(CBS Local)– Author Jeff Hobbs is someone that has always been interested in writing about college and people who don’t look like him. In his latest book “Show Them You’re Good,” Hobbs follows four boys in the vast Los Angles school system as they seek admission to college and begin to discover their adult selves.
The four subjects Hobbs writes about all have fascinating journeys and backstories. Carlos is the son of undocumented delivery workers and is trying to follow in the footsteps of his older brother who went to an Ivy League school. Tio is a kid who has dreams of becoming an engineer, but his father doesn’t believe in him. Then there is Jon who battles the sky high expectations of his mother and Owen who struggles to get serious about his academics.
CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith spoke with Hobbs about the book, what it was like to go back to school and follow these four boys and his memories from writing his New York Times bestseller “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace” about his former Yale classmate who passed away. “Show Them You’re Good” is available now wherever books are sold.
“I spent about a year going to school every day with high school seniors in 2016 and the 2017 school year,” said Hobbs. “I was raising my own young kids at that time and long story short, it was a lot of fun. It gave me a lot of hope, which was sort of the intention to begin with. The main surprise was that any of these kids wanted to hang out with me during a year when they were applying to college. They devoted a specific amount of time each week in a roundtable format to talk about what was going on in their lives.”
One of the biggest things that stuck out to Hobbs during his interactions with the kids was how worldly, wise, funny and touching they were. The author says one of his biggest goals of this book was to make it human. He was motivated to prove why society shouldn’t just put people in boxes based on what they see on the surface.
“My kind of work with narrative non-fiction is always to undermine presumptions and I think these kids undermined a lot of presumptions of Beverly Hills and South LA,” said Hobbs. “The idea of perspective has always been important, but it is becoming more and more important regarding who gets to tell the story. The vast amount of stories are told by overeducated white men like me, so it’s tricky.”
“You mentioned Robert Peace and that was sort of a memoir slash biography of a close friend of mine who died almost 10 years ago,” said Hobbs. “I reached out to Rob’s family after he died and we were all struggling to process. I thought I could write a little compilation of stories for his high school newsletter or some 1,000 word piece that spoke to his life and not just his death. It turned into a book and I call it a eulogy that got out of hand.”