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

( 27 )


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 ...

See more details below
$17.07 price
(Save 36%)$27.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (61) from $3.99   
  • New (24) from $4.79   
  • Used (37) from $3.99   
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99 price


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.

2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner for Current Interest
Shortlisted for the 2015 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2014

In 2011, novelist Jeff Hobbs received terrible news: Robert Peace, his Yale roommate and a great friend, had been murdered in an apparent drug deal gone wrong. It was an event made all the more shocking by the fairy tale narrative of Peace’s life: a gifted boy from the slums of New Jersey, he triumphed over a troubled upbringing to graduate from the Ivy League. In a work that is both a touching biography and a sobering cultural critique, Hobbs, who is white, confronts head-on the cultural divide between himself and his departed friend, and asks why someone who seemed to have made it out would allow himself to be pulled back in. See all of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2014.

The New York Times - Janet Maslin
…a haunting work of nonfiction with a title that is all too self-explanatory…Mr. Hobbs writes in a forthright but not florid way about a heartbreaking story…[He] does a fascinating job of raising…questions, even though he cannot possibly answer them.
The New York Times Book Review - Anand Giridharadas
Nowadays there is reporting aplenty on the theme of two Americas. The originality of Jeff Hobbs's work lies in finding a man who lived simultaneously in both countries, who thrived and failed at the same time, who escaped his past and didn't…That one man can contain such contradictions makes for an astonishing, tragic story. In Hobbs's hands, though, it becomes something more: an interrogation of our national creed of self-invention…As a page turner alone, the story wins. It doesn't need further selling…What is worth adding is that the book will be highly provocative, even irritating, to those who answer the problems of the American underclass with prefab ideological theories and solutions.
Publishers Weekly
A man with seemingly every opportunity loses his way in this compelling biographical saga. Novelist Hobbs (The Tourists) chronicles the life of Peace, who was born in a Newark, N.J., ghetto to an impoverished single mom and a father who went to prison for murder. Thanks to his mother's sacrifices and his extraordinary intellect he went to Yale and got a biology degree but when he returned to Newark after college, he became a drug dealer and was eventually shot to death by rivals. Writing with novelistic detail and deep insight, Hobbs, who was Peace's roommate at Yale, registers the disadvantages his friend faced while avoiding hackneyed fatalism and sociology. Hobbs reveals a man whose singular experience and charisma made him simultaneously an outsider and a leader in both New Haven and Newark, Peace was a pillar of his family and community, superbly capable in both settings, but he could not reconcile their conflicting demands. (The author's indelible portrait of Peace's inner-city neighborhood shows how it could draw him back from the world his talent and education had opened.) This is a classic tragedy of a man who, with the best intentions, chooses an ineluctable path to disaster. Photos. (Sept.)
The New York Times Book Review
“Mesmeric... [Hobbs] asks the consummate American question: Is it possible to reinvent yourself, to sculpture your own destiny?... That one man can contain such contradictions makes for an astonishing,tragic story. In Hobbs’s hands, though, it becomes something more: an interrogation of our national creed of self-invention.... [The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace] deserves a turn in the nation’s pulpit from which it can beg us to see the third world America in our midst.”
The New York Times
"A haunting work of nonfiction.... Mr. Hobbs writes in a forthright but not florid way about a heartbreaking story.”
"I can hardly think of a book that feels more necessary, relevant, and urgent."
Yale Alumni Magazine
"Superb... so carefully constructed that, from the first, the sense of impending tragedy is gripping, and then finally devastating.... The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is a grave, important book. The death of a young black don of a single mother and an imprisoned father is a subject to which many Americans bring charged preconceptions. Hobbs knows this and he overcomes them--he deepens the crucial national conversation... [he] loved Peace, and so will you."
STARRED review Booklist
"Peace navigated the clashing cultures of urban poverty and Ivy League privilege, never quite finding a place where his particular brand of nerdiness and cool could coexist... [Hobbs] set out to offer a full picture of a very complicated individual. Writing with the intimacy of a close friend, Hobbs slowly reveals Peace as far more than a cliché of amazing potential squandered."
Alex Kotlowitz
“Jeff Hobbs has written a mesmerizingly beautiful book, a mournful, yet joyous celebration of his friend Robert Peace, this full-throated, loving, complicated man whose journey feels simultaneously heroic and tragic. This book is an absolute triumph—of empathy and of storytelling. Hobbs has accomplished something extraordinary: he’s made me feel like Peace was a part of my life, as well. Trust me on this, Peace is someone you need to get to know. He’ll leave you smiling. His story will leave you shaken.”
Andrew Solomon
“If The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace were a novel, it would be a moral fable for our times; as nonfiction, it is one of the saddest and most devastating books I’ve ever read, a tour-de-force of compassion and insight, an exquisite elegy for a person, for a time of life, for a valid hope that nonetheless failed. It is also a profound reflection on a society that professes to value social mobility, but that often does not or cannot imbue privilege with justice. It is written with clarity, precision, and tenderness, without judgment, with immense kindness, and with a quiet poetry. Few books transform us, but this one has changed me forever.”
Jennifer Gonnerman
“A poignant and powerful can’t-put-it-down book about friendship and loss. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace takes you on a nail-biting, heartbreaking journey that will leave you moved, shaken, and ultimately changed. In this spectacularly written first work of non-fiction, Jeff Hobbs creates a singular and searing portrait of an unforgettable life.”
Los Angeles Times
"The Tourists sketches, with a light touch, characters who are almost chillingly familiar - They'll either make readers smile or bring back awful memories of the people they learned to put up with in college. Part of what's catching reviewers' eyes is a narrator who in the wrong hands would have been flat or dull but whose plight makes the book irresistible after the first few pages... [he] is appealingly quiet, reserved and observant."
USA Today
"Hobbs...captures the restlessness and ridiculousness of the sushi set's adult-onset angst with note-perfect acuity and a wry sense of humor."
Los Angeles Magazine
"[An] ambitious and darkly contemporary first novel... You don't need to draw the parallels with The Great Gatsby's rootless socialites to hear the slither of snakes in the grass."
The Boston Globe
"An impressive debut in which keen insights are often strewn amid the narrative like shiny pennies on a dirty sidewalk."
O Magazine
Bloomsberg BusinessWeek
"Captivating... a smart meditation on the false promise of social mobility."
"Best Books of Fall" People magazine
"Nuanced and shattering.”
Boston Globe
"Devastating. It is a testament to Hobbs’s talents that Peace’s murder still shocks and stings even though we are clued into his fate from the outset....a first-rate book. [Hobbs] has a tremendous ability to empathize with all of his characters without romanticizing any of them."
The New York Daily News
"The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is a powerful book meant to haunt us with the question that plagued everyone who knew Peace. Hobbs has the courage not to counterfeit an answer leaving us with the haunting question: Why?"
The Seattle Times
"The Short and Tragic Life [of Robert Peace] tackles some important topics: the swamp of poverty; the tantalizing hope of education; the question of whether anyone can truly invent a life or whether fate is, in fact, dictated by birth...[Its] account of worlds colliding will leave nagging questions for many readers which might be all to the good."
The Los Angeles Times
"The Short Tragic Life of Robert Peace is a book that is as much about class as it is race. Peace traveled across America’s widening social divide, and Hobbs’ book is an honest, insightful and empathetic account of his sometimes painful, always strange journey."
The Washington Post
"It is hard to imagine a writer with no personal connection to Peace being able to generate as much emotional traction in this narrative as Hobbs does, to care as much about portraying fully the depth and intricacy of Peace’s life, his friends and the context of it all... it is an enormous writing feat.. fresh, compelling."
STARRED review Shelf Awareness
"One part biography and one part study of poverty in the United States, Hobbs's account of his friend's life and death highlights how our pasts shape us, and how our eternal search for a place of safety and belonging can prove to be dangerous. Peace's life was indeed short and tragic, but Hobbs aims to guarantee that it will not go unmarked."
Entertainment Weekly
"A haunting American tragedy for our times."
The New Yorker
"[An] intimate biography... Hobbs uses [Peace's] journey as an opportunity to discuss race and class, but he doesn’t let such issues crowd out a sense of his friend’s individuality...By the end, the reader, like the author, desperately wishes that Peace could have had more time."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Can a man transcend the circumstances into which he’s born? Can he embody two wildly divergent souls? To what degree are all of us, more or less, slaves to our environments? Few lives put such questions into starker relief than that of one Robert DeShaun Peace... As Hobbs reveals in tremendously moving and painstaking detail, [Peace] may have never had a chance."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Mr. Hobbs chronicles Peace’s brief 30 years on earth with descriptive detail and penetrating prose...
He paints a picture of a young man who was complex, like most of us, and depicted both his faults and admirable qualities equally. It is up to the reader to decide if Peace was an Ivy League grad caught up in a life of crime or just a victim of circumstances... Mr. Hobbs’ empathetic narrative gives readers an opportunity to view his life beyond a stereotype."
Library Journal
The story of Newark-native Robert Peace's journey from poverty to Yale University and ultimately a violent death, as related by his college roommate. (LJ 9/1/14)
Library Journal
Robert Peace grew up on the mean streets of Newark, NJ, raised by a mother earning just $15,000 a year while his father languished in jail. Innate intelligence and, doubtless, immeasurable drive got him to Yale, where he studied molecular biochemistry and biophysics. But as roommate and close friend Hobbs explains, Peace inevitably faced the stress of living in two very different worlds and finally feeling at home in neither. Eventually, the streets won out—and did him in.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-07-16
Ambitious, moving tale of an inner-city Newark kid who made it to Yale yet succumbed to old demons and economic realities. Novelist Hobbs (The Tourists, 2007) combines memoir, sociological analysis and urban narrative elements, producing a perceptive page-turner regarding the life of his eponymous protagonist, also his college roommate. Peace's mother was fiercely independent, working nonstop in hospital kitchens to help aging parents keep their house. His father, a charming hustler, was attentive to Robert until his conviction on questionable evidence in a double murder. Mrs. Peace pushed her bright son toward parochial school, the best course for survival in Newark, already notorious for economic struggles and crime. Compulsively studious, Robert thrived there—a banker alumnus offered to pay his college tuition—and also at Yale. Hobbs contrasts his personal relationship with Robert with a cutting critique of university life, for the privileged and less so, capturing the absurd remove that "model minority" and working-class students experience. At Yale, Peace both performed high-end lab work in his medical major and discreetly dealt marijuana, enhancing his campus popularity, even as he held himself apart: "Rob was incredibly skilled in not showing how he felt [and] at concealing who he was and who he wanted to be." After graduation, Peace drifted, as did many of his peers: Hobbs notes that even for their privileged classmates, professional success seemingly necessitated brutal hours and deep debt. But Peace drifted back into the Newark drug trade; in 2011, he was murdered by some of the city's increasingly merciless gangsters due to his involvement in high-grade cannabis production. Hobbs manages the ambiguities of what could be a grim tale by meticulously constructing environmental verisimilitude and unpacking the rituals of hardscrabble parochial schools, Yale secret societies, urban political machinations and Newark drug gangs. An urgent report on the state of American aspirations and a haunting dispatch from forsaken streets.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476731902
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 9/23/2014
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 968
  • Lexile: 1220L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Hobbs

Jeff Hobbs graduated with a BA in English language and literature from Yale in 2002, where he was awarded the Willets and Meeker prizes for his writing. Hobbs spent three years in New York and Tanzania while working with the African Rainforest Conservancy. He now lives in Los Angeles with his wife.

Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Jeff Hobbs, Author of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace

Why did you decide to write this book?

On a Wednesday night in May of 2011, while in the midst of brushing my teeth, I learned that my best friend from college had died violently, pointlessly. I did what anyone does upon losing someone dear: flew to the funeral, said a few words during the service, bowed my head during the burial, made toasts and drank to excess with old friends, mourned, tried to move on. Except that I couldn't move on; I returned home and found myself spending full workdays staring at the knotty wall planking in the garage where I work, mostly remembering good times had with Rob. I wrote a bunch of personal essays weaving together college memories with weak attempts at insight, as well as stabbing at the guilt of having allowed our friendship to grow distant over the decade since we'd graduated. I reached out to mutual friends, spent hours talking on the phone and in person, asking each other, of course, why? This was Robert Peace. Robert Peace was my roommate and best friend at Yale University during four vital years of life. Robert Peace had saved me from fistfights and towed me through heartbreak and made me laugh thousands of times. Robert Peace was a brilliant scientist, a loyal friend, a world traveler, a high school teacher and coach - and a Yale graduate to boot. He was the one who was always going to succeed and do so in spectacular fashion. He was definitively not the one who was going to be shot to death in a basement in the ghetto outside Newark, surrounded by marijuana. But that was how he left this world. In the end, there was not so much a specific decision moment of, "I am going to write a book about Rob," but rather a process of being caught in this wave of loss and curiosity - of needing to know more - which only gathered strength as weeks and months passed. To some degree, no matter the medium or intention, everyone writes about what conflicts them, and nothing has ever conflicted me more than the death of Rob Peace, and I believed that some catharsis could be wrought in telling his story - his true story - not just for myself but for all the many, many lives with which his intersected, most of which were the better for that intersection having occurred. Of course, I wouldn't presume to embark on such a sensitive undertaking without the support of his friends, family, and most importantly, his mother, Jackie Peace.

How did Rob's friends and family react to your intention to write his biography? Can you tell us a bit about the research process?

To say that Jackie Peace had given all of herself in order to nurture Rob's intelligence and curiosity in a neighborhood in which neither trait had much currency would be a vast understatement. When she lost him, she lost not only her only child, but all those decades of sacrifice - she lost her identity and her hope, and I can't imagine anyone who has invested more hope in another human being as she did in her son. I didn't know Jackie well at all when I first sat down in her living room to speak formally about the book. She told me that her lone consolation after his death was, "I think my son influenced a lot of people, I really do believe that." Feeling very small in proximity to this woman and her grief, I replied that, if she was willing, I wanted to write a book - a book about Rob's life, not his death. I told her that there was very little chance of it being published, but I was driven to work for the six months or so necessary to piece his story together, and that if this effort were in fact successful, perhaps he might continue to influence people in some way.

The research ended up taking more than a year, and the breadth of it speaks to the breadth of the life Rob led. I would one moment be speaking to the COO of a major bank, the next to a tarmac worker at Newark International Airport, the next to a Croatian fashion model from Pula, the next to a Yale professor, the next to a prison inmate in Trenton, the next to the mayor of Newark, the next to a drug dealer in the hood, and so on. These conversations were not always comfortable; they rarely were, being as most of them took place in neighborhoods in which I was not necessarily welcome and not always safe. I had a gun drawn on me once in a North Philadelphia drug den. A GPS mishap had me walking obliviously with my notebook, wearing a blue button down, through the heart of Newark's gangland on 18th Avenue. But all these barriers that existed - which were representative of all the barriers Rob had broken down in order to matriculate at Yale - tended to fall pretty fast, due to the clear commonality of caring about Rob and wanting to contribute to something positive in the wake of his ultimate fate.

Describe the neighborhood Rob grew up in, and the "barriers he broke down."

Rob grew up in a neighborhood outside Newark, colloquially named Illtown. When he was born, in 1980, the previous two decades worth of white flight, the decline of the manufacturing sector and rise of federal project housing, the rapid flourishing of the drug trade and its violence - not to mention the riots of 1967 - had all but cemented the neighborhood as a place of permanent poverty. Crack and its violence were in full bloom outside his front door; hustlers governed the night and much of the day. I could give you many details about how specifically Rob grew up in this milieu, but I'll limit it to one: when he went to Burger King with his high school friends - they called themselves the Burger Boyz - he would grab two dozen ketchup packets from the bin and suck on them all afternoon, because he couldn't afford a burger. Suffice to say, he didn't have much. His father went to prison for life when he was seven years old, an incredible burden that he would carry quietly throughout his life. He was thus forced to become fundamentally an adult at an unfairly young age. But he had a home, owned by his family for over thirty years. He had the natural gift of a cavernous intellect, paired with the curiosity and drive to fill it to capacity with knowledge, even though knowledge could be very dangerous in his environment (for instance, if a group of street hustlers got to thinking that Rob thought he was better than them, that was a problem, one he worked tirelessly to avoid). He had a mother who loved him to world's end and had aspirations for which she was willing to sacrifice. He had loyal friends who challenged him and watched his back. He had impassioned teachers who recognized his potential and made the hard choices necessary to foster it. When he was admitted to Yale, that accomplishment was shared by so many - Rob Peace had made it out. What no one fully understood was that Rob didn't aspire to "make it out." He was deeply attached to the streets on which he'd become a man, and to the people who'd helped him do so. Yale University, and all the associations those words call to mind, was not enough to bring him to think any differently - to, in his view, forsake his roots.

How did his experience at Yale contrast to the coming of age you've just described?

He had an awful lot of experiences at Yale - most of them positive, a few of them negative - that I'm not sure the degree to which they can be reduced to an overall "experience." Paired randomly as roommates freshman year, Rob and I bonded first over the irony that I was a white guy from the country who ran sprints for the track team and he was a black guy from the hood who played water polo (initiation for which found him wearing a toga in the dining hall singing Madonna's "Express Yourself.") He majored in Molecular Biochemistry & Biophysics, which is about as easy as it sounds. He walked around hunched over, wearing a piece of nylon fabric over his cornrows called a "skully," and at a glance he did not look like a member of the student body; he looked like he worked in the dining hall or custodial, and he seemed to take some kind of pride in that, fostering his "otherness." There were subtle and not-so-subtle racial dynamics in play - inevitable in such a privileged and rarefied arena - but he never seemed bothered by this, except for one time, when he was working in the dining hall and a group of prep school kids left their trays on the table for him to clean up - again, not aware that he was a classmate - and he was so incensed that he put his fist through the wall. He smoked and sold weed - a lot of weed - but since he never seemed to spend any money, it was easy to assume that he was saving up for graduate school, or helping out his mother, or both - that if it was not exactly honorable, it was something he knew how to do, money that he needed, and because this was marijuana and we lived in a college dorm, it was safe. I remember going to one of his water polo games and being sort of hypnotized by the way he thrashed through the water, with power but not much grace, his teeth bared in a perpetual leering grin as he talked smack and threw elbows. His joy, which drifted upward into the stands, was total - and that was the Rob Peace whom I remember from college. And at the end of it all, when we watched him receive his Yale diploma onstage with that smile of his, a smile as big as all the outdoors, he seemed not only chosen but destined to fulfill all of his dreams, all the dreams others had placed on him.

What did you learn about Robert Peace that most surprised you? Troubled you?

You didn't have to know Rob well to understand that he inhabited two vastly different, fiercely insular worlds: the streets he'd come from and the classrooms his abilities allowed him to enter. That was his broad narrative, and again, he took pride in entering the latter without leaving the former behind, a pride that I don't believe was nourishing. But what I began to learn even before writing this book was that he didn't live in two worlds. He lived in ten, fifteen, more. He made communities for himself in Rio and Croatia. He spent much of his life, unbeknownst to anyone, working to free his father from prison - writing letters, studying in legal libraries, filing appeals. He mentored hundreds of kids as a high school teacher and coach. He all but carried his friends through the travails of life - academically, emotionally, financially. He lived firmly in the center of all these many spheres, shouldered the dependence of so many people, strived to carry all these various pressures with order and grace - and steadfastly refused help in any form along the way. And this broad word, "help," has a lot to do with the titular tragedy. He was surrounded by people who cared passionately about his well being, who would have done anything for him, and yet he saw seeking help, even the simplest kind of help such as permitting a friend to listen, as an expression of weakness, even a source of shame. That view was compounded with a pattern that emerged in which none of his friends at Yale felt comfortable or capable of offering advice because of the hard way he'd grown up in Newark, and none of his friends in Newark felt comfortable doing the same because this was the guy who'd graduated from Yale. He was heartbreakingly isolated, even in the midst of his closest friends. So Rob's life overall was nothing if not surprising and troubling - all that he achieved, all that he failed to achieve, the manner by which he was killed and all the hundreds of decisions, most of them innocuous in the happening, that brought him to that moment. But even in that context, I encountered so much positivity that I do hope courses through these pages - he faced so many challenges, many self-wrought, many induced by the relentless algorithms of poverty, and he never wilted, he never stopped caring about others and, as his mother told me, influencing others. That caring played a large part in some of the poor decisions he made, both drug-related and not. Though no one was in the basement when he was shot except the man in a ski mask who pulled the trigger (who remains uncaught over three years later), it is strongly believed that he was taking action to protect two of his best friends, one of whom had a wife and son, all of them upstairs in the house that awful night.

In a broader, cultural sense, what would you hope readers take away from this story?

This is the story of one man's life, a relatively anonymous man who died because he sold drugs - and that stark fact can be and has been sufficient for any given person to dismiss his story as one of potential wasted in the service of thuggery. And if that's your reaction, you're perfectly entitled to it. But this book is about details, it's about empathy, it's about getting to know and understand a remarkable, flawed young man. Yes, his life touches on race and class in this country, yes it illuminates certain shortcomings of the educational system, yes it speaks to the fact that living a decent life in America can be tremendously difficult. These issues are quite subjective, and they are best served to remain that way; my intent is not to make statements but simply to tell what happened. For instance, Yale has a comprehensive infrastructure in place, geared primarily toward students whose upbringings haven't necessarily prepared them for college life - academic, emotional, social. There are guidance counselors and writing tutors and cultural advisors, all free and readily available. But it turns out that the kids most likely to take advantage of these resources are those who need it the least: the Exeter graduates, the future Rhodes Scholars, the affluent students who from the day they were born were primed to believe that adults existed almost exclusively to help them. I've mentioned the idea of seeking out help, and Rob's aversion to it as an admission of not belonging. But what do you do about that gap? Who's most culpable - the students falling behind or the administration unable to pull them forward? These are questions that haven't necessarily been asked before, as they lie under the shadow of broader and more bombastic debates. I don't know the answers, but I do feel like awareness is the first step. There are many dozen discoveries like this in the book -these seemingly small manifestations of wider socio-economic issues that are all but invisible. They shouldn't be invisible. People - and particularly young people - should be talking about them. And I have a feeling they will once they've seen them throughthe eyes of Rob Peace.

What have you discovered lately?

Through researching Rob's story, my biggest discovery has been nonfiction itself, some but not all of it related to this book. Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow is an incendiary journey through the United States penal system - wow, that gal is as smart as she is fearless, and she's able to make a grim study of prison policy exciting. I read Marina Keegan's The Opposite of Loneliness - which is interesting in that it is half fiction, have nonfiction. I approached this one with a bit of trepidation due to its unique and heartbreaking posthumous route to publication, and was blown away by the attention to detail, the deep earnestness that I have much nostalgia for from being twenty-two years old and striving, her ability to just write what she sees, with kindness and without self-consciousness. Her ability to redeem people with just a sentence or phrase is enviable. Susan Cain's Quiet is this joyful celebration of being an introvert in a culture governed by the "Extrovert Ideal," something I've always struggled with personally. She wrote it beautifully and the scope of her research is stunning - I think a must-read for introverts and extroverts alike. I like a good thriller - I recently burned through Hank Steinberg's Out of Range in just two days, it's a fun one, and written with care, sans the overwrought language and lazy similes that sometimes characterize the genre. It's been a while since I've really dug into a big literary fiction book, which is all I ever used to read (with all the pretentiousness that statement implies), but I'm halfway through Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See and it's such an experience, has rekindled that old, almost forgotten joy of sitting up in bed in the early a.m. with the reading light on and my wife and children and dog sound asleep, and simply inhabiting a story and siphoning its energy. A book takes you away like no other form of art, because it doesn't just happen to you like a movie or a song or a painting. You actively enter into it and participate in it, and, if it's great, give yourself up to it. Doerr's book has me. Read that one, just read it.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 27 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 12, 2014

    The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace won¿t get out of my he

    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.  

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2014

    Interesting but sad story

    A brilliant mind and loving mother who struggled to get him the best education she could were not enough to save him from himself. An Ivy League education doesnt insulate you from stupid decisions. A very good cautionary tale, should be read by all HS students.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2014

    Great book- very well written- I highly recommend this book

    Jeff Hobbs has done a wonderful job of re-creating his relationship with his college roommate at Yale. A horrific story that has lessons to be learned about the effects of one's background on the remainder of their life.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is an amazing story. I

    The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is an amazing story. It is filled with the uplifting story of Robert’s rise out of the slums to attain an Ivy League education. Yet this is not a feel good story as Robert ends up falling victim to the streets he tried to leave behind. Good stuff!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2014

    Excellent book

    I enjoyed reading this book and think it was very well written I found myself getting sad toward the end knowing that he was going to get killed but almost hoping he wouldn't
    Kudos to the author on his first nonfiction I enjoyed the way he put himself into the story & sometimes told the story from his own point of view
    Recommend this as it is nonfiction but reads like a novel

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2014

    Well written and a sad tale

    This book captured me. The author told the story well and although he was Rob's friend, he presents an unbiased tale. At the end of the day, it is a telling tale of what generations of poverty and hopelessness combined the years of drug use can do to a bright and talented person's trajectory. I couldn't help but wonder how much of this tragedy would have been avoided if Rob had never gotten into the drug scene.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2014

    This book was hard to put down . It is such a tragic tale of struggles and heartbreak.

    This young man loved and worshiped his Father only to lose him to injustice. He tried to restore him by following his example which cost him his life. This is a story of ?ove and devotion in so many ways.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2014

    Great read

    It took me out of my comfort zone, thank you for sharing such a tragic life.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2015

    I just finished reading this book and I cannot stop thinking abo

    I just finished reading this book and I cannot stop thinking about it. It is well written as Jeff Hobbs describes the multifaceted world that Robert Peace lived in and the person he becomes. Even though I knew what was going to happen in the end, it still left me shaken. Although Robert was the central figure in the book, there are many other characters who I wanted to succeed and cheered for while reading it. While some do succeed, others cannot escape their environment and fail. I cannot help but think about the hundreds of thousands of others living in that same situation. I believe this book will continue to receive the buzz and accolades it deserves in the upcoming future.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2014

    This guy was a thug

    This is a glorified story of a street thug who happened to be
    intelligent enough to go to Yale, but stupid when it came to living his life. I knew him well, he was a high school teacher after graduating from Yale. I remember he would sgow up to work with blood shot eyes because he would smoke weed before teaching.

    3 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 27, 2015


    This was a some what difficult book for me to get through. Mr. Hobbs' story of his friend Rob Peace just seems to drag on and on. I think if he could have eliminated some of his own thoughts and to get on with the story, I would have liked it better; however I was anxious to find out why and how he was killed. It was a good read and very interesting life of one man who came from a poor family but still managed to put himself through school including college; making great grades and continuing to make something of himself after college. He took care of his mother and tried his best to help his father. It took me sometime to get through this book, but in the end it was worth it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 25, 2015

    more from this reviewer

    Judge not...

    Sad to say, Author Hobbs had me 'judging' all over the place as I read his devastating but beautifully written chronicle covering the short but amazing life of his onetime Yale roommate and friend, Robert Peace. By the time I finished the book I was so filled with JUDGMENTS, outrage, pity, and sorrow that I was almost sorry I had ventured to read it! But then I remembered a quote I'd once read by Viktor Frankel, author, neurologist and psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor (1905-1997): "No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same." So I 'asked' and for this reason I give this book FIVE stars.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2014

    i read this book almost none stop till about the last third at w

    i read this book almost none stop till about the last third at which point i just wanted to jump ahead and see where it was that his life started spiraling downward

    i recommend the book for its reality check.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2014

    Very elementry writing and totally predictable

    The tragedy here was the pain his mother has to live through. And the wasted money given to him to go to Yale. I was not impressed.

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2015

    I had to read this book for a class, but I wasn't even 50 pages

    I had to read this book for a class, but I wasn't even 50 pages in when I realized I wasn't only reading the book for school, but because the author had captured my attention. I wanted to know about Rob, his family, friends, and ultimately where everything went wrong.

    Tragic is exactly the word I would use to describe Roberts life. Born with the expectation by society that he would grow up to be nobody who would either end up in prison or prematurely in a grave. By sheer force of will and determination shared with his mother Robert beat the odds and got an education only some can dream of. Sadly that wasn't enough.

    Even with all that promise and education Robert couldn't find it in himself to turn his back on the lifestyle that he was raised in and the people that he truly related to. In the case of Nature vs. Nurture, nature won and Robert lost. This is an excellent book and I would recommend it to anyone. Not so you can judge this man or the people in his life for their choice, but because I think everyone could use a little self reflection that this book gives.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 21, 2015

    Great story.

    I really enjoyed this book. Very good writing. Really helped you get to know Rob Peace and his life. So sad he chose the life he did after college. The only draw back I had was there were times when the story line was long and too drawn out. I had to skip over pages that I felt did not matter to the story. All in all, a very good book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 19, 2015

    Iwas very saddened by this book. It fells hard to hear that a yo

    Iwas very saddened by this book. It fells hard to hear that a young wise man was so close to achieving his goal at the IVY school, Yale University. When he was born, it was the greatest day of his parents lives. As he grew up in Newark, New Jersey, there has been a lot of ups and downs with the crimes that are involved. Robert Peace was that much of a talker until he was 3. When he went through his education, he was fast making new friends having excellent education making Rob Peace a unique and wise man. After finishing high school, being accepted to Yale University was a dream come true. That ballistic trauma (gunshot wound) was tragic and unforgettable. This was right for the author, Jeff Hobbs, to write this heartbreaking biography. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2015

    Great book

    Love this book

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 5, 2015

    He beat the odds then the odds beat him. A real tragic story abo

    He beat the odds then the odds beat him. A real tragic story about a kid who, despite his disadvantaged 
    background, earns his college degree from Yale. He has the education and talent to go any direction, but decides
    Instead to become a heavy drug user and dealer. It was only a matter of time before you knew what would
    Kill him in the end

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 4, 2015

    Interesting Book!

    Very interesting book, as I grow up in Newark and can relate t all the places and things going on in the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)