When 'CSI: NY' actor Hill Harper decided to pen a tome to inspire and uplift young African American men, he was confronted by plenty of naysayers. At his New York book-launch party for 'Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny,' the Harvard-educated author talked about the numerous people who told him young black people don't read. Instead of letting the negative comments dissuade him from writing, Harper stood firm in his belief that he had a message that young people needed to hear.
"I knew I could get an effective message across to our amazing young people. I am happy to know that both of my books have become [New York Times] best sellers, because that indicates to me that statistics and stereotypes can be overcome."
Harper's 2006 debut, inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke's 'Letters to a Young Poet,' includes advice from the likes of his Harvard Law classmate President Barack Obama, as well as rap star Nas and tennis great Venus Williams.
In 2008, Harper's second offering, 'Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny,' followed. The book, which was designed to inspire young women and is written in letter format, features advice from influential black women like First Lady Michelle Obama, Nikki Giovanni and Ruby Dee.
Now, the 43-year-old, who notes that his biggest struggle in dating has been how much time he spends on the road, is hoping to switch gears and talk about relationships in his new book, 'The Conversation: How Black Men and Women Can Build Trusting Relationships.'
"My last two books, 'Letters to a Young Brother' and 'Letters to a Young Sister,' relied heavily on contributions from well-known men and women who had wisdom to impart to and inspire our youth. 'The Conversation,' however, is different," he clarified.
"The research I did for the book was all about talking to many people from all different walks of life to explore how we are or are not communicating as men and women."
The idea for 'The Conversation,' which includes stories from couples in all stages of relationships -- from new love to 50-year-long marriages -- came from the Iowa native's travels while promoting his previous books.
"While traveling the country on book tours and speaking engagements, I meet all sorts of people. ...Many of them trust me and feel comfortable enough to share their feelings and personal experiences," he said. "It made me want to explore both the reasons for the poor state of our men-women relationships and solutions for making them better."
Considering, as Harper points out, that in 1966, nearly 80 percent of black children were raised in two-parent households. Now that rate is a mere 33 percent; it is a good time for 'The Conversation' to hit bookstores this September.
After the release of 'The Conversation,' Harper hopes to work on a children's book series. But he's quick to remind everyone about how proud he is that his Harvard classmate is now the president of the United States of America.
"I'm so proud of him; I am so proud of us. Let's all of us work as hard as we can in our own communities to create the change that he discussed during the campaign so that we can see real transformation. He can't do it alone, and he is working really hard...so we should do the same."
Harper is certainly doing his part as an author. If 'The Conversation' is as successful as his previous two books, President Obama is certainly equally proud of Harper.Hill Harper Letters'The Conversation' will be released via Gotham Books on Sept. 8.
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