Stacey Loscalzo

Oct 18

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Book Review

by Stacey

Strangely, as much as I love reading, I do not enjoy writing book reviews. I always overthink them and can’t ever get the right balance between plot summary and opinion. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace though? This book deserves to be discussed so I’m going to give it a go.

A few weeks ago, I had coffee with a friend and we got talking about what we were reading. While she wasn’t currently reading Robert Peace’s story, she said she couldn’t stop thinking about it and to me, that is the description of a book that I have to pick up right away. Somehow I don’t remember ever seeing this book or hearing anything about it although I now know it received much critical acclaim when it was released in 2015.

Robert Peace was born into poverty in Newark, NJ in the 1980s. The book follows his life through predictable and equally unpredictable turns. While there are many spoiler-ish things I can’t reveal about Peace’s story, the fact that he dies an early death is clear from the title. When discussing this book with my friend, she said over and over again, “It’s just that he didn’t have to die.” As I read, her words kept echoing in my mind. It was hard to read this book quickly as the material is heavy but at the same time, it read like a thriller. I knew that something bad was going to happen but I didn’t know what or when so with each turn of the page, I held my breath.

We hear all the time about the cycle of poverty and how hard it is, if you are born into poverty, to escape that cycle. Having never lived in that world, it is tricky to fully understand but this book painted a very vivid picture. Robert Peace is a man that had both every disadvantage and every advantage that a young man could have been given. This book is the story of how he lived his life and ultimately how his life came to a tragic end.

When I turned the last page, I thought back to my friend’s words and wondered. Peace didn’t have to die but also, how could he have lived? I know that sounds a little woo woo and I guess it is but that was my take away. Sadly, I came away from this book feeling pretty darn depressed about the poverty cycle and wondering how on earth it can ever be truly broken.

If you have read The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, please let me know. And if you read it, let me know. This is a book that needs to be discussed.

One Comment

  1. Carol Loscalzo says:

    Stacey, I read this post with interest. I had read the book in 2014. While I agree that there is a focus on poverty, I remember that there was a larger focus on racism and Rob Peace trying to fit into a white, , structurally racist society ( white supremacy culture). Then I found and re-read portions of the book. Yes, it is a good read, yes it focuses a lot on Rob Peace’s issues with growing up poor and no, there is no mention of the oppression that African Americans suffer day after day. I was surprised at my own evolution. I do not remember noticing the oppression, aggressions and micro-aggressions perpetrated (often unknowingly) by white people on people of color during my first read. It took the second reading (I confess – I read parts, not the entire book) for me to see the blatant aggressions and micro-aggressions that the this very brilliant young man suffered at Yale. In 2014 I would not have called this the white supremacy culture. I might have thought about the white privilege that was obvious when Rob interacted with white people, but not the structural racism. I now see the not so subtle oppression and racism throughout the book. I also find it interesting that the author, who clearly cared about Rob does not identify any of the behaviors he writes about as racist. Thanks so much for reviewing this book . Would love to be part of a discussion about the book.

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