Tyler’s Recommendation: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
By Tyler Carter
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace recounts the double life lived by a brilliant man with endless potential from East Orange, NJ. Shaun Peace, who later takes on the persona “Rob Peace” while attending Yale, is almost the antithesis to Superman / Clark Kent. He was raised by single mother Jackie, who worked grueling hours at minimum-wage jobs with the hope of providing her only son with the best private school education in Newark, NJ. Shaun maintained a close relationship with his neighborhood-hustler father, Skeet, who, like many of his contemporaries, confused intelligence with “softness.” This confusion potentially contributed to Shaun’s main internal challenge: how to use his incomparable intelligence to improve his and his mother’s quality of life while maintaining integrity by his environment’s standards. Rob eventually graduates from one of Newark’s most prestigious Catholic high schools and continues on to study biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Yale University, where he meets his roommate, and later author of the book, Jeff Hobbs.
We now begin to follow Shaun as Rob, his Yale persona, as he maneuvers Ivy League socialization by joining a secret society, performing research in the university medical school, and becoming the most popular marijuana dealer on campus. He graduated from Yale with big hopes of learning Portuguese in Brazil and eventually going to medical school. However, his plans were interrupted by a lack of focus, which leads him to become a product of his environment. We first see Rob smoking every day, beginning at age 13, all the while maintaining straight A’s. At the close of the book, he is a high school science teacher who uses his part-time job as an airline baggage overseer to sustain his trafficking business. His involvement with drug trafficking unfortunately leads to his murder.
While Hobbs beautifully paints a picture of Rob that proves him to be the most fascinating walking paradox, he ignores pertinent issues facing communities of color such as the hardship black women face when raising boys in America or the persistence of Imposter Syndrome for black faces in white spaces. Though Rob’s story is, as the title suggests, “tragic,” it inspires me to walk in potential, little by little, each day, with minimal self-doubt. My mother actually recommended I read this book because she once was Jackie, raising me as a single mother herself. She was once Jackie, and I am, but also will not be Rob Peace.
Tyler Carter is an intern at Engage. She returned to Howard University this fall to complete a dual-degree in Economics and Spanish Language and Culture.