What I Know for Sure
My Story of Growing up in AmericaBook - 2006
“I Have a Dream,” Dr. King intoned. In English class, we were just starting to learn about similes and metaphors and figures of speech. Those concepts weren’t immediately clear to me as Dr. King talked about “symbolic shadow,” but …I understood the power of symbolic language.
Over the next several weeks, I spent hours studying that one speech…King’s speeches touched me so deeply and profoundly that, for reasons I couldn’t explain, I found myself crying. I wasn’t sure what those tears represented: maybe his words touched the pain and hurt and humiliation I was still feeling; maybe my tears stemmed from the new confidence and purpose his words gave me. Maybe I felt an empathy with my people whose history of suffering and survival was coming alive to me for the first time. In part, they reflected my pride in the courageous brilliance of a leader outspoken in conveying our purpose and passion.
I see now that King influenced me on several levels: First, he showed me that words have meaning—they aren’t arbitrary—and words are powerful. He showed me that words can carry the force of love. He also showed me that one man can make a difference. He himself had made that difference….Despite evidence to the contrary, King believed that things would get better. Every day that I read his words, they moved me like a powerful sermon. They changed my life and emboldened my ambition.
—From What I Know For Sure
From the man who catapulted The Covenant with Black America to number one on the New York Times bestseller list comes a searing memoir of poverty, ambition, pain, and atonement. Celebrated talk-show host Tavis Smiley describes growing up in an all-white rural community in Indiana and the impact it had on his life.
Tavis Smiley grew up in a family of thirteen in a small trailer in Indiana, where money was scarce and the sight of other black faces even scarcer. One of only a few African American kids in his high school, he grew up feeling like an outsider because of the color of his skin, his Pentecostal religious beliefs, and his family’s economic circumstances. It was the love and support of his family that sustained him. But that trust and support was shattered when his father, in a moment of rage, beat him with an electrical cord, sending him to the hospital. Tavis was placed in foster care for a time, and it took him years to bridge the emotional chasm between him and his parents.
Nothing, however, could quench Tavis’s fierce inner drive to succeed. His remarkable speaking ability made him an oratorical champion in Indiana and offered him a pathway to a different world. Determined to fight for the underdog and for African American rights, he entered the political arena, moving to Los Angeles to work in Mayor Tom Bradley’s administration. Later, he embarked on his career as a radio commentator, discovering that it was an ideal way to influence public discourse on the issues of the day. Now with his own show on PBS, he remains committed to bettering the lives of all Americans; he’s especially acclaimed for his work on behalf of people of color and the underprivileged.
An honest, deeply moving self-portrait of one of America’s most popular media figures, What I Know for Sure should appeal to readers everywhere.
Baker & Taylor
In a compelling memoir, the noted talk-show host recalls his own youth as he details what it was like to grow up black in an all-white Indiana community, describing what it was like to be an outsider because of his race, religious beliefs, and poverty and the influence of his early life on his determination to succeed and to fight for the underdog. 60,000 first printing.
The noted talk-show host details his experiences growing up black in an all-white Indiana community, describing what it was like to be an outsider, and the influence of his early life on his determination to succeed and to fight for the underdog.