trying to promote a kind of, quote unquote, gay agenda. So I was terrified, but... So these ideas are flitting around in my imagination, particularly toward my later undergraduate years, my senior year, but it's not until my first semester of grad school that I actually write down the first words that would eventually become "The Prophets", which took me 14 years to write.

- So I am very interested in this because I've heard this talked about in multiple profiles and interviews that it took 14 years to write "The Prophets". Can you talk about the challenge of bringing the story to life, and in particular, how did the story evolve when you sat down 14 years ago? Was this the full vision or what happened through time to get to the story that we have today?

- There is a particular incident that pushed me to write. So I'm sitting in fiction tutorial class my first semester of grad school, MFA at Brooklyn College, a course with Stacey D'Erasmo, who is a brilliant author herself, and she gives us an assignment. She says, "I want you to go out into the world and look for physical objects that a character that you're thinking about might actually possess." So there's this character in my head and I'm not even sure what he might possess, but the way serendipity works, I'm walking down the street in Brooklyn after class and I'm walking past a pile of garbage bags that were set out by some business to be picked up by sanitation the next morning, and in a garbage can that I'm looking at are a pair of shackles. Goodness knows what shackles are doing in the garbage, what the story of the shackles are, but what I took that to mean was that here's this enslaved character who I'm thinking about. He's telling me, "Please tell my story. This is my sign, my permission." So I took the shackles. And so I gathered that along with other materials, pictures of people enslaved. There's this famous picture of a Black man sitting with his back to the camera and you see all of these welts and calluses on his back. So I'm collecting things like this, even pictures of the elders in my family who I never met, like my grandfather's mother, Louisa Mills, was an immigrant from Saint Kitts. There's a picture of her in our family where she's standing on a soap box and she's wearing this really long dress and she has this really serious look on her face, and I found later that she was a street proselytizer. She would preach the gospel in the streets of Harlem. And so I'm looking at all of these pictures and I'm saying, "Yes, I can gather this story." And so I said, "Okay, so who's this character who would've been inshackled?" And that character, the name initially was Simon, and I'm writing about Simon and thinking that I'm going to be telling this story only from Simon's point of view. And then I thought, "No, I can't tell this from Simon's point of view, because Simon is too limited. Maybe I can tell it from the point of view of the person that I think Simon's in love with, Hannibal, because Hannibal will witness Simon's story." So the initial title of the book was "Sing, Hannibal, Bear Witness" So I'm writing from Hannibal's point of view and realize, no, Hannibal is just as limited as Simon. So maybe I can tell it from both of their points of view. It'll be a narrative that switches back and forth between their points of view and we'll get the story that way. Then I realized, no, I can't even do that. At the center of this story is their love, so that love needs not just their points of view but other points of view. It needs witnesses outside of themselves. And that is when I started to bring in one or two other characters like Maggie, who was initially called Haggai, and that is when the story went from "Sing, Hannibal, Bear Witness" to "Plantation Lullabies", which was inspired by an album by Meshell Ndegeocello. And that wasn't enough either. I needed to bring in more people, and it was becoming for me a little unwieldy because I was like, "How do I allow all of these people to have their points of view and this still feel like a cohesive story at which Simon and Hannibal are at the center?" So I start reading "Paradise" by Toni Morrison to see how she did it because that is sort of the structure of that novel, and I read "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie" by Ayana Mathis because that is also the structure of that novel, and started to feel a little bit more confidence. But then the way the universe works, a monkey wrench is thrown in. I have a dream. Not to say that I'm Martin Luther King Jr. but I had a dream in which somebody was speaking to me, an elder, and I woke up at about two o'clock in the morning, and I have on my bedside near my bed a pen and a pad, and I'm writing down whatever is being told to me. I don't remember it, I go back to sleep. I get up the next morning, I take my pad, and I come to my office to write in my manuscript, and I read what I wrote in the dark the night before. And it said, "You do not yet know us." And so here it is, this sentence, and I'm trying to parse out its meaning, and what comes to me is that it is the ancestors speaking directly to me, directly to the other characters in the book, directly to the reader to say that there is a story that they have to tell as well that comes alongside this one and I have to figure out a way to fit them in. And they then lead me to an earlier part of history in which Simon and Hannibal, who become Samuel and Isaiah, have a precursor in a pre-colonial African society, and it provides a lineage for their love as well. And so here comes these this pre-colonial African society and their experiences, and I have all of these, not competing points of view but points of view that I think join us over an ocean. We are no longer disconnected as members of this African diaspora. It's telling this larger story in a way that, without sounding too arrogant, feels like prophecy, feels like a new sort of covenant that Black people should be having with one another and maybe the world should be having with each other. And I thought, "What is the thing that distinguishes us from our pre-colonial selves? And one of those things was our spiritual practices. And I realized that the European project when going into these territories in Africa was to remove us from our spiritual and cultural practices and have us remade in the image of Christ. So I said, "That's kind of important," because what I discovered in some of my research was that in pre-colonial African societies, queerness was just part of the landscape. There was no need to give it a special name like homosexual or lesbian or transgender or what have you. It was just part of nature, part of the community, normal, natural, just there and not thought of as despicable, wicked, sinful until the Christian missionaries show up. So I renamed all of the characters in the book after characters in the Bible so that I could explain in some metaphorical, spiritual ways the ways in which we are removed from ourselves through this enterprise. And because these characters are showing us how that happens, they are too in some way prophets. And so going from "Sing, Hannibal, Bear Witness" to "Plantation Lullabies" to even "The Book of Samuel" at one point, we move to a book called "The Prophets," and that is where I really started to feel like this is the book that that I was trying to write this entire time.

- It's remarkable, and maybe not so hard to imagine how it could take 14 years then, given all of that evolution there. I want to talk more about the book itself, but before, in the same period of time, I guess I think timing wise, it was just a little after you started working on the book, you started a what is referred to as a social justice social media community called Son of Baldwin as a tribute to James Baldwin, as, as LaFawn mentioned upfront. How did this community help you while you were going through this journey of bringing "The Prophets" to life?

- That community has proven itself quite invaluable in that sense, simply from the ability to have conversations with people that I might have normally not been able to have conversations with. So at any given moment, I could talk to a Black queer man from Brazil to get his perspective on how race and gender and gender identity and sexuality play out in his region, or I could talk to a Black transgender woman from Zimbabwe and get her perspectives about the same thing which then turn a mirror on me for me to say, "My ideas about these things, gender, gender identity, sexuality, race, are not universal. What I was taught in my American Western education institutions is not something that's just blanketly true for the entire world. The way I think about race is not true." For example, I learned from a Haitian friend in this community that the one drop rule that we have in America where one drop of Black blood makes you a Black person, so if your great grand mother was a Black person, then you are a Black person, even though if everybody else was white, that is not true in Haiti. It is actually the flip. If you have one white great grandparent, then you are white. So it is such a weird thing to reckon with all the things that you have been taught about reality are not fixed. They are in deconstructions. And when you are awakened to that idea, that these things are constructions, it frees you to think about these things in a much broader sense, in a more sort of liminal, fluid sense. And so I probably could not have written "The Prophets" without having been exposed to those ideas and perspectives. It would've been a much different book had I not encountered and had these conversations. So I am indebted to those individuals, to those people, to that community for educating me in a way that I would not have been able to be educated in our normal American institutions. So it has had a profound impact, almost as much, I would say, as my literary heroes.

- So, you know, in addition to this incredible story and these characters and the different perspectives that you weave in and the different timeframes, it is impossible to talk about "The Prophets" without talking about the language, and your writing is lyrical and breathtaking. For the listeners who have not yet read the book, can I ask you just to read a short passage, please from the chapter Puah?

- Oh, absolutely. It starts on page 103, the paragraph that starts, "Sometimes it was hard."

- "Sometimes it was hard to endure Sarah's truths, as unsweetened and thorny as they were. They had no roundness, no smooth edges, and every point was pin-sharp. Still, from every pin-sized wound, only a little blood was let. iI the small, manageable droplets, Puah could see the answers that even Sarah never intended to confront. That was a blessing that most people turned away from. Not Puah, though. Puah knew the secret of strength was in how much truth could be endured, and on a plantation full of people asleep in lies, she intended to stay awake, no matter how much it stung."

- Thank you. Yeah, it's remarkable because it's... I had a difficult time picking a passage. Every page, there is something like this. That concept, "The secret of strength was in how much truth could be endured," so beautiful. So I found myself throughout reading and rereading sections over and over again just to savor the language, and with the story being told from all these different perspectives and characters as you talked through, in the end, to me, one of the things that I came away with, I felt like language was almost another character in the story because with these different points of view, your voice is the one constant that sort of ties everything together. Can you talk about, and I know that we could spend an entire hour on this, but can you talk about the role of language in telling a story specifically like this?

- Absolutely. There were several things that I wanted to accomplish in the writing of this book. One of those was that this book is going to have to be no holds barred about the brutality of slavery. For me, slavery and violence are synonyms, not the way that we're mostly taught about this period of history in mainstream or in the schools. We're usually taught, "Oh, well, the slaves were on plantations picking cotton and singing songs and they had food and they had shelter and sometimes they were like family." That is maybe what it looks like to people who were not the enslaved because the enslaved had to kind of put on a show in order to survive. And I wanted to be able to capture that brutality, but I also wanted to be able to capture the beauty of the lives of these people living under these conditions, the way they carved out through just sheer courage lives. So that slavery is certainly the backdrop of "The Prophets," but what's in the foreground are these people, and there are no such thing as slaves. They are enslaved. This is something that happened to them and happened to them very specifically by people who wanted to sort of put this upon their shoulders, but they are people who deserve the dimensionality of their lives to be explored so that we could see that they loved and hated and laughed and sang and cried and danced and ran. And I needed a particular kind of lyricism to express that. So who has the most profound impact on me in that way? Toni Morrison. I read all of her works at least three times, all 11 of her novels, to see what her secret was to shattering the English language and then reassembling it into something that was musical and Black, and also feminine. Feminine in the sense that it was birthed and nurtured and empowered in a very particular sense that was devoid of that patriarchal, rigid sort of pain and finding joy in the pain. So I was reading her books to say to myself, "How do I balance love, which is what I want the core of this novel to be, with this haunting, horrible pain?" And so I listened to a lot of gospel music. I was listening to Mahalia Jackson quite a lot while writing this book. I also listened to a lot of blues. I listened to Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith and Robert Johnson and I tried to turn that sound into words so that in some of these passages, it almost reads as a song, because I was trying to replicate a particular kind of rhythm. Some of these sentences, you can hear a hand clap and foot stomp because that's the sound of the Black church. In some of these passages, you could hear a sassiness because that is how Ma Rainey sang. There's even a passage in which you can hear a more contemporary singer, Sade, because I am listening to "The Sweetest Taboo" as I'm writing a line. And so when I read the line back to myself, I say, "Oh my goodness, that line lines up with 'The Sweetest Taboo'." So this music infects this book in almost every respect, and when you hear that music, you can't help but to render the language in a particular way that almost feels like poetry. And so I think that is what's at the basis of it, all oversaw by Toni Morrison. My great regret is that I could not finish this book quick enough for Toni Morrison to have read so that she could tell me herself whether she thinks I did a good job or she thinks I could do better, whatever it was that she would've said, I would have hung upon every word. It is my great regret and I hope that I did her proud to some degree.

- Well, I think you gave me a little bit of a hint to the answer to my next question, but I'm going to ask it because there's probably even more to it. So at the end of the book, you have an acknowledgements section that is 10 pages long, and from my reading through and counting just the names on one page, I think there's more than 1,000 people that you thank in there. I've never seen anything like this. First of all, it's an incredible list and I would love to see someone create a Spotify playlist just from all the musical artists that you listed there, and I feel like I could easily spend the next decade just reading and watching and listening to everyone you thank there, but I'd love to hear why it was important in this work to pay homage to each of these inspirations in the level of detail that you did.

- You know, I want to admit something and speak directly to you and the guests we have here. While I was writing "The Prophets," I received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and I was terrified when I received this diagnosis. I was experiencing some really strange symptoms. Half of my body went numb, my vision went blurred, I was slurring my words, I was experiencing great pain in my hands in particular, and I didn't know what was happening to me, and it was strange and disconcerting and terrifying. And when I finally received the diagnosis, there was a bit of comfort in knowing at least what it is, but it also made me think about my own mortality, and I thought, because, you know, at that time, all I had known about MS was that Annette Funicello from "The Mickey Mouse Club" and Richard Pryor both had it And they died relatively young. I think Annette Funicello was in her 70s, Richard Pryor was 65. And I was terrified that maybe I don't have much more time. So if "The Prophets" is my last work, the only work I'm capable of doing because I might be too disabled to function, to write another book, I want to make sure that every person who has ever encouraged me, loved me, supported me, or inspired me knows that they did. So I went about the task of trying to remember everyone who had ever said a kind word about me being a writer, who ever encouraged me to write, who ever supported me on my journey of writing, that they knew it. So you have people from my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Howard Firestone, who was, I think, the first person who ever told me that I was a good writer, to Janet Jackson, who inspired my young mind to think about the world in a political sense with her project, Rhythm Nation, to Terry McMillan, who was probably the first person whose work I read and thought, "Oh, you can write about your own experiences as a Black person? Wow." And at 16, because I read her book "Mama," I started to try to write my own novel called "Conjure" when I was 16 years old. It went nowhere but I tried. That acknowledgement section, which people say feels like a chapter onto itself, was absolutely necessary. And my husband, who was doing a lot of research about the publishing world when I was right at the tail end of me writing this book was like, "You know, acknowledgements are only supposed to be one or two pages long at most." And I thought, "I can't. It cannot be one or two pages. It's going to be this long, because what if this is the only book I write and these people don't know how much of a profound impact they had on me, that their one kind word was something that kept me going? I have to let them know." And so thankfully Putnam did not reject this, my publisher. They said, "Okay, if that's what you want, then that's what we'll put." And so there it is. And what kills me is that still, I left out some people and I was adding people to the very last minute. The book was at the printer and I was like, "But I have to just add this one more person, please." And for the most part, they got them all in there. There are like five people that I'm thinking about that I left out. But yes, that is the reason for that acknowledgement section and why it's so long.

- Well, thank you for sharing your personal story there. And it did feel like a coda really to the novel, especially in just the tying together of time, of the connection with the ancestors and the story through Africa that you weave into the book, that this is, it's essentially an homage to the lineage that led to this story. In terms of the story itself, so ultimately, it's a story about the power of love, but as you said at the very start, this particular story is one that hasn't been told before, and so I'm wondering what new perspective you think that Samuel and Isaiah's love story can bring to our understanding of the experience of the enslaved in America.

- You know, while I was writing this book, I felt incredibly lonely because there was, up until that point, nothing that was like it. I could not find anything that was like it, although toward the tail end, other work started to pop up that were dealing with this subject matter. A playwright by the of Donja R. Love wrote a play called "Sugar in Our Wounds" which is about two enslaved men in love. And I was at first, like, "Darsh! He beat me to the punch, and maybe I should stop writing." And then I thought, "No, you know, he's telling his story one way. I have to tell my story another." But if you ever have the chance to encounter that work, "Sugar in Our Wounds," I really do advise you do it. It's lovely. And then we also have Marlon James who wrote "Black Leopard, Red Wolf," and he is dealing with ancient Africa, and it's so full of strangeness and queerness and sex and love and all of these things. And so I felt emboldened by that, that I'm not alone in writing about this time and I have a community. And so what Samuel and Isaiah function as for me and what I hope they function as in the world is sort of a pioneering, trailblazing duo in which somebodies imagination is expanded so that when we think Black, we don't think just cisgender heterosexual able-bodied men. We see the full breadth of Blackness, which encompasses so much and is so expansive. One of the things that I wanted to accomplish with this work actually happened to me. I received a message on Instagram from a 17-year-old Black young man who said, "Mr. Jones, this is the book that I've been waiting for." So now he can read this book and feel as I felt when I read James Baldwin. I belong. I'm not an aberration. I'm not this strange offshoot of something else. I deserve to be here. I'm deserving of respect and love. And I'm hoping that "The Prophets" has the same effect, that in turn, somebody like this young man or whomever will read this book and say, "Well, now I'm emboldened to write about this other subject that might open the door for somebody else." Patti LaBelle's song says, "When you've been blessed, pass it on," and so that is what you do. Toni Morrison says, "When you've been freed, your job is to free someone else," so that's what you do. That is what I hope Samuel and Isaiah are doing, freeing somebody.

- We could keep talking for, well, I could keep asking questions for a long time here, but I'll close with this. So the reaction to "The Prophets" has been breathtaking, especially so, I'd imagine, for a first novel. You've been compared to some of the greatest writers of all time, including your inspirations, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, and it took 14 years to write this book. So I'm confident that whenever it would've come out, it would've been recognized for the great work that it is, but there's something that feels very vital about it landing in the world right now as it has, and so I'd love to hear your thoughts on how the events of the last 12 months have maybe set the stage for how people are experiencing "The Prophets" at this very moment in time.

- You know, I want to say that the last four years or so have been a sort of wake-up call for the country, but if you are a marginalized person, you realize that the country has been like this for a really long time, much longer than four years, and that maybe the last four years simply pulled the veneer off, pulled off the mask so that more people are aware of it. When I was writing "The Prophets," time became so confusing because I'm writing about the 1800s, and yet it feels so modern. It feels like I'm writing about yesterday. There's a scene in "The Prophets" where Samuel is ruminating on the ways in which he feels oppressed, and there's a line where he says, "They put their foot on your neck and then holler, 'Chaos,' if you try to take it off," and people immediately think of Eric Garner and others when you think about that, but I was actually emulating an incident that that I read in a slave narrative in which an enslaved person describes their master throwing them to the ground and putting their foot on their neck. And then you realize just how historical and how consistent anti-Blackness has been in this country, that this is happening in the 1800s and in the 21st century. So what I'm hoping that people gather from reading "The Prophets", particularly in this moment, is the crucial necessity of reflecting on one's own complicity in a system that does harm and the ways in which we can stop doing harm, the ways in which we can respect each other as human beings, even if we don't have all the exact same thoughts and beliefs about things, we could at least look at each other and say, "Baseline, you're alive. You deserve respect. You exist. You deserve rights." Instead of this thing where we, as Toni Morrison once put it, "We only feel tall when someone else is on their knees." We have to do away with that impulse. And that might be an endemic feature of white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, the ways in which we all contribute to that pathology. I'm sure that it's probably difficult for people to be reading this book at this time because we have the brutality of the real world and then the brutality of this fictional world that I created, but I hope that some people can pull past that to see the light at the center of it, because ultimately, it's a hopeful story. It's really calling upon us to live up to what we're calling ourselves. We're saying we're human beings, so let's be human. Let's express that part of ourselves that lends us to a greater collective good will so that the very planet we're on is no longer being polluted, so that where our children are safe to walk into the streets to go to school, so that these really difficult and oppressive constructs of misogyny and sexism and racism and anti-queerness, ableism, are pulled apart so that we can see our common humanity and just, I know this sounds so corny, but make the world a better place. Why do you want to live in a world of such conflict? Doctors now know that we pass these things on to our children. Epigenetics is a new science that's beginning to see the ways in which trauma is passed on. We can put that to an end simply by sharing, by not hoarding resources. It's so simple and I hope we do it.

- Well, for anyone who is listening right now who has not yet read "The Prophets", hopefully after this discussion, you'll be inspired to head straight out to your local bookseller and buy a copy. Thank you again, Robert, for your generosity and your vulnerability today, and thank you for sharing such a beautiful work with all of us.

- This this has been my absolute pleasure, Chris. Thank you to you, to LaFawn, to Indeed for providing me this platform to talk about this and thank you so much to everyone who joined us during this discussion. I know everyone's so busy now and we're under these really stressful conditions of being at home and not being able to hug and break bread with our loved ones, so I really appreciate people taking the time to come out and to hear us speak. Thank you, truly.