Reviewing Hill Harper’s Important Work on Love & Relationships

The Conversation: How Black Men and Women Can Build Loving, Trusting Relationships
Hill Harper
Gotham (September 2009)
288 pgs.
You are in good company. Hill Harper is not a relationship expert. Like many of us, the celebrated actor and author is on a journey of self-discovery imbued with profound questions: Who am I? Will I ever love someone fully? Yet dire statistics greet readers early on in the work: “In 1966, more than 84 percent of all Black children were being raised in two-parent households. In 2006, just forty years later, fewer than 33 percent of all Black children are being raised in two parent households.”  While not becoming mired in history, Harper does provide a context for the disintegration of the black family, tracing its roots from slavery to welfare legislation which penalized women for sharing a home with their mates. However, the tone rapidly shifts to how these facts impact us all on a day to day basis.
Now the real inner work and conversation begins:  What are men and women thinking? Perhaps more importantly, how are they expressing these thoughts? What lasting implications do these have on our community? Within the first chapter, “Man in the Mirror,” Harper bares all, as he stares down relationship demons.  After meeting Nichole, who is bright, beautiful and kind, at a gathering of mostly married couples, he wonders “What does she want?” “Was she looking for a man with husband material?” Still, his own experience and thoughts do not dominate. Lively banter between Harper’s friends on a range of subjects from interracial dating to commitment, and ultimately what sisters and brothers want in a relationship, drives the tone of The Conversation.
He resists the familiar trap of pitting one side against the other; both men and women express themselves candidly. It’s clear that the intent is not to lecture, but rather to begin to heal through constructive dialogue. There is a fluidity and ease to Harper’s words, grounded in his dating / relationship background. Notes “From The Desk of Hill Harper,” are scattered throughout the book as readers follow his quest and growing connection with Nichole.  Harper urges us gently that if he can begin to overcome seemingly relentless obstacles and the mendacity of mainstream America, so can we. Yes, there is a crisis, but if we possess the courage to begin the conversation, our community could emerge anew.  
Emelda De Coteau
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2 Replies to “Reviewing Hill Harper’s Important Work on Love & Relationships”

  1. It is refreshing to hear that the author does not claim to have all the answers. Steve Harvey has deemed himself the "relationship guru" without the qualifications. Being able to have open dialogue about these issues allows us to think and discuss with others and eventually healing can begin. This book has been added to my list of books to read in 2011.

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