Read The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs Online


A heartfelt, and riveting biography of the short life of a talented young African-American man who escapes the slums of Newark for Yale University only to succumb to the dangers of the streets—and of one’s own nature—when he returns home.When author Jeff Hobbs arrived at Yale University, he became fast friends with the man who would be his college roommate for four years,A heartfelt, and riveting biography of the short life of a talented young African-American man who escapes the slums of Newark for Yale University only to succumb to the dangers of the streets—and of one’s own nature—when he returns home.When author Jeff Hobbs arrived at Yale University, he became fast friends with the man who would be his college roommate for four years, Robert Peace. Robert’s life was rough from the beginning in the crime-ridden streets of Newark in the 1980s, with his father in jail and his mother earning less than $15,000 a year. But Robert was a brilliant student, and it was supposed to get easier when he was accepted to Yale, where he studied molecular biochemistry and biophysics. But it didn’t get easier. Robert carried with him the difficult dual nature of his existence, “fronting” in Yale, and at home.Through an honest rendering of Robert’s relationships—with his struggling mother, with his incarcerated father, with his teachers and friends and fellow drug dealers—The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace encompasses the most enduring conflicts in America: race, class, drugs, community, imprisonment, education, family, friendship, and love. It’s about the collision of two fiercely insular worlds—the ivy-covered campus of Yale University and Newark, New Jersey, and the difficulty of going from one to the other and then back again. It’s about poverty, the challenges of single motherhood, and the struggle to find male role models in a community where a man is more likely to go to prison than to college. It’s about reaching one’s greatest potential and taking responsibility for your family no matter the cost. It’s about trying to live a decent life in America. But most all the story is about the tragic life of one singular brilliant young man. His end, a violent one, is heartbreaking and powerful and unforgettable....

Title : The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781442380424
Format Type : Audiobook
Number of Pages : 416 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League Reviews

  • Glenn Sumi
    2019-05-03 21:58

    It’s been a couple of days since I finished this, and I’m still shaken up. The Short And Tragic Life Of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark For The Ivy League (shame about the title) is the sort of book I want to press on friends, saying simply: “You must read this.” Rob Peace grew up in a poor and dangerous New Jersey neighbourhood. The odds were stacked against him. He was black, male and being raised by his single mother (his father was loosely involved in the drug business and would later be charged and convicted in a double homicide). And yet, thanks to a ferociously hard-working mom, his intelligence, perseverance and leadership skills, Rob got into a prestigious inner-city private school and graduated with its top award. That in turn helped get him get into Yale, where he graduated with a degree in molecular biochemistry and biophysics. Throughout high school and university, he was dealing marijuana.The author, Jeff Hobbs, was Rob's privileged (he doesn't hide that) and lily-white Yale roommate. After graduation, Rob went back to the hood, stumbled around aimlessly for a while, taught at his old high school, tried to make quick money in real estate, took trips to Brazil (he learned Portuguese before he went), got a job as a baggage handler and travelled the world with his perks, had some bad luck, began selling pot again and then, at the age of 30, was killed, presumably in a drug-related death.But it’s so much more than that. Bare bones it’s about:• race• class• education• povertyDigging a little deeper, it deals with: • a single mother’s clear determination to provide a better life for her gifted son• that son’s loyalty, his feelings of guilt and wanting to stay true to his upbringing while also forging ahead and making the most of his gifts• the lack of role models for young black men• the enormous divide between the haves and the have-nots, not just in terms of money and education but self-esteem and a sense of entitlementOn another level you could say it touches on:• what’s wrong with the American Dream• what’s wrong with some American cities• what’s wrong with the justice system (it's unclear whether Rob's father really committed those murders, but the case definitely wasn't handled well)It’ll also make you think about: • how much choice anyone has in the course of his or her life• cruel twists of fate: could a friend’s $4,000 loan or a delayed application to a less stratified excellent college (i.e., one unlike Yale, where the distinction between the haves and have-nots was so obvious) have changed Rob's life?Okay. Deep breath.I know this all sounds scattered, which is so unlike Hobbs’s clear and carefully written book. By its nature the story is terribly sad. You know going in that it won’t have a happy ending. But you want to know: Why? WTF happened? Hobbs does a remarkable job of piecing together Rob’s life, which began even before he was born. It’s a non-fiction book that’s as gripping as a novel. There are several references to The Great Gatsby, and they’re all appropriate. It could also be called An American Tragedy.In some ways this book is also about love: a parent’s for a child, that child’s for his parents, self-love, love of community, love of home, love of true friends. Especially given the recent protests sparked by police brutality and unfair trials in the US, this book is essential reading.So pick it up. Meet this remarkable man and his too-short life. Meet his friends, his family, his teachers. Meet those who helped him, those who were helped by him, those who enabled him, those who warned him (bless you, Oswaldo Gutierrez), those who merely thought he was cool.Attention must be paid. And Rob Peace, as this book so eloquently proves, deserves to be more than a sad statistic.

  • Sara Nelson
    2019-05-09 20:12

    Full disclosure: I am a friend of the author and have read this book in many drafts and encouraged him to publish it. Still, I am blown away by how beautifully Jeff Hobbs showed us a story in which there are no heroes, where everybody is complex. . .if there's a perfect person in this book it is Jackie, Rob Peace's mother, who suffers his loss to this day. This is a hugely important book, but I worry that to say that makes it sound like the literary equivalent of kale: good for you but not that appetizing. This book is fascinating, smart, provocative: extraordinarily balanced and a page turner, all at once.

  • Ami
    2019-05-17 20:45

    This was an extremely difficult book to read--not because of the writing, which was clear and precise, but because of the feeling of being in a slow motion car wreck. You know something terrible is coming, you don't want it to happen, and you are helpless to stop it. Which is how I imagine many of Robert Peace's friends felt. It's an absolutely unflinching look at how poverty affects lives. (I'm covering the rest of the review with a spoiler alert, but I don't think the content I reveal would ruin the book for anyone, and it is certainly no different than the info that you'd hear listening to a Fresh Air or Daily Show interview with the author. But it's there just in case.) (view spoiler)[Robert Peace is smart. In inner city New Jersey, that's enough to set him on a different path than many of his peers, but Robert had another ace in the hole: two wise and devoted parents who planned for their child to succeed in as many ways as possible. It seems like an auspicious beginning, but Hobbs systematically shows us how even beginning in the best of circumstances can be inevitably pulled under by the daily grind of poverty. With his father imprisoned and his mother struggling financially, Robert--who adores and is supported by both of his parents--takes on a heavy mantel at a young age. His father helps him with homework over the phone from prison, and Robert helps his father with his legal appeal. His mother saves and works to send Robert to private school, where he excels, and Robert helps her by taking odd jobs and splitting the profits with the household. Through all of this there is the looming spectre of the inner city streets, where guns and gangs and drugs are a reality. Hobbs carefully shows how the young Robert learns to split his personality into separate pieces: school Robert. Streets Robert. Friend Robert. Boyfriend Robert. And how this early fracturing never really allows him to escape those streets.Robert, while he seems like a remarkable and amazing person, isn't an innocent. Hobbs is careful to show you that this is not a story of someone helpless in the face of circumstance. Robert makes his own choices. But what is remarkable is the way that by so carefully leading you through Robert's life, Hobbs is able to show you the ways that Robert's decisions are tied in many, many ways to his beginning, and just how difficult those are to leave behind. (hide spoiler)]

  • Elyse
    2019-05-19 15:03

    My mind still lingers with Sherman Alexie's memoir, "You Don't Have To Say You LoveMe". Sherman Alexie was raised on an Indian Reservation -- with unbearable conditions --he moved on to schools where he could get a better education- in all white schools. His classmates came to love and respect him. --- Sherman Alexie is a successful author today --at the same time ...Sherman never 'fully' escaped his environment. He is a Native American- with memories of property - abuse - drugs - etc. He has anger - He has grief - He has sadness- BUT HE IS ALSO ALIVE - making a difference in our world. So what is the difference?Robert Peace came from a harsh environment of poverty and crime. Like Alexie he was 'smart'.His mother supported in all the ways she could to send Robert to private Catholic Schools. He excelled. He excelled academically at Yale, also. Like Alexie, Robert had friends who loved him. Both Alexie and Robert Peace were bright, educated .... educated beyond anything anyone in their immediate family and community culture had done. SO, what's the difference? Why did Robert Peace get side tracked and make illegal, undesirable, ill advised, injudicious choices? And... why 'didn't' Alexie? We will never know the answers - but Jeff Hobbs did an exceptional job with this book. We do see breakdowns. Alexie always fought BACK with his MOTHER even as a 'small' child. That may have had some benefits. He didn't take on the role of 'adult child' ....or 'husband' to his any age. He looked after himself. His mother taught him how to survive--ruthlessly.... but Alexie didn't carry the burden or guilt - for his mother's suffering. He never was made to feel bad for her hardships. Robert was bright academically, but did he drive his own life with purpose, dreams, visions, and goals? I don't think so. There were red flags of Robert self-medicating with alcohol and daily marijuana -- an indication of some inner pain and or anxiety. I think there were many unresolved issues from his childhood that just got stuff down while he was getting good grades in college. Just so sad. At the same time -- Robert Peace was charming -lovable.....a guy we just sooo wished more for!!! When Robert was younger, he had often been his mother's sounding board. Almost 'too good' -- 'too' well behaved as a 'young boy'."His whole life he listen to her, whether she was complaining about work pressing through the tricky economics of paying for high school; by listening in his gentle way, he'd made things okay. He'd been her sounding board, her life partner, her heart. Now, at age 27, when he should have been thinking about starting his own family, he was sassing her like a child". Robert's was expressing his independent voice --( not perfect-- he needed practice--we could see he just needed a few more years to grow - work these things out).... so we hoped. But life got stopped short.....My god...his poor mother. Her dear poor broken heart!!!!! So so sad!!! So much sadness - such tragedy. The writing itself ...'flew by': Jeff Hobb desevered all the acknowledgments and awards he got for this book. I have the hardcopy - The photos included are so touching. Many people have already read this book. I was late for the early discussions --- but having read this now -- along with Sherman Alexie's story are great bookends.

  • Dianne
    2019-05-02 18:08

    “I’ve never met anyone so smart but so f***ing dumb.” – Oswaldo Gutierrez (friend of Rob’s)This sums up my feelings exactly after reading this troubling book, but at the same time, it is so much more complicated than that.Robert “Shawn” Peace is born to a single mother in poverty and crime-stricken Newark, New Jersey in 1980. Although his mother and father never married, his father remained a powerful influence in his life, both negative (hustling drugs) and positive (tirelessly drilling his son on his homework and encouraging his natural curiosity and intelligence). Even after his father, Skeet, was imprisoned for double homicide, the father and son maintained a tight connection. Rob was convinced his father was innocent and that he was framed by white police officers. Throughout middle school, high school and college, Rob would work tirelessly on appeals to release his father from prison.Rob’s mother, Jackie, fearing her son would turn into another rough boy in the neighborhood, worked hard to enroll her son in private Catholic schools where smaller classes and stronger teachers allowed his natural intellect and interest in math and science to blossom. At the same time, Rob, noticing his mother’s sacrifices on his behalf, “assumed the role of husband to his mother,” working small jobs in the neighborhood and splitting the money with his mother. This role of protector would become strongly ingrained in Rob’s persona and would drive his interactions with people for the rest of his life. At the same time, Rob valued maintaining his connections with his father’s friends who would offer Rob a sip of alcohol or a toke as he strolled through his neighborhood. Rob became tuned in to the personal stories and problems of his neighbors, and enjoyed offering advice and trying to help solve their problems – another pattern that would repeat throughout Rob’s life. He also became addicted to the stress-relieving benefits of getting high.The beneficiary of a full scholarship to Yale, Rob studied molecular biophysics and biochemisty. Rob went to class, did his work and got A’s. He also ran a very successful side business dealing marijuana at Yale, which netted him over $100,000 over his four years there. Rob was quiet and skilled at keeping how he felt to himself but one classmate made an astute observation:“Arthur had always been troubled by the anger he sensed in Rob. Though he hid that anger well behind the grin and the laughter and the marijuana, Arthur felt it in the jokes Rob made to Laurel and others about their privileged upbringings, in his heavy quietude whenever socioeconomic topics came up in conversation, and in his general disdain of Yale and Yalies. Arthur saw a close-mindedness that was, he felt, self-propogating and innately limiting. More broadly, he believed these qualities explained precisely how an intelligent guy like Rob would always make life harder on himself than it needed to be. Here he was, drinking brandy in a prestigious society in a top-ranked school, the beneficiary of so many gifts both natural and bestowed, surrounded by bright and open-minded classmates, and yet he still remained mired in, even paralyzed by, what was effectively his own racism.”After graduation, Rob stayed on at Yale, first as a summer custodian and then as an assistant in the Yale labs. After a trip to Rio, he returned to Newark and his homies, the Burger Boyz, and drifted into the sluggish whirlpool of low-paying, dead end jobs and hustling that would mark the last decade of his life.“Get the f**k out of Newark. Get the f**k away from people who won’t get the f**k out of Newark.” – Oswaldo GutierrezHow can so much promise go so awry? There are many turning points and paths untaken that you can point to, but it seems to me that one mistake that would inform Rob’s whole life came as soon as he entered it. All of Jackie’s siblings moved out of Newark and that toxic environment, but Jackie stayed on in the house that she had lived in since she was eleven and raised her son there. For someone like Rob who was all about caring for family and friends, he would be drawn to wherever his mother and childhood friends were.“If you want to, and you don’t, then that’s on you.” – Rob PeaceRob was fond of offering this piece of advice to others, but never seemed to grasp the irony with which this applied to him. He could have gone to graduate school, as he kept talking about, and continued on a path that fostered his gifts and abilities, but he became trapped in an inertia he couldn’t seem to shake:“Oswaldo noticed a circular aspect to Rob’s speech and manners, a narrowing of vision in a man who, in college, had been more curious and knowledgeable than seemingly any of the five thousand Yale undergraduates surrounding him. Like the planes that circled above the airport when the ground crew caused runway delays, he fell into a holding pattern of carping about his life while hunched over a joint on Oswaldo’s sofa……his laments were small and tiresome……Oswaldo understood now with a clarity he’d never had before that all Rob’s troubles were self-inflicted.”The book is authored by one of Rob’s college roommates and is meticulously researched and reconstructed. It is so chock full of details, it is not always the smoothest reading experience. Also, this is not a reflection of the writer at all, but the biggest missing piece is Rob’s own voice. What was he thinking? What specifically kept him spinning in circles, tractionless, held fast in the grip of a life of hustling when he could have done so much more? This guarded, brilliant man held his cards so close to the vest that not even the people closest to him could figure out what he was thinking. This is a book that will haunt me for a long time, especially the last part of the book. You know from the title how this is going to end for Rob, but I was so filled with dread as I came to the finish that I had to put the book down and walk away for a couple of days before I could bear to pick it up again. A 4.5. Highly recommend.

  • Kerrie
    2019-05-16 21:46

    I have a lot of feelings when it comes to this book.On the one hand, Jeff Hobbs is a talented writer. Here is an engaging work of non-fiction, that brings the reader deep into the life of a man they'll never know.On the other, much weightier hand, this book is yet another monetization of black tragedy. Hobbs knew Peace, but by his own admission in his work, he didn't really know this man. He gleaned the details of his life from family and friends and then wrote a work that regularly centered his whiteness, reflecting the world of a man of color through the eyes of a white person. This could be considered objective, but that would be a euphemism for exploitation.Robert Peace's life was incredibly interesting to me as a woman of color who also had the fortune to attend one of our nation's hallowed elite universities. Though we came from very different socioeconomic backgrounds, the experiences resonated strongly with me. It's always complicated being a person of color in a white environment (Let's drop the predominantly as I usually find that a room of >50% white people makes the space white), and Rob Peace's experiences are not only resonant, but important to share as we encourage children of color into these environments to pursue "success."Out of context, I'd rate this on just the writing and if that were the case, this would have been 4 stars.But context is important, and as with so many other works that are stolen from voices that are too often silenced and told by the ever powerful majority, as strong as the writing is here, I can't resolve that with my discomfort over who ultimately gets to tell this man's story.

  • Shanae
    2019-05-20 20:42

    This book has been the most significant waste of time I've ever endured. It's apparent that Jeff Hobbs was not as close a friend to Robert Peace as he let on. I don't trust him. I don't know who would trust him and on what grounds they would trust him to tell the story of Robert Peace's life. Struggling with debt, trying to make a name for himself, working to put his Yale degree to some use, it appears that a story about how you can take the Black kid out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the Black kid was a good way for him to finally achieve his personal goals...though I expected a work that would honor the legacy of his "friend." Based on Hobbs' previous books, I can also see that of his own accord he would not have been able to produce anything even remotely similar. I found the book problematic in several ways. The work made me very uncomfortable. I don't understand the praise for the book and will not attempt to because I find that much of it is most likely rooted in ignorance and an inability to understand or recognize the Black experience in America. Jeff Hobbs, though "down" and capable of doing the latest Black dance moves, cannot properly articulate the aforementioned experience. As a result, he should not have attempted to document such a story.

  • Leigh
    2019-05-21 16:53

    During my time at Yale, I was pretty oblivious to the issues of income inequality between students-I was a middle class girl from South Florida who didn't understand how those issues made the Yale experience-the best of my life--a vastly different one for those who didn't have what I had been given. I've spent most of my adult life working with low income people and now understand those issues-and reading about Rob Peace's life made me so profoundly sad, for the gifts he had, for his inability to figure out how to build on them, for the lack of security and stability that not even a Yale degree could mitigate. And it's all so terribly complicated-how can we ask or expect someone to turn his back on his friends, his family, his community, even when getting out of Newark might have been the one thing that could have saved him. Rob and I went to the same school, but our experiences were never going to be the same, because that structural inequality pervades and constrains all of the choices that he made. This book hit me hard. It will be with me for a long time.

  • Casey
    2019-05-04 20:53

    I loved the beginning of this book. But the book's tone takes a sharp turn when the author appears 125 pages in. The childhood portions were so well reported. It feels strange that the Yale portions of this book rely so much more heavily on the author's own experiences. It becomes too much about Jeff Hobbs. I wouldn't mind some details about Hobbs to understand the juxtaposition of Rob's being his roommate, but I don't need to know all about Hobb's track issues and the first time he smoked marijuana. Which gets to my bigger issue with this book: Hobbs includes too much -- too many characters, too many details. This is a story about Robert -- not Raquel. I get that he did the reporting. And I don't mind his recreating scenes. But I don't understand why some of the scenes are in here. They don't really propel the narrative. They just feel like a tedious re telling of Rob's life. By the end, I had trouble feeling like this life was "short" at all. I had read every single conversation he had ever had. Overall, I enjoyed it, though. I loved reading the first section and the rest of the book was quite instructive, if no longer exciting to read.

  • Mom3
    2019-05-07 16:57

    As an African American Yale graduate who knew Rob Peace, I find many inconsistencies in this book. The timeline and several of the reports are inaccurate; no doubt some degree of sensationalism was needed to sell the story. The greatest inconsistency rests in Jeff deeming himself a "friend" of the author. Why would a "friend" choose to publicize such negative and disparaging details of a loved one's life? Why would a "friend" choose to taint the and destroy the reputation of someone he holds dear? I realize some of the reports were published in news articles but this book delves into intricate details that I am sure Rob's private nature would not want divulged. It appears that after his career failures, Mr. Hobbs finally happened upon material that would form the foundation of a successful book. The book is a riveting read, I admit. It appears that Jeff is merely capitalizing on the tragedy of Rob's death. Mr. Hobbs, if you sincerely consider Rob a friend, and wrote this book to honor him, I assume some of the profits obtained will be allocated to his mother and/or St. Benedict's Prep School and not simply all pocketed for yourself.

  • Esil
    2019-04-26 17:11

    I'm trying to sort through my reaction to The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. Jeff Hobbs writes about his former Yale roommate, Rob Peace, who was tragically killed at age of 30 likely as a result of his involvement in the drug trade. Robert was African American and grew up in a very low income crime ridden part of New Jersey. Hobbs recounts in meticulous detail Rob's life -- the neighbourhood he grew up in, his single mother's love and dedication, his bond with his father even after he was sent to jail on first degree murder charges, his multiple childhood friends, his education at Saint Benedict's high school, his admission and attendance at Yale, and the years after graduation when he worked at many jobs and was constantly angling to make money in part to feed his generosity to family and friends. Hobbs works hard to depict Rob's circumstances, what he did throughout his life and the minutia of many of his interactions with all the people with whom he came into contact. We know that he was incredibly smart, sailing easily through high school and Yale, was very dedicated to friends and family, loved traveling, had an element of aimlessness and despite his crazy intelligence was quite capable of making really stupid decisions. And all of this is fascinating and kept my interest as I faithfully listened to this book on audio. But in the end, I am left with the feeling that something is missing. I'm still not sure that I know Rob particularly well -- I am not sure that Hobbs -- who clearly had a lot of respect and love for his friend -- was ever able to access what made Rob tick. Perhaps Hobbs' own life experience and circumstances which are so different from Rob's mean that it was hard for him to access and really get at Rob's inner world. Or perhaps Rob was a guarded person that no one really got to know. But I'm left with a feeling of disconnect between the detailed account of Rob's like and the feeling that I never really got to know him. I do appreciate that Hobbs has not turned this book into a polemic about race and class. There's a lot of food for thought in Robert Peace's story about these issues -- but maybe in the end Hobbs' gift to Rob and his family and friends is that he's not merely portrayed as the sum total of his socioeconomic circumstances or as a statistic -- he was a complex guy -- so smart and "so fucking dumb" as one of his friends put it. The course of his life what not pre ordained by his initial circumstances -- his path to the end of his life is a complex mixture of circumstance, personality, family and choice.

  • Walter
    2019-04-29 17:00

    Wow! Just, "wow!" This is such a fantastic tale - fantastic in the sense of being the stuff of fantasy though it was and is oh so real and a tale in a similar sense of being so incredible and unique that it seems like fiction but cannot be in the spirit of the expression "You can't make this stuff up!" - and one that is lovingly, movingly and beautifully told by its author, erstwhile college roommate, friend and admirer of the singular individual who was and is Robert DeShaun Peace.And yet it's a horrifying story, a journey during which a reader will find him- or herself trying not to scream at the pages to forestall its inevitable and known conclusion. It's a hauntingly human experience: a story of a unique person, an incredible journey and a reminder that, as noted in the moving moving picture A Bronx Tale, the greatest tragedy in life is indeed wasted talent. Or, perhaps more accurately put, unrealized potential is that greatest tragedy: for Rob or Shawn - depending upon how/in what context you knew him - didn't so much squander his talent as fail to leverage some of the advantages of his life - especially his Yale education - as fully as he seemed destined to do. Yet, during his too-brief time on earth he surely made an indelible impression on the lives of many of the people who were blessed to know him.And yet Rob Peace died at 30, a victim of his inability to realize his promise fully, to extricate himself from a past that propelled him and in effect defined him because it constrained, and ultimately ended, his future. He was in a sense a victim of his upbringing - never fully able to leave the decaying and often violent neighborhood of his youth - and yet he clearly grew beyond this in meaningful ways, as his multi-faceted and idiosyncratic adult life demonstrates. In the end, I suspect that what happened with Rob Peace is similar to what happens with many preternaturally and precociously intelligent people: his confidence in his genius grew to arrogance, so he finally found himself in a situation that he couldn't control, influence or extricate himself from with his intellect, his will, his loquaciousness or his perspicacity.Yet the story of his life reads both like a(n ultimately sad) fable and cautionary tale. He was born and grew up in and around Newark, NJ, and some of its less affluent suburbs that decayed greatly in the last quarter of the last century. From an early age, he demonstrated a precocious intelligence and a way with people, the last (and possibly the first) an inheritance from his hustler father whom his devoted mother consciously chose not to marry. He lived the hard life of the son of a struggling single mother, especially after his father was convicted of a double murder (though 'Skeet' Douglas had had no previous history of violent crime). Yet school turned out to be a sanctuary for him and his beloved mother scrimped and sacrificed to send her beloved son and only child to private/Catholic schools. His high school was the venerable St. Benedict's in Newark, an environment in which he excelled to the point of becoming one of its most impressive students and then alumni. He ended up at Yale, a secondary choice of colleges in fact, because he was offered a scholarship by a successful businessman who was a fellow St. B's alum and taken with the young man of seemingly unlimited potential. While at Yale, he majored and earned honors in molecular biophysics and biochemistry (one of its most challenging majors, of course). In sum, at his graduation in 2002, it seemed that the world would truly be Rob Peace's oyster ... and yet it was not destined to be....Instead of using Yale as a platform to get up and out of his initial lowly station in life, Rob Peace was drawn back to the 'hood that had molded him, which sometimes played out positively but most often not so. For example, he ended up teaching and coaching at his high school alma mater for four years after his collegiate career and, in that time, made significant and meaningful contributions to the next generation of young men of potential like him. After this time, he seemed to begin to drift, unable to make his ever-changing plans seem like or manifest themselves as more than schemes. And, eventually, he was betrayed by his own intellect, undone by the arrogance of his confidence in his (umpteenth) plan, while not fully being able to control the minor circumstances that coalesced virally into his denouement. This is the tragic story of Rob Peace's life....But it's only half of the story, because, in reality, Rob Peace was effectively a practicing and functional schizophrenic, especially because throughout his life he nurtured an alter ego who was a self-styled master of the streets. People who knew him in this context called him "Shawn," the nickname truncated from his middle name, and saw and experienced a different person than the straight-A all-star and Ivy League grad. The Shawn they knew was a generous, peripatetic hustler and aficionado(/addict) and small-time dealer of marijuana, a supposedly harmless drug. (Whatever view one takes of cannabis, there is no gainsaying that the [illegal] networks by which it's distributed are anything but benign, as Shawn Peace's death attests.)And therein lies a fascinating aspect of a fascinating person and life: Rob Peace was Shawn Peace and these two very different personae were, in his adult experience, increasingly hard and ultimately impossible to reconcile. It's these contours, juxtapositions, paradoxes and conflicts of his personality(-/ies) that make him such a fascinating - and, again, ultimately tragic - character. (And, when the story of this singular life is told so elegantly, thoroughly and clearly lovingly by his college roommate-cum-novelist/writer, it's a powerful, haunting experience.)I can't possibly do Rob's/Shawn's story justice in this review - which, as I review it, I realize doesn't yet contain a mention of his core group of high school and college friends who shared his love and whom he inspired and influenced or his love for travel or his aspiration to be an affordable housing tycoon or... - and that's the point, to experience something resembling an appreciation for this unique life and story, you must read this book ... and try, as hard as this may be, not to hope against hope that the ending changes before you get to it. (Having finished the book now - after having felt drawn and compelled to read it during every moment of my personal time in the past week - I have to admit that, in the back of my mind, there's some part of me that hopes for an addendum that reveals a different result, a happier ending, an inspiring and eternal tale of triumph in the realization of abundant gifts. Even now the book and story haunt me and I wish for a different resolution, one that I know rationally can never be....)So I recommend this book highly, both as an incredibly crafted biography of a singular individual and as a cautionary tale about the choices that we make and the environments that we choose that may choose us in ways that we can't fully appreciate. It's a page-turner of a tragedy, but a most enriching read. Sometimes life is sad/tragic, as the story of Mr. Peace's is. At least the reader can be reminded of this in a beautiful, moving and inspirational way as Mr. Hobbs has done in this expose and tribute to his late, beloved friend....

  • Carol
    2019-05-05 22:09

    It is no surprise to the reader going in that The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace would not end well, but Rob's unnecessary death did not only make me sad, it made me mad!Such intelligence, such potential, such strength to overcome achieve so much and then throw it all away.....such a waste! A Yale grad, a great leader, and an admired teacher with a degree in molecular biochemistry and biophysics.....lost to the drug trade. What a dam shame!

  • Chris Blocker
    2019-05-03 20:56

    Before I even cracked the spine of this book, I had my reservations. What truly was the author's relationship with the subject? Was this another case of exploiting of a tragedy? What is the purpose of this book? To solidify stereotypes? To give fodder to those who say “you can take the black man out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the black man”? Having finished this book and loved it, I still wonder about these questions. I guess that's good—a book should make you think. A good book not only causes you to think, but it also will make you feel. And on both of those counts, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is a stand-out book.I think some people who read this book will have definitive answers to the questions raised earlier and will not like the answers. By his own admission, Jeff Hobbs wasn't “that close” to Rob Peace. He was a privileged white boy. Surely there had to be someone closer to Peace and his urban neighborhood who could better tell his story. But by my estimation, Hobbs wasn't that far from Peace either. They were college roommates, they stayed in touch until Peace's death more than a decade after they'd met. Hobbs asked Peace to be a best man at his wedding. Their relationship may have become less interwoven over time, but there were threads that always connected them. Was there someone closer to Peace who could've told his story? Possibly. But would they have told it? Was there someone in Peace's life who would've done the research and conducted the interviews that Hobbs did? And if no one else told the story? Then readers wouldn't have this heartbreaking, inspirational tale of Rob Peace.Some may look at Peace's story and see only the wasted potential. They may attach their own twisted agendas to the story—make it into a cautionary tale about ethnicity, drugs, poverty, politics. Like any story, people will take from it what they will; often what they take away comes in the same shade of what they brought in the first place. Those looking to cast blame will likely walk away from this story angry at someone. But others will look at the absolutely brilliant, yet conflicted human that was Robert Peace, at a mother who through everything was so incredibly strong, at the city that made them both into the people they were, and they'll be glad that someone had the courage and the talent to tell the story.

  • Ellie
    2019-05-03 16:42

    The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs is a brilliant rendering of a life wasted. Robert Peace, born and raised in Newark, child of a hard-working (but therefore often absent) mother and a loving father (absent because he went to prison for murder when Robert was 7), had a brilliant mind. He was charming and caring and went from Newark to Yale via a small prep school in Newark. He worked hard but people also helped him. However, it was as though he couldn't see beyond the triumph of going to college. He graduated from Yale and then did nothing. He smoked marijuana from the time he was a young teen and dealt it throughout college in a casual way that seemed to his friends as though it was harmless. However, pot was the one constant in a life increasingly off-track. Peace went from Yale to high school teaching to working moving luggage for an airlines to focusing on his drug trade. He was always meaning to get out of the game, to get his life on track but didn't manage to do so, at least not before his life was taken, undoubtedly as a result of his drug dealing.Peace is a victim both of his past and of his choices in a complicated interplay. He certainly was nothing so simple as only a victim of his neighborhood, childhood, or race although his ties to his community both sustained him and kept him down. The same is true of his loyalty and connection to his father, a man who fostered in Peace both his work ethic and his drug use. However, he clearly made many wrong decisions that side-tracked and ultimately ended his life.The person I felt the worst for in this whole mess was Peace's mother, Jackie, who gave up her life to educate her son only to lose him before his time.The book is powerfully told by Peace's former Yale roommate, a novelist who creates a narrative with the grace of a novel and the power of the reality it is. Peace was clearly a man who attracted love and loyalty.Peace's friends tried desperately to get him back on track but in the end he was unable to do so and died as a result. A tragic and moving story, with no easy lessons to be drawn from it.

  • Chris Witkowski
    2019-05-23 17:48

    The life story of Rob Peace, as told by his Yale college roommate, is one of the saddest tales I have ever heard, and also one of the most infuriating. Peace was born in the slums of Newark to Jackie, a single mom; at the age of seven his father was arrested for murder and sent to prison, a grim and terrible place that Rob and his mother would visit religiously on a weekly basis. Rob was extremely intelligent and Jackie was bound and determined that he would get a good education and to that end, she scrimped and saved, working back breaking jobs, in order to send him to a private school. It was at that school that Rob truly excelled and upon graduation, he came to the attention of one of the school’s wealthy benefactors, who offered to pay for his college education. And off to Yale he went, where he again proved himself to be one of the smartest among the 1,000 in his class. We know from the title of the book that Rob will die at a young age; from reading the book jacket we know he dies a violent death. What we don’t know is how this could have happened to a young man who had so much promise, who had a huge support in his mother, who really seemed as though the world was his to conquer. In a very detailed way, through hundreds of interviews with Peace’s friends and family, as well as his own relationship with him, Hobbs attempts to explain how this tragedy could have happened. But here’s the thing – it’s not such a mystery to me why Rob Peace never made it. From a very young age he smoked vast amounts of marijuana and drank copiously. Once at Yale he started dealing in pot in order to make extra money, always with a goal of sending some home to his beloved mother. And upon graduation, instead of applying to grad school or looking for a challenging job, he settled for small stints, traveled to exotic places, where he could get high, chill out, and buy more drugs to sell back home. Clearly this man was an addict and not once in the writing of this book does the author venture to attribute what was an obvious addiction to Rob’s astounding lack of motivation to use the immense intelligence that he was born with. There are a few people in Rob’s life who knew he had a problem with drugs, and indeed one high school coach tried to talk to him about it, with disastrous results. It is this lack of insight into a major character flaw that keeps this book from being great. It is still a fascinating read though, as it delves into just what it must be like for an intelligent, black, but very poor kid to attend one of the most prestigious colleges in the country. Not only was it hard for Rob while he was in college, but upon graduation he would go to great lengths to hide his pedigree from his acquaintances in the neighborhood he did his business in. Yes, Rob Peace had a very hard life. But yes, he also had tremendous assets, not the least of which was a phenomenal intelligence. Why he ended up shot to death is a very sad story indeed.

  • Sophie Vershbow
    2019-05-16 21:11

    One of the most important books I've ever come across. "The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace" should be required reading in every school in every town in every country across the world. Aside from being educated about class-issues in America, I was deeply affected by Peace's journey, and Hobb's ability to convey it so effectively. Never before have I been moved to tears by a book that taught me so much.I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. Please, everyone, read this book.

  • Jane
    2019-04-22 17:03

    A lot of people are blathering about the sociology and importance of this book and its spotlight on poverty and class in the U.S. blah blah blah blah but I just loved it for being emotionally riveting and suspenseful. As a suburban Midwesterner, I know nothing about how it feels to live in a violent urban environment nor in the hallowed halls of an Ivy League school so the entire story was fascinating to me, and well-told. I was captivated by Rob Peace, as it seems everyone he met was. RIP

  • Camie
    2019-05-13 22:45

    Written by a former roommate, this is the biography of Robert Peace. Raised by his hardworking, black, single mother in a poverty and drug ridden neighborhood in Newark, and with his father in prison, he nevertheless managed to earn a spot in an Ivy League School and excel both socially and academically. It seems Robert Peace was one of those people who deeply touched the lives of those who knew him being both charismatic and brilliant. Unfortunately (as the title gives away)becoming mired in the quicksand of his past kept him from ever climbing to his full potential. A very insightful book , that will leave you moved . 4.5 stars

  • Matthew Errico
    2019-04-27 15:10

    This book brought me back to Jersey. To a time I worked three jobs and lived in an attic in Bradley Beach. The Jersey Shore. Paying 100 bucks a month rent. In my torn-up black Oldsmobile, I barreled twice a week up the Parkway to Seton Hall. Driving streets Peace would know and learn to run. Past a park where he’d deal. I might have even driven past a young Peace. My connection to this place formed in the early nineties, before he came of age. Naughty by Nature had hit it - dropping stories about these north Jersey neighborhoods. Neighborhoods founded by European immigrants but now predominantly African-American. The Giants had just won a Super Bowl. The Pirates basketball team, stacked with kids from St. Anthony’s in Jersey City, were blowing up the Big East. Putting Jersey hoops on the map. Howard Stern and Mike and the Mad Dog dominated the dial. John Gotti was still in the news. Springsteen dropped the E-street band and Bon Jovi was on top. Atlantic City and Asbury Park were on life support. But Jersey was still Jersey. No one was feeling sorry for you. People just fighting to find their way. Hustling. Going for it. Struggling for their piece of the American Dream. Struggling, like Peace years later, not to get lost. Not to be swallowed. The story of lost potential is timeless. And the undercurrents of race, class, and brutal indifference often simmer beneath it all. This book still haunts me.

  • Chi-Chi
    2019-05-08 16:42

    The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace could not have been more aptly named. His story is fascinating but not in a good way. I think the one thing Peace's life goes to demonstrate is exactly how difficult it is to break the cycle of poverty. Even if a person is brilliant. Even if extraordinary opportunities prevent themselves. Poverty seems to be sort of a soul and mind suck. That's what I took away from this book. That battling poverty is such a heavy, complex thing, nowhere as simple as one might believe. And that understanding to me is pretty sobering. Where does one even begin, then? This book was like watching a terrible car accident in painful, slow motion and something about the description of the way Peace died, the coroner's report, really just pierced my heart. Such a painful, awful death. And no one has ever been held accountable. Another thing that struck me is that Peace is not the exception to some rule. There are indeed other brilliant, gifted men whose gifts are eclipsed and obliterated by the life circumstances into which they are born. Peace got lucky in some ways: that his father was marginally involved in his life, that his mother was able to scrape the money together to send him to Catholic school, that he was able to go away to Yale. But the pull of the ghetto and ghetto life and ghetto mentality? He was never able to get away from that. Even at Yale, a place so vastly different from where he grew up as to constitute a totally different world, he managed to bring it with him. And it was hard to read about his spiral. Hard to accept that no one and nothing could materialize to save this young man. That this was, in a sense, his destiny. Because like his friend Oswaldo, some people do get out and make something of themselves. That seems to be more rare though and takes incredible fortitude, determination, and desperation even to break free and remain free. The book is well-written and engaging. The only thing that made me want to put it down at times was sadness. A wish that I could go back in time and give Peace the proverbial slap in the face and kick in the butt that would have woken him up and pushed him forward to achieve the greatness of which he was capable. Note: After reading some other negative reviews, I see that one concern is that the author capitalized off Peace's story and didn't know him well enough to be the one to write the story. But the thing is that authors who write biographies capitalize off the story of the person they are writing about and they may not need to know the person all that well in the beginning. That's where research comes in. Interviews and the like. A complete stranger who gets interested in someone can write a biography. I can't say I've read a large number of biographies written by the subject's best friend. I did not get the sense the Hobbs was placing himself as some incredibly close friend to Peace. He was his roommate in college and so that brought them close even if it was a forced closeness and they remained friends in that way. I'm glad Hobbs undertook the project and gave the world a biography of Peace who was indeed brilliant.

  • Jamise // Spines & Vines
    2019-05-10 19:58

    Jeff Hobbs does a fantastic job drawing the reader into life of Robert Peace. From the fierce streets of Newark, to the campus of Yale University and back to Newark, "Rob Peace stood on the cusp of achieving everything that word called to mind." As a reader your first inclination is to judge but as the story unfolds you realize if you haven't lived it, how can you judge. I was reduced to tears at the conclusion of this story and heartbroken over the unconscionable but yet realistic turn of events that defer a dream. My thoughts continually went to Langston Hughes poem Harlem - "What happens to a dream deferred?" Does it dry uplike a raisin in the sun?Or fester like a sore—And then run?Does it stink like rotten meat?Or crust and sugar over—like a syrupy sweet?Maybe it just sagslike a heavy load.Or does it explode?

  • Terzah
    2019-04-25 15:56

    If I were rating Robert Peace on the writing alone, I'd give it 2.5 stars. The book is too long (I would have cut all the stuff about Newark politicians, among other things), and the prose is repetitive and at best workmanlike. But it gets a huge bump up because while I was reading it, I had a hard time not thinking about the questions it implied and the issues it raised. I even dreamed about it.What is the secret of success? This young man's story tells you what that secret is not: it's not intelligence (Robert Peace was by all accounts and by objective evidence brilliant); it's not parents who love and believe in you (both Peace's hard-working taciturn mother and his dangerously charismatic father adored him and recognized his smarts, doing what they could to nurture them); success is not a free pass to an Ivy League education (Peace graduated from Yale after excelling there on the dime of a wealthy businessman who heard him speak as a high schooler and saw endless potential); it's not empathy or curiosity about the larger world (Peace was well-traveled and had many devoted friends from all eras of his short life); it's not the fortitude to deal with adversity and difficulty (Peace grew up in poverty in a dangerous New Jersey neighborhood and at age seven saw his beloved father jailed for murder); and it's not self-confidence, or the appearance of it.So why did this man, who had all of those qualities and gifts, fail so spectacularly, losing his life in the process? It could have been racism, which my African-American friends (and recent events) have suggested is always in the background, even in the case of people like Rob Peace who seem to move effortlessly beyond race. Peace may have been good at everything he did (water polo, bio-science), but was he ever completely comfortable in the spheres in which such activities require their practitioners to move? Or was he always on edge due to that background of racism? That could have have been part of it, but that answer doesn't satisfy me.It could also have been his drug use. Hobbs states that Peace began smoking marijuana at age thirteen and from that time on required it to maintain his equilibrium. Even worse, he began dealing the drug at Yale, got hooked on the easy money dealing brought in and ultimately paid for that with his life. The fact that doing business with this drug is now legal in my state (Colorado) seems in this context like a good thing. The fact that it is (if Peace is any indication) addictive for some people seems like a very bad thing. I hope my children are never interested in it. But even drug use and drug dealing, among the most stupid things a smart guy could have done, don't seem like enough to explain why Rob Peace couldn't realize his potential.To the extent that an answer exists, I think it lies in Peace's deep well of anger, usually well-concealed from those who loved him but flashing out often enough at points throughout the text that it's plain it existed long before he went to Yale and probably long before he smoked his first joint. I think it dated back to his father's incarceration/fall from grace. This event wasn't something any of the adults in his life, especially his mother, a woman of deep feeling but few words, could help him properly deal with. It almost certainly deepened when his father, whom Peace always believed was innocent, died in prison. Later in the book, Hobbs writes how Charles Cawley, the businessman who paid for Peace's college education, on meeting him years later at a function at his old high school, sensed a deep rage in the young man. Cawley "believed that certain human frailties could actually help fuel success. Insecurity drove billionaire entrepreneurs. Emotional instability made for superb art. The need for attention built great political leaders. But anger, in his experience, led only to inertia."This story is sad. The one consolation I take is that, if success is defined as something other than career-ladder-climbing or a fat paycheck, Peace's wasn't a life lived in vain. The line at his funeral wrapped around city blocks. People loved him, flaws and all. I hope that's a consolation for his mother, too.

  • Diane Yannick
    2019-05-10 14:46

    First I need to get this out of the way. To all of you who have deemed this a well-written book, I heartily disagree. Both the writing and the self-promotion of the author get in the way of the story. The narrative is tedious, full of cliches and often awkward. How in the hell many unremarkable marijuana infused nights at Yale and in the hood did he need to describe? If you're going to lay out the story with a horrible title like this, don't make us wait so long for the tragedy. I know you were Rob's roommate and that you did a lot of research but I think Rob would have had huge problems with some of your biographical choices. That said, Rob Peace was an interesting young man who took his brains and athletic prowess to Yale but left his heart in the ghetto. He was given many opportunities because of his charm and his academic and athletic prowess. He earned degrees in biophysics and biochemistry from Yale, for heaven's sake. Yet, when college was over, he was unable to use his degree to better his life. He appeared to have no moral compass and no gumption. He promised himself repeatedly that he would give up drug dealing but he always had some lame reason to continue. He taught science without passion. He jumped into real estate although he knew little about it. He borrowed money and endangered others' lives. He seemed to use many of the women in his life for sex and little else. Yet, he was loyal to many of his friends and loved their kids. He never turned his back on his imprisoned dad, Skeet. His relationship with his mother was often touching. She sacrificed much of her own life for his advancement and yet she seemed to know that he was not going to survive. After she identified her son at the morgue, she went to work, never missing a single day. That says all you need to know about her. What a shame that her dreams for her beloved child ended like this. This book is about dreams--realized and deferred, class distinctions, race, reinvention, prison, ghettoes, philanthropy, Ivy League colleges, reintegration, drugs, family and much more. It has given me much to think about. If they make the inevitable movie, I hope the writers will look way beyond Jeff Hobbs for insight.

  • Victoria (RedsCat)
    2019-04-23 15:44

    The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace won’t get out of my head. I’ve been thinking about it long after I finished reading it. I’m sure you will, too.A lot of people are probably going to say he wasted his life. I’m not going to. (Mostly because I bet a lot of people have said the same about me.) Sometimes people just don’t know which way to go in life.Jeff Hobbs not only knew Robert Peace, when he decided to write about him, he researched his life in-depth. Mr. Peace grew up in a violent and poverty-stricken city, raised by a hard-working, loving single mom. He loved his mom dearly and wanted to take care of her and honor the sacrifices she made for him. He loved to read and learn and excelled in school. It paid off when he got a full-ride to Yale. But then what?This is an interesting and telling book on what it means to be a young person in this country and faced with not only difficult choices, but uncertain socio-economic futures . Mr. Hobbs never judges. This tale is told journalistically and with heart. Thanks to Scribner and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  • Vanessa
    2019-05-10 19:56

    no hyperbole, this is one of the most important books of year. When it comes out in September, buy it, read it, give it to everyone you know. Born in Newark and working his way up to Yale, Robert Peace lived his life with one foot in the street and one in academia. "Each day he was all of these people. But at any given moment, he walled off but one. This existence was fracturing, but it was the only way to integrate his ambition and intellect in a milieu in which neither had currency and in which both could get him hurt"

  • Rosemary
    2019-05-18 14:58

    The story of Robert Peace's life is sad, confusing, and infuriating. It left me feeling helpless, nauseated, and outraged. Rob had amazing intelligence and dicipline, athletic ability, social skills and energy, but in many ways he never had a chance. Growing up in Orange, New Jersey, an outlying district of Newark, Rob was raised by a poor but hardworking mother who sacrificed mightily for his education. His intelligent and street smart father took an interest in him, too, helping him with his schoolwork but also introducing him to everyone in the neighborhood as he moved from stoop to stoop and bar to bar, talking and glad handing. Rob learned to be diligent and obedient around his mother and he picked up a desire to act and talk and be "The Man" from his father. His mother Jackie was able to get him into a private school where he learned to comport himself like a prep school boy, even though he had to be tough and fast talking to get by on the streets of his neighborhood. He kept his feelings bottled up inside, never letting out anger about the way black people like himself and his mother had to struggle against so many things in day-to-day life and put up with the unfair situations in which they found themselves. He tried to be cool, to be "The Man." After his father was imprisoned for a double murder, Rob expended vast amounts of time and energy trying to get him out, but his school mates and, later, college friends would know nothing about this. Rob's college education to Yale was paid for by a benefactor from his prep school, but most people there didn't know Rob's background. He had a hard time adjusting until he began selling marijuana to earn some extra money (he also worked in the dining hall and in some science labs). Then his social skills made him a successful dealer. Back home, he gave money to Jackie (not so much that she would suspect how he was making it) and looked out for all his old friends who might need something. Rob never let anyone see all the facets of his personality, and he tailored his behavior in extreme ways to fit into whatever world he was inhabiting. He had so many things going on in his life, so many roles to play, that I believe he had trouble keeping up. He also caught several bad breaks, things that were beyond his control, that hit him hard. After he graduated from Yale, Rob made decisions that are difficult for me to understand. They puzzled his friends and family, too. They lead to a downward spiral that he couldn't get out of. This book is written by Rob's college roommate, Jeff Hobbs, who went to considerable lengths to find out about Rob's life and the pressures and cultural elements that were constantly making his existence unbearable. Rob was a sweet soul doing his best to deal with the life he was born into. He seldom confided in anyone and he never asked for help. He took on too much, and he never let anyone see how hurt and lonely he was. I am so sorry and unhappy that I read this book. I think it tells an important story, and I wonder how many other people like Robert Peace are out there.

  • Conor
    2019-04-29 16:59

    As wordy as it is, this book's title is its best summation. Robert Peace was by all accounts possessed of an incandescent mind, talented at everything he did, wise and generous beyond his years, and imbued with values and priorities beyond reproach. A profound sense of loss haunts this book--the loss of this incredible man's potential, what our society is robbing itself of by the waste laid by cycles of poverty, the war on drugs, and racism. Not that I have much faith in the "American Dream," particularly as it is available to the poor and people of color, but there are usually some exceptions, where a mixture of fortuitous innate characteristics, luck, and circumstances propel individuals of exceptional ability beyond their fraught circumstances and into the reaches of power and influence. The unscrupulous and specious point to these outliers as proof that the system works, and the rest of us wring inspiration from these stories and use them to underscore our conviction that success should not be so reliant on the caprice of luck. But a profound hopelessness inheres when an individual possesses all of the traits and circumstances necessary to escape the impossible and to gift the world with his or her brilliance, only to be swatted back down at the lip of success. This book is tragic and necessary, and it fueled my anger and amplified my sadness during a week when America's White Supremacist tendencies were so disturbingly elucidated in my beloved Charlottesville. Do yourself a favor and pick it up. Dwell on how much work we have to do to expiate our original sins of racism and inequality. And ask yourself what you're going to contribute to that effort so that we can begin to benefit from rather than mourn the lives of individuals like Robert Peace.

  • Catherine Read
    2019-05-15 14:47

    So I'm not black, I did not grow up in inner city poverty, my father was not incarcerated for murder and I did not attend Yale. That is Rob Peace's world in East Orange, NJ. I cannot know that world except through the story of his life told by his Yale roommate of 4 years, author Jeff Hobbs.I loved this book. I was drawn into Rob/Shawn's story and wanted so much for him to realize the mythological "American Dream" that says it's about sacrifice, hard work and a good education. But the title told me it would not be a happy ending. I'm glad the author tells us that up front. It allows us to suspend our judgments of his choices and just wait for events to unfold. By the end of the book, I cared so much about this smart, dedicated, hardworking young man who wanted so much to do right by his family and his friends. He got dealt a set of cards the day he was born. Some things he could control and some things he couldn't - that is the story of every human life. He made bad decisions and bad choices. We all have a personal responsibility to live with the choices we make. But it needs to be put into the context of the worlds he lived in. And there were two worlds he was straddling: the dangerous poor neighborhoods of East Orange where he grew up, where his mother lived and where he returned after Yale. Then there was his four years at Yale where he excelled academically and received a degree in molecular biophysics and bio chemistry, the tuition funded entirely by a benefactor. He also sold marijuana to fund his additional expenses at Yale and to stockpile money he would use to help support his mother Jackie and launch his future in Rio. I'm not going to delve into the sad history of marijuana in this country and how it has ruined lives for no discernible reason that makes any sense. It's just one of the factors that played out in this tragedy. What does intrigue me is the people who gave this book *one* star on Goodreads: African-American readers who are critics of both the writer and the story he told. Their judgment of the writer and his motivations in even writing about Rob Peace is startling to me. It is a reminder of something I have always believed: "Life is about perspective. What we see depends on where we are standing." I can't understand their perspective, but I respect the fact that I will never be able to stand in their shoes to see what they are seeing in this book. The proceeds from the sale of the book go to St. Benedict's in East Orange, NJ, where Rob attended high school and where he returned after Yale to teach for 4 years and to coach the Water Polo Team - a sport at which he excelled in both high school and at Yale. That was his mother Jackie's wishes. I didn't know that about the proceeds until I read the reader comments after finishing the book. It only supports what I already felt about Jeff Hobb's motivation in writing the book: he wants Rob to be remembered as the amazing person he was - not simply and completely as the victim of a violent crime. His life mattered. More people need to understand a world we cannot experience ourselves because we weren't born into his circumstances and we were not faced with his choices.I would love to see this book on high school reading lists. Young people need to cultivate empathy for people and circumstances they know nothing about, but which inform the lives of thousands of people - some of whom they *will* encounter in their lives. Empathy. We all need more of that.

  • Winter Winslow
    2019-04-29 18:10

    Ok, I'm going to be honest here and say that I did not like reading this book. It was painful and at times very frustrating. You knew what was going to happen- knew that Robert Peace was going to be murdered at age 30- and yet there was nothing that the reader could do besides sit back and watch as Rob continued to make a series of choices that may or may not lead to his untimely death. The best description of this book that I have seen is that it is like watching a car crash in slow motion. I am not, however, saying that this book was not worth the read. I think that the author did a stunning job through tireless effort in gathering even small details of Rob's life, and still making it interesting even in the lulls of activity. The book gave the reader such a close connection with Robert Peace I almost felt as though I was the one that knew him and not Jeff Hobbs. Anyways, this gave a unique and incredibly important perspective on what it's like to grow up in a highly violent and drug addicted city in America. This is a memoir of a drug dealer. Dealing drugs was a major part of Rob's life for most of his existence. And yet, the book shows you that there is so much more to him and that he is not, as society would perhaps like us to believe, an evil person.Quite the contrary. I really liked Rob. He was such a generous and compassionate person. His sense of adventure and great intelligence was admirable. He had his father's charisma and friendliness and made him lifelong friends just by walking down the street. This is another reason it was so hard to see him stay in Newark and continue to sell and be involved in drugs even after going into Yale. I think that before I read this book, I held this belief that going to an Ivy League school would present you with so many opportunities that you could find a great job with ease and become successful. This was never the case with Rob. Yale became almost a source of shame, and he just had too many ties- familial, economical, and personal- to Newark to leave. This book made you understand that a series of choices led Rob to lead the kind of life that he did, some that he made consciously and some that were made for him even before he was born. Another thing that I appreciated about this book was the honesty. The author I feel did not romanticize Rob's life in any way. He showed the great things that Rob had done with his life, but also the bad. He never tried to beat around the bush.This book gave a really great depiction of not only a great man but life in Newark and surrounding the poorer cities in America whose entire culture practically revolves around drugs. It showed the violence this created through gangs and rivalries and police brutality. It just makes you think of how nearly impossible it is to escape the situations people like Rob get into in towns like these. While it was not a fun read, it was a really important one.