Letters to a Young Brother

Recently I picked up a copy of Hill Harper’s Letters to a Young Brother. I purchased it only because my wife chased me through the book store, repeating, like a broken record, “But I think you’ll like this book. But I think you’ll like this book. But I think…”

I didn’t want a celebrity book. I wanted to read something profoundly inspirational, surely out-of-bounds for dippy and shallow, Hollywood eye-candy types. Most celebrity picture books, in my opinion, are simply bad. Best thing about them is that they end at 32 pages. But Harper’s book was YA. I wouldn’t be able to escape after 32 pages.

I was wrong! Totally wrong. Hill Harper, star of CSI:NY, is a graduate, magna cum laude (which means the brotha’s real smart), of Brown University, and has a Harvard law degree. And he writes well, too.

In his introduction, Harper writes about a book that inspired him — Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. In that book, Rilke responds to questions presented to him by a young man seeking advice. In the same way, Harper hopes to inspire and serve as a mentor to young people by addressing questions posed by those he’s met in his travels.

In all honesty, I’ve only read as far as the introduction. But in those few pages, I’m already impressed and inspired. Through the example of his own grandfathers, Harper lays out the importance of fathers, grandfathers, uncles and older brothers mentoring young boys through the maturation of manhood. Harper’s message, one of emporwerment though education, a strong sense of purpose, compassion, confidence and humility, is timely. In an age where popular culture (gangsta rap, reality TV, music videos, Paris Hilton) offers no productive direction, and when more African boys are more destined for prison than college, this is the kind of book that is needed.

Again, I’ve only begun to read this book. But if the introduction serves as a foundation on which to build, this book stands on solid ground. And, like me, the author is an Iowa native. Can’t go wrong there.

— Don

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