My Thoughts On “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace”

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Hey blog readers,

A few days ago I got some books that I would call “fun” reading aka not assigned. One of those was a book I had seen before called “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace”. This is a book written about a guy named Robert Peace who was from East Orange,NJ. The book was written by Robert Peace’s roommate in college. Robert Peace went to Yale.

Are you still following me? Robert Peace was extremely smart. He was afforded the opportunity to attend Yale(he was accepted to a few great schools). Though the author makes a huge attempt to show what life was like for Robert Peace, there are some places in the book where he reaches a tad too far.

Some things that perplexed me about the book were what made Robert Peace believe that his only option while at Yale was to sell drugs? He majored in molecular biochemistry. He graduated with a degree in molecular biochemistry. So in the age of Breaking Bad, Peace kind of comes off as a low budget Walter White. After Peace graduated from Yale, he went back to his alma mater and taught high school biology. While he was teaching, he also continued to sell drugs. He had this idea to create his own strain of a type of drug and that’s what he ended up doing. So of course, his death was drug related.

The author says that he is not a sociologist but he frames a pretty strong demographic analysis complete with a longitudinal study of a neighborhood. The only issue I have is where are the girls and women that lived in that community? What happened to them?

I could not put this book down. Even though you know what is going to happen, the way the book is framed, it is a page turner. I tried to find reviews to identify with, but they fell a tad short. They attempted to find a place to place blame but there were too many factors and actors involved to lay blame at solely one person or thing.

One of the main things that gets me is the idea of the role that environment plays on a person’s trajectory. I mean there are so many stereotypical fronts on which to attempt to say ah yes, this is the answer. Robert Peace’s parents were never married, his father went to prison for most of his life(which Robert spent trying to get his sentence overturned), he grew up in poverty. But my question is, does environment play as big of a role as we think? Are the people who we would consider to have made it out of the ‘hood anomalies or outliers?

I also want to know if Robert’s dad was the one who convinced him that selling drugs would be a great idea. Because he basically held his dad in hero worship position, I wonder if that conversation happened because I could see him doing something like that to please his dad. Or if not, did he talk about those things with his dad?

Another thing that bothered me but did not surprise me was the fact that the majority of people who Robert sold drugs to at Yale did not offer support or services after his death. Robert Peace was characterized as the person who would go above and beyond for his friends and family. I also wonder what happened to the rest of the people in the book like Oswaldo.

I would love to see a documentary of this book with all of the people featured in it because I am left with more questions than answers at times. Of course the overarching question is why. Of course people always say that people make choices and choices have consequences. But how much of the choices that people think are ours to make are really made outside of us and forced onto us?

This book also made me think a lot about my own life trajectory so far. It made me think about my own family. It made me think about the neighborhood that I grew up in. Robert’s dad Skeet was so much like my own father. They probably would have been friends back in the day. Even though my dad put me in a position to witness the drug game, he told me never to be a part of it. It wasn’t even an option. It was this weird juxtaposition of do as I say, not as I do. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time. It will also probably cause me to ask even more questions. It will also cause me to write more on inequality in this country.

Shalom

Namaste

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