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What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America
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What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  185 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
“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 d
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by Doubleday (first published 2006)
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Nandi Crawford
I really liked this book; It showed me that one, you can be born in real humble circumstances or encounter some real hard experiences and move on to something better if you wish, it really doesn't matter in this country Smiley was born illegitimately in Gulfport, Miss in 1964; I believe he met his real father a couple of times, but his mother met and married the man he considers his father, Gaynell Smiley around 1965,1966. They moved to Indiana due to him being in the Air Force, and was raised r ...more
Aug 12, 2015 Maria rated it it was ok
I don't know at what point this book started to annoy me. There were parts that I found fascinating and I started off thinking that Tavis Smiley was charming. That soon gave way as he mentioned MANY times that he had a gift with words, that he was a gifted orator, that he was verbally gifted, etc. I get it- you are a great speaker and very eloquent, let's move on.

While I admire many things that Smiley has accomplished, I feel like his approach to this book wasn't balanced. I was quickly turned
Mar 18, 2008 Fatma rated it really liked it
I love watching Tavis Smiley Show and always wondered about his ending quote "Keep the faith". This book helped me understand his faith a little bit better and did he have a hard childhood or what!

Always interesting to see people's lives through their narration.
Feb 09, 2014 Oscar rated it really liked it
As a regular viewer of Tavis Smiley's show on PBS, I was compelled in reading this book as a means to understand more about his life, experiences, and views. While Smiley has talked about his life throughout his show, in this book, we get a fully fleshed out narrative detailing his life and how its shaped his life and his goals as a television personality.

In this memoir, we hear about his humble childhood in a predominantly White farm town in Indiana, his sometimes difficult relationship with h
Apr 20, 2009 Sandy rated it it was amazing

I'm a big fan of Tavis Smiley's TV program. I love his combination of intelligence, courage and kindness when he interviews guests. So when I saw this book, I bought it. Wow! What a read. This book is the story of Tavis' life, so far, as told by Tavis. A mid-life memoir? I'm a couple chapters short of finishing it, but the book is so inspirational that I HAD to get up and write this review before I could do anything else. Seeing that well d
Carol Storm
Jul 11, 2012 Carol Storm rated it it was amazing
I read this book because I saw Tavis Smiley on ABC THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOLOUS. I was stunned and in awe when Tavis Smiley actually had the courage to call President Obama on his blatant hypocrisy as Commander In Chief, paying lip-service to the non-violence of Dr. Martin Luther King while routinely ordering up drone strikes that kill innocent women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Much to my surprise, on reading this book I learned that Tavis Smiley is not a product of the inne
Marissa Morrison
Feb 18, 2008 Marissa Morrison rated it liked it
Tavis Smiley offers a unique perspective on parenting. This book is, in part, a tribute to his mother, a pretty crummy parent by most people's standards. When Smiley was beaten regularly by a bully in grade school, his mother made sure to beat him harder--with a belt--every time he let it happen. She also stood by while his step-dad beat him for an hour with an electrical cord (an experience that landed Smiley in the hospital and placed him in the care of foster parents). Instead of appreciating ...more
Mar 20, 2015 Linda rated it it was ok
A memoir of Tavis Smiley's growing up and going past his youth of poverty and strict religious rules imposed by his well-meaning but destructive parents. Smiley is ambitious and persevering, and while his tale is interesting, it's not all that compelling, maybe because of the very simple literary style.
Jennifer Vu
Dec 03, 2015 Jennifer Vu rated it really liked it
This was a very inspiring novel. Combining strict religion, tough parents, and a motivated child brings you a tale of struggling to success. I may or may not have shed a tear from being touched. I would say again, it was truly an inspirational novel.
Keith Madsen
May 09, 2011 Keith Madsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well-written biography, which for me means that I got caught up in Tavis Smiley's story, and found myself rooting for him as he faced his challenges. A well-written biography enriches one's own experience, almost as if it allows you the chance to live another life, seeing the world from another perspective.

My lone area of uneasiness with the book was that Smiley does at times seem rather arrogant, but then again he generally admits to that, and I view that self-recognition as a strengt
The first part was interesting but lagged with the details especially of the political variety. I wanted to get a glimpse of the man who wrote a book about the final year of Martin Luther King Jr. Writing about his faith and background in the Pentecostal tradition was very inspiring since I also have the same Pentecostal upbringing.
Jun 23, 2009 Philip rated it really liked it
An important book. Smiley became enormously successful in spite of the isolating and limiting influences of poverty, his mother's Pentecostal church, and being in a tiny minority in rural Indiana. His story is the introspective and brutally honest account of how he overcame his inauspicious circumstances with a combination of intellegence, talent, chutzpah-level self confidence, and connections. His personal growth seems to parallel his financial success. An immensely talented but very flawed in ...more
Aug 29, 2010 Adra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tavis Smiley has presented us with a journey of his life on up to now. I was truly impressed with the following words stated by Mr. Talley, "My dismal made me realize that being an entrepreneur can serve a journalist as well as a businessman-and the key to entreprenuership was self-motivation, intelligent planning, and autonomy. These words serve as pure encouragement for the entreprenuer on the "Hot Pursuit" of success.

Adra Young
Author of: The Everyday Living of Children & Teens Monologue
Oct 20, 2009 Terri rated it it was amazing
I always enjoy Tavis Smiley's show on PBS. This book gave me a deeper appreciation for him as a man, a dreamer, an overcomer. Tavis clearly shows the heights that can be attained with vision, ambition and preparation. I truly couldn't put this book down. If you need inspiration to clear the hurdles on your journey--no matter how difficult your journey may be right now-- RUN and grab this book!
Jun 20, 2007 Mia rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
I am an admirer of Tavis Smiley and his tenacity to uplift and improve the lives of African Americans. This book is autobiographical and was so revealing. I learned alot about his childhood and how he overcame alot of things. I developed an even stronger appreciation for him and what he has accomplished.
Oct 10, 2008 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Did you know Tavis Smiley grew up in Kokomo, Indiana in a double-wide trailer with 12 other family members?

If you like Tavis Smiley, you will be inspired by his life story. Read it, it's at the Harold Washington library!
Susan J
May 02, 2012 Susan J rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Had heard alot about Tavis Smiley and wanted to learn more about his life and thoughts on life...this is a book that will provide insights to the man behind the radio and TV host and commentator.
May 30, 2010 sleeps9hours rated it liked it
Poorly written (as told to some author, not Tavis's writing), but a compelling enough story that it doesn’t matter. Definitely worth a read for any Tavis lovers (and aren’t we all?).
What a candid book...He eloquently writes of his past... his successes..and pain... his uncanny dedication to his beliefs...talents and desires....

Love ya Tavis!!!!
Jan 28, 2008 Valerie rated it it was amazing
This book is really enjoyable! It's encouraging for anyone who has gone through difficult times and how you can persevere!
Lady T
Dec 04, 2008 Lady T rated it it was amazing
Tavis Smiley's life story is truly amazing. They way that he brought himself up is a true testimony of determination.
a good read. very insightful. if true, confirms what I thought of the man..."hustler at"
M.D.  Rhett
Aug 01, 2012 M.D. Rhett rated it it was amazing
What a truly inspirational memoir that touched my soul! God Bless you Mr. Smiley!
Linda Tate
Jan 06, 2013 Linda Tate rated it it was amazing
Surprised to learned of his challenges in his first three decades on this earth
Ingrid Shanklin
Jul 15, 2013 Ingrid Shanklin rated it liked it
An overcomer's story! I could understand him better after reading this.
Mar 04, 2008 Iv is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I just started reading it a and can not comment on it yet.
Loved it!!!
Oct 06, 2007 Sue rated it did not like it
very lite
Theresacunningham28 marked it as to-read
Sep 21, 2016
BookDB marked it as to-read
Sep 14, 2016
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African American ...: Tavis Smiley 1 11 Oct 26, 2012 05:29PM  
African American ...: Dealing with Tavis 1 10 May 03, 2012 03:25AM  
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Tavis Smiley is a talk show host, author, political commentator, entrepreneur, advocate and philanthropist. Smiley grew up in Kokomo, Indiana. After attending Indiana University, he worked during the late 1980s as an aide to Tom Bradley, the mayor of Los Angeles. Smiley became a radio commentator in 1991, and starting in 1996 he hosted the talk show BET Talk (later renamed BET Tonight) on BET. Con ...more
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