Sunday, August 16, 2015

Review: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs

Title: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
Author: Jeff Hobbs
Year Published: 2014

Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 402
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (NJ and CT)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book):
 Robert Peace was born outside Newark, in a neighborhood known as "Illtown," to an unwed mother who worked long hours in a kitchen. Peace's intellectual brilliance and hard-won determination earned him a full scholarship to Yale University. At college, while majoring in molecular bio-physics and biochemistry, he straddled the world of academia and the world of the street, never revealing his full self in either place. Upon graduation from Yale, he went home to teach at the the Catholic high school he'd attended, slid into the drug trade, and was brutally murdered at age thirty.

That's the short version of Robert Peace's life. The long version, the complete version, is this remarkable tour de force by Jeff Hobbs, a talented young novelist who was Peace's college roommate. Hobbs attended Peace's funeral, reached out to his friends from both Yale and Newark, and ultimately decided to write this harrowing and beautiful account of his life.

Review: I bought this book when my daughter and I were visiting colleges this summer. It seemed to jump off the book table in the Northeastern bookstore. This was a really interesting read!

Robert Peace is a study in contrasts. He is extremely intelligent, but makes terrible choices (can't really say what they are because it gives too much away), has a great smile but is moody, cares deeply about his family and friends but doesn't let them in. He had so many people working with him and around him to ensure that he had every opportunity to get out of his poor New Jersey neighborhood, go to a fantastic boarding school, and eventually Yale.

This book is inspiring and also so depressing. To hear what life is like for so many poor Americans, especially poor inner-city African-American males, is staggering. Even with all the opportunities given to and earned by Robert, he struggled, turned to drugs, and has his life ended in violence.

I think this is an important book for so many reasons and I hope it gets read widely.

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