New York Times' best-selling author Jeff Hobbs
New York Times' Best-Selling Author Jeff Hobbs

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League
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2015 Read-In (March 25-26, 2015)

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace:
A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League

Hampton University’s Department of English and Foreign Languages has selected Jeff Hobbs’ The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left for the Ivy League, as the 2015 Annual Read-In book. The Read-In will take place Wed., March 25 and Thurs., March 26.

The opening session on March 25, at 6:00 p.m. in Ogden Hall will feature author Hobbs reading from, discussing, and entertaining questions about his New York Times best-selling work. The event will continue the next day with panel discussions, and a town hall meeting from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

The creative non-fiction is heart-felt and a riveting biography of the short life of a talented young African-American man in the 1980s who escapes the slums of Newark for Yale University only to succumb to the dangers of the streets—and of one’s own nature—when he returns home. Readers will learn that the main character was in fact the author’s college roommate and best friend.

“We chose this book for its timely content about the struggles of young African-American men who are brilliant, but still accosted by, and often unable to let go of social and cultural impediments,” said Shonda Buchanan, assistant professor and the interim chair for HU Department of English and Foreign Languages.

Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau describes the work as “a story about America, its cities and their challenges, education’s access and entitlement, identity and the forces that shape it, and the continuing national psychosis of race – unveiled in all their complicated gray areas through this intimate portrait of a singular individual. [The main character] was a Yale graduate, and he was a drug dealer. He was also a teacher, a coach, a scientist, a traveler, a friend, and above all a son. The rises and falls of his journey force us out of our bubbles to take an honest look at our failures – both individual and systemic.”

The Read-In events are free and open to the public.

For more information, feel free to contact the Department of English and Foreign Languages at 757.727.5241.  


About the Read-In

Author Leanne Howe speaks with a student at the 2010 Read-In.

Author Leanne Howe speaks with a student at the 2010 Read-In.

In 1988 the Department of English and Foreign Languages initiated the Hampton University Read-In. Its purpose was to offer all segments of the Hampton family an opportunity to focus on one particular book for study and discussion. Beginning with Hampton alumnus Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery, we have read works by African American authors such as Ernest Gaines' A Gathering of Old Men, Octavia Butler's Kindred, Ishmael Reed's Flight to Canada, Gloria Naylor's Mama Day, Jewell Parker Rhodes' Douglass' Women, Alice Walker's The Color Purple, and LeAnne Howe, The Miko Kings.

At this point it is fair to say that the annual Read-In is a Hampton tradition. However, it is also plays a significant role in the instructional program. Each spring, for example, most English 101-102 classes read and write about whatever novel has been selected. Many upper-division English courses do as well. However, works are chosen with specific regard to their relevance to other disciplines as well. Usually instructors in History, Political Science, Sociology and other areas also use the work in a wide range of courses. Students and instructors write and deliver papers at the mini-conference held in conjunction with the climactic event, which has almost always been an appearance by the author. Aspiring student writers have the experience of attending a master class and interacting with a famed writer, and the Hampton community as a whole has the chance to read the work, think and talk about it, and then experience its author reading and discussing it himself or herself. In sum, then, the Read-In is a closely integrated event designed to be intellectually meaningful to the entire Hampton family.