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

Overview

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 ...

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

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

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."
Library Journal
04/01/2014
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476731902
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 9/23/2014
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,118,516

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.

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