The 100 Must-Read Books of 2021
November 29, 2021 8:16 AM EST

In antebellum Mississippi, on a plantation called Empty, two young enslaved men have found refuge in each other. Isaiah and Samuel share a bond that goes beyond just a romantic or sexual relationship. Their love, however, is used against them when Amos, an elder enslaved man acting as a preacher, tries to curry favor with Paul, his enslaver, by condemning Isaiah and Samuel for their “unnatural” relationship, and for their inability to impregnate the enslaved women. As tension mounts and the effects of Amos’ gospel ripple outward, Isaiah and Samuel’s commitment to each other is tested. Robert Jones Jr.s’ debut novel—a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction—is a tender and passionate story of queer Black love, told with a lyricism that justifies the many comparisons to Toni Morrison he has received.

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