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The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A…
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The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left… (edition 2015)

by Jeff Hobbs (Author)

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6583726,580 (4.13)21
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.… (more)
Member:Convopeace
Title:The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League
Authors:Jeff Hobbs (Author)
Info:Scribner (2015), Edition: Reprint, 432 pages
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The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs

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This is a an incredibly moving, heartbreaking book that I couldn't put down, and brought me to tears. I agree with critics who question why an upper middle class Yale roommate would be the one to tell Rob's story since the two roommates' experiences don't remotely have any parallels other than a physical space for four years and their excellent academic records. I also feel that the book changed tone in a self-serving way when the author made his entrance into the story during Rob's initial Yale years. All that being said the author's research and the time he spent trying to understand the historical and social contexts of Rob Peace's experience were profound and very engaging. The book illuminates the stratospheric discrepancies Americans face given the opportunities presented to them and the influences they are exposed to while living in the United States in relation to their race, class, and geography. The book was very powerful for me. ( )
  Sarah_NOVA | Jul 11, 2021 |
A sad, emotional and frustrating true story.

Robert Peace fitted into the common stereotype in his Newark neighbourhood in many ways - father in prison for murder, single mother doing her best to make ends meet, drink and weed consumed from an early age. But where Rob differed from his peers was his exceptional intelligence and thirst for learning, which combined with the steely determination of his mother to give him a better than average standard of education resulted in him achieving a degree from Yale. However, as the title gives away, unfortunately all did not end well for Robert Peace.

This book is exceptionally sad for so many reasons. With his Yale studies paid for by a wealthy benefactor who saw unique potential in Peace, this should have been a turning point in his life, one that opened up a whole world of opportunity. Unfortunately, however, Rob couldn't help but get in the way of himself. Discomfited by his Ivy League attainment, it was a world he felt he never fitted into, despite his immense intelligence. Whilst his peers used the opportunity as a springboard to new careers, Rob quickly succumbed to the rhythm of his old neighbourhood, finding comfort in the familiarity of menial jobs, childhood friends and easy drug dealing.

A low level dealer who generally tended to stay keep his moral compass closer to right than wrong, Peace unfortunately took a wrong turning gamble that he would ultimately pay for with his life.

It's an imperfect book that took some time to draw me in at first. Written by his white room mate from Yale, for the first part of the book it felt very obviously a privileged white person trying to write a poor black man's story, but eventually it somehow found its rhythm and a more vivid depiction of Rob and his background developed (perhaps as Hobbs was writing more about present times rather than trying to narrate his parents' back story, with better sources for detail through Rob's friends). It fell short of the journalistic authenticity that came across in Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family, but Hobbs develops the reader's interest in Peace as a person, and although I was ultimately frustrated and disappointed by Rob's choices, the close of the book still felt very emotional.

In a number of places Hobbs comments that he was failing as an author. I'm not sure it sits well with me that he took the tragedy of his friend's death as his next book writing opportunity, and whilst he tries to make the book a eulogy of sort to his friend, it seemed that Rob and he hadn't seen much of each other in the years leading up to his death, so I'm not quite sure how sincere the motives behind the book are.

Nonetheless, an interesting, tragic read.

3.5 stars - a story that pulls you in, but still.... not convinced that it's the mournful story of friendship that it purports to be. ( )
  AlisonY | Apr 30, 2021 |
I am haunted by this book. I'd love to discuss it. --Mary Doran ( )
  Doranms | Feb 3, 2021 |
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/13942975

A fitting memorial for a remarkable short life.

The title gives away the ending, of course. Throughout this story of a brilliant young man from Newark I kept wondering: when will it happen? How will it happen? This same thing happened to others in my book club who read it. I do think it kept us pressing on, although the writing was good and the story interesting.

Robert Peace was the son of a hard-working mother and a drug-dealing father. His mother Jackie did not want to marry "Skeet" because she believed that marriage itself ultimately destroyed the union. She'd seen it too often. So while Skeet did want to marry she refused and she lived alone with her son Rob, working hard for years, her eyes on the prize.

Jackie had grown up in Newark and accepted that she would die there. She wanted more for her son. Thus she worked extra jobs and saved money whatever way she could so that she could get him out of the public school system and into private. She had seen how the teachers in the public schools had given up. They did not have much to offer her remarkably intelligent son. And thus she did finally get him into a Catholic school, St. Benedict's, where he made friends and excelled at school work as well as water polo. He didn't forget his friends from public school, however.

Incredibly driven himself, Robert made the most of what his mother obtained for him. When he started at St. Benedict's he could not swim. But he put up with the humiliation of learning and eventually became a star player on the water polo team. His memory and ability to absorb information was phenomenal. His father had an especially good memory too, but less of an interest in using it to educate himself.

Robert did so well that he actually had his choice of ivy league schools as he approached graduation from high school. He ultimately landed in Yale, although his first choice had been Johns Hopkins.

What happened to Robert might well be a life lesson for others. When one grows up with few privileges and is suddenly thrown into a world where privilege is an accepted norm, adjustment can be difficult or impossible. Robert was friendly, easily liked, but ultimately during his time at Yale he was "fronting". He hated when others acted like they were something other than what they were, yet he hid his real self as needed.

Robert made real friends at Yale, as he did wherever he went. It was one of his roommates who wrote this book.

It appears that it was Robert's determination to provide for others - and be seen as someone who does provide - that proved his ultimate downfall. He wanted to give his mother a pleasant retirement. He wanted to get his dad out of prison. He wanted to help others. He didn't have many needs himself, even continued to drive an old beater no matter his income.

You can take the boy out of Newark but can you take Newark out of the boy? The draw of his home town was too great, and the way of the streets too compelling, the boyhood friendships too strong. Even after he spent time in Rio, living there and loving it, knowing there is another world if he wants it, he couldn't escape. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is a powerful and valuable contribution to our collective discussion about poverty, race, drug culture, and violence in our society.

It's all too easy to fall into the comforting fallacy that bad things only happen to bad people, that anyone involved in criminal acts must be a thug.

We want to believe that good people don't do bad things.

Robert Peace was a good man—kind, caring, devoted, smart and curious. The decisions he made over the course of his 30 year life were driven by good motives. But still he made some bad decisions that brought him to a bad end.

What The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace reveals that things aren't as simple as good or bad. This man's life can't be reduced to any sort of pat dichotomy.

Too often when we talk about issues of poverty, race, drug culture, and violence in our society, we forget that real and complicated people lie at the heart of these problems. We argue about these issues in the abstract and don't stop to think about the actual people who choose to do these things, the day-to-day reality of those who have live and cope in the midst of these dangers.

All of these social problems have human faces. They're the consequence of decisions and actions undertaken by individuals within a community. Real people live and die, prosper or fail as a result.

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is important precisely because it's a human story—the author doesn't allow it to generalize into the worn tropes of standard public debate. It's a story that can't be summed up with easy explanations or obvious answers. This is the story of one person, complex and contradictory and flawed like the rest of us. This is the story of the decisions he made, with the best of intentions but for complex and contradictory and flawed reasons. Ultimately, this is the story of the consequences of those decisions.

His decisions, like anyone else's, were embedded in a time and place that was powerfully influenced by larger cultural, economic, and political forces. But his story reminds us that these forces matter because of how they affect real people in their daily lives.

These are complicated issues—as complicated as humanity itself—and there are no simple explanations for them. It does everyone a disservice when we forget that.

The story of Robert Peace reminds us. ( )
  johnthelibrarian | Aug 11, 2020 |
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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.

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