Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Review: Hill Harper's "The Conversation"

Hill Harper's new book "The Conversation" should be the last book written about black relationships.

It covers all of the topics, the discussions, and the tools needed for readers to move forward in this area, no longer held back by historical, social, and cultural restrictions, perceived or actual.

Released in September of 2009, Harper's third book focuses on "How Black Men and Women can Build Loving, Trusting Relationships" and has the potential to be the definitive word on black love.

Using personal experiences, candid interviews and discussions with his friends and associates, and modern references like the Obamas, the dangers of 'technological' communication, and even Steve Harvey's recent relationship book, Harper presents a relevant and timely discussion on "the breakdown of African-American relationships."

His purpose: to encourage conversation, to present various perspectives, and to encourage black men and women to work towards building a legacy of family and tradition, rather than publicly and personally destroying the bonds between one another.

Some of the enlightening chapters include:

  • What We Say, Mean, and Do

  • What Brothers Want

  • Will Mr. Right Please Stand Up?

  • Checking Baggage

  • Eros Vs. Sex/Lust Vs. Love - "Some women think men should read their minds and decipher what they really mean. Alternatively, they give the answer society or their mother told them was the proper answer, though it may not be their truth at all...For women, the issue of finding a healthy balance between all that is expected of her can be a tiring lifelong quest..."

  • Cheating

  • Dating With Kids

  • Anger, Forgiveness, and Learning to Let Go

  • Man Up -"We as Black men rarely hold other men accountable when we clearly see that they are not living up to their responsibilities with the women they are dating or married to and, even worse, with the children they have fathered..."

This book is great, because it echoes the current concerns of men and women from a variety of circumstances. While there are universal truths that can be applied to relationships of any race, the historical and specific references to African-American issues is encouraging. Harper understands the issues, and is able to address them directly. As his friend Brad states in the book:

"I think the Black family has been shredded for a couple reasons. The last forty years have been filled with fatherless households and women struggling to take care of their children. As a young girl, if your mother (who probably resents your father for not being there) continuously tells you, "You don't need a man for anything. Provide for yourself! Take care of yourself. Look at me...I'm doing it, and we are fine," at some point, that girl will begin to believe this. Then, that same young girl probably will not have the luxury of seeing her mom have a healthy relationship with a man. So, how is she supposed to know how to interact with men? On the flip side, in these same households, most young Black boys don't have male figures to teach them how to be men or how to treat women. What happens when this young girl and this young boy meet up when they are grown? Exactly what is going on now...you have two people who don't know how to deal with each other..." (pg 57-58)

At the age of 43, Harper's career in the entertainment business has allowed readers to grow and trust the familiar face that has appeared on classic Spike Lee movies "Get on the Bus" (96) and "He Got Game" (98), and as well as other favourites "In Too Deep" (99) and "Lackawanna Blues" (05). His television work has ranged from appearances on Married With Children and The Sopranos to his current role as Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on CSI: NY.

Harper has received recognition from the NAACP Image Awards as "Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series" for CSI: NY in both 2008 and 2009.

His strengths as an actor are numerous, but his academic background and achievements in writing foreshadow the contributions we can expect to see Harper make in popular culture, academia, and maybe even politcs one day.

The son of a psychiatrist (father) and anesthesiologist (mother), Harper has a B.A. from Brown University, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, as well as a Master of Public Adminstration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Just this year, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Westfield State College.

Hill Harper has been dedicated to uplifting and educating young people, as evidenced by his previous books: American Library Association award-winning "Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny" and New York Times bestseller "Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny."

He has a gift for communicating relevant, powerful, and progressive messages through his texts. We can expect to see more of this brother in the future; he is well-equipped and on his way to becoming one of the great black minds of this generation.

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