The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
As is often the case, 30-year-old Jeff Hobbs had drifted apart from his college roommate when he learned that Robert Peace had tragically been killed. (No spoiler here as the title suggested it all). They had occasionally been in contact in the seven or eight years since they graduated from Yale. Hobbs was a budding writer with a novel under his belt. It must have been a combination of his knowing that his old roommate’s life was a story worth telling and his own grieving process that made him embark upon this project.
Once Hobbs decided to write a full book about Rob’s life, he spent about three and a half years talking to Rob’s family, especially Jackie, his mother, close friends, classmates and even some drug dealers. Hobbs basically reconstructed Rob’s life with a vivid description of events and circumstances including meaningful conversations that Rob had with various people in his life. The reader gets an insight into this young man’s intelligence and his feelings about other people. The story gives us a painting of how Rob grew up and how hard his mother worked to support him and motivate him. She worked numerous hours while also caring for her own sick mother. Rob’s close relationship with his father was very important to him. He visited his father in prison frequently for many years until his father died in prison while Rob was in college. Rob also worked even as a teenager, studying legal books to try to help his father appeal his conviction for murder for which he may have been wrongly convicted.
The reader understands Rob as a poor, very bright African-American young man who learned to navigate the streets of his New Jersey neighborhood Orange near Newark, as well as a Catholic High School and then Yale We appreciate how Rob handled the drug environment where he grew up and the mostly marijuana use that he saw at college and even became a trafficker in it. We viewed Rob at times as a scientist who studied molecular biology as a student and a researcher. We viewed him as an outstanding water polo player in high school and college and even after college, we see him struggling to find himself and plan for a possible future career at the same time that he was supporting himself by selling marijuana. He was a sensitive, empathic friend to many who was always ready to be very supportive in any way that he could.
The reader has to ask the question, did Rob’s life have to end the way that it did? It wasn’t just bad luck. There obviously were things that he could not overcome. Since this has become a popular book, it will be read by many young people including some poor bright kids like Rob, probably many African-American young men. Most will probably ask this same question, did his life have to end the way that it did? At one point while in college, he was called on the carpet by the school dean for selling marijuana. He could have been expelled but he was given a slap on the wrist and told not to do it again. We know that you can’t force people to enter therapy but I can’t help wondering if Rob had ever found his way into psychotherapy and had a meaningful relationship with a therapist, maybe he could have made the connections that might have derailed him from the bad decisions and indecision that occurred in the last year of his life.
This man obviously impacted many men and women as a teacher, coach and friend. In that way, he made a positive difference in people’s lives. This well-written book will also allow his life story to continue to influence others so the short life of Robert Peace won’t be so short after all.
Category: B - Biography | Tags: African American, black, Catholic High School, drug dealers, Jeff Hobbs, marijuana, New Jersey, Newark, Orange, prison, Robert Peace, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, water polo, writer, Yale Comment »