As I work backward through my backlogged book reviews, I now present you with my review of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs, which is the second book that I finished in 2015 and is my favorite read of the year so far!
This book is beautifully written — you can tell the author spent countless hours studying the way other successful authors have crafted their timeless sentence structures. The Short and Tragic Life profiles, obviously, the life of Robert Peace from the relationship of his parents prior to Peace’s conception to how his family and friends deal with losing him after his death. The book is written by Peace’s college roommate which lends the book authenticity, but also means that the author inserts himself into the story at times, which can sometimes feel a bit awkward, but is completely understandable in context.
I’ll give a brief summary of the book, while trying not to reveal too much of its contents… this book discusses the early life of a young boy who is born into a low income family comprised of an extremely hardworking mother, an incarcerated and loving father (a reality that is sadly too common for many today), and dedicated grandparents. As Peace, an extremely intelligent child, navigates middle school and high school, Hobbs illuminates the struggle Peace must have felt to contribute to his family’s income, while trying to get himself to college, something no one in his immediate family had succeeded in doing before. When Peace enters a very prestigious university (and meets the author), he struggles to identify with the wealthy, privileged student body as a poor, black student. Hobbs describes this phase of Peace’s life and his struggle so incredibly well that this is the part of Robert Peace’s story that I always tell people about when I recommend this book to them. I have yet to read something that feels more authentic when describing how difficult it is to navigate fitting into an elite university’s student body when you differ from the majority. This othering of Peace very much influenced his college career and post-college trajectory and is a necessary read for anyone who is interested in higher education, socioeconomic differences, race, sociology, and the intersection of all of the above. Please, please read this book!
I originally read this book in order to participate in a Twitter book club led by Kat Chow, a journalist who covers race and culture for NPR’s Code Switch blog. As part of the book club, Kat and her twitter followers curated a list of books that are either about or are written by people of color. While the online book club seems to have died after the reading of the first selection, the list still lives and is a good reference point for adding things to your To-Be-Read pile. I have it saved in my bookmarks.
As I mourn the loss of my all too short stint of being in a digital book club, I was wondering if any of you have an online book club that you recommend me joining? I just joined a book of the month discussion inspired by Rory Gilmore (I started binging Gilmore Girls in February and am now almost done with the series…), but it doesn’t seem like it’ll be as active as I’m wanting. Are you in a book club that you’d like more people to join? Leave a comment and tell me more!
Publication date: 23 September 2014 by Scribner. Format: Hardcover.