So I’m not black, I did not grow up in inner city poverty, my father was not incarcerated for murder and I did not attend Yale. That is Rob Peace’s world in East Orange, NJ. I cannot know that world except through the story of his life told by his Yale roommate of 4 years, author Jeff Hobbs.
I loved this book. I was drawn into Rob/Shawn’s story and wanted so much for him to realize the mythological “American Dream” that says it’s about sacrifice, hard work and a good education. But the title told me it would not be a happy ending. I’m glad the author tells us that up front. It allows us to suspend our judgments of his choices and just wait for events to unfold. By the end of the book, I cared so much about this smart, dedicated, hardworking young man who wanted so much to do right by his family and his friends. He got dealt a set of cards the day he was born. Some things he could control and some things he couldn’t – that is the story of every human life.
He made bad decisions and bad choices. We all have a personal responsibility to live with the choices we make. But it needs to be put into the context of the worlds he lived in. And there were two worlds he was straddling: the dangerous poor neighborhoods of East Orange where he grew up, where his mother lived and where he returned after Yale. Then there was his four years at Yale where he excelled academically and received a degree in molecular biophysics and bio chemistry, the tuition funded entirely by a benefactor. He also sold marijuana to fund his additional expenses at Yale and to stockpile money he would use to help support his mother Jackie and launch his future in Rio. I’m not going to delve into the sad history of marijuana in this country and how it has ruined lives for no discernible reason that makes any sense. It’s just one of the factors that played out in this tragedy.Read More