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Two or Three Things I Know for Sure

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,999 Ratings  ·  193 Reviews
The National Book Award finalist for Bastard Out of Carolina illuminates the rural poverty of the South in a story love and loss, beauty and terror, and the intricate web of family love and hatred that spins itself through all our lives. "Elegant and raw, as fine and delicate as a tear, as hard and unyielding as a diamond."--The Boston Globe. Photos.
ebook, 112 pages
Published August 1st 1996 by Plume Books (first published August 1995)
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A Quick Recommendation

This was a good Year of reading memoirs for me and it helped a great deal in recognizing the art that goes behind writing one. I regard such art to be strictly personal where memories both wispy and vivid try to capture life from a central and peripheral standpoint. Whether it’s about a son talking about her mother and leaving a margin worthy space to mention about himself, or the brilliant writer bemoaning the loss of an imperfectly beautiful yesterday, or the young man wh
Dec 31, 2014 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best memoirs I have ever read. I was so blown away by Dorothy Allison's writing that it felt like she had lobbed a grenade into the room, exploding with beautiful and haunting language.

The memoir tells the story of Dorothy's family and her childhood in rural South Carolina. The title comes from something her Aunt Dot used to say: "Lord, girl, there's only two or three things I know for sure ... Only two or three things. That's right. Of course it's never the same things, and I
Larry Bassett
I am on a Dorothy Allison binge. This is the fourth book of hers I have read and the third in a row. I have given five stars to the first three.

Her books seem to cover similar territory: she is a feminist, a queer, a storyteller, and had a brutal beginning in life. So far I have not minded the repetition because her stories are done so well and she writes about her roots from both a fiction and nonfiction style. Sometimes it is not clear which is which.

One thing that is added in Two or Three T
My introduction to Dorothy Allison was Bastard Out of Carolina and I was stunned. I knew going in it was partly autobiographical, but it didn't seem possible that this incredible story could have happened. I was so consumed by the story that I didn't even think about the writing until I had finished. I then realized how special and talented Dorothy Allison is. I truly believe that "Bastard" will become a classic.

I say all of this because this book, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, gives us i
Dec 17, 2010 Jesska rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel like it must be hard to write your memoirs so beautifully that they read like fiction. Example:
"That beautiful boy my mama loved, as skinny as her, as ignorant and hungry, as proud as he could be to have that beautiful girl, her skin full of heat, her eyes full of hope. And when he ran away, left her to raise me alone, she never trusted any man again--but wanted to, wanted to so badly it ate the heart out of her."
I could never write something like that about somebody I knew as well as my
May 26, 2015 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just because it is short does NOT mean this one doesn't pack a punch. Dorthy Allison, through a mostly true (by her admission) memoir tells the story of her early life and influences good and terrible. Her perspective is from a unique place.......and it ain't pretty. She takes raw inventory of her influences, rejects how she is expected to compute her own life story, and throws out thoughts that will make you think. There is agenda there, but it is supported by background information that will m ...more
Angela Brown
Aug 26, 2011 Angela Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-reads
"Two or three things I know, two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is that to go on living I have to tell stories, that stories are the one sure way I know to touch the heart and change the world."

This book that is less than 100 pages is the autobiography of novelist Dorothy Allison - or is it? Although the impression that I got was that the stories were true, the whole book is littered with phrases that make the reader doubt where true life ends and her story telling takes over.
Lauren Bailey
Mar 01, 2016 Lauren Bailey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Dorothy Allison's author's note (which I didn't see until I'd already finished reading Two or Three Things I Know For Sure) says:

"Two or Three Things I Know For Sure was written for performance in the months following the completion of my novel, Bastard Out of Carolina. First performed in August 1991 at The Lab in San Francisco, the piece has been performed in a variety of cities and has changed with each production. For publication the work has been substantially revised. The names of most fami
Mary Lou
Mar 16, 2013 Mary Lou rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Two or Three things I Know for Sure by Dorothy Allison is a poignant memoir about sexual abuse and family and a quick read of just ninety-four pages. Allison is from Greenville, South Carolina and a family she describes as “Peasants, that’s what we are and always have been. Call us the lower orders, the great unwashed, the working class, the poor, proletariat, trash, lowlife and scum” (1).

Allison includes numerous family photos that remind me of my own childhood, sisters, and birth family. Her s
Powerful, authentic, honest and lyrical.

Blew my hat off!

Started reading this at 10pm and finished at about 3.30am.
Sep 14, 2013 Javier rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in one sitting. While I sometimes grow tired of Dorothy Allison's seeming inability as a writer to grow beyond her own background, I also love the strength with which she relishes it, and re-tells it, over and over again, and grows strong in the telling, even telling about horrible things, things we would normally leave to the dominion of the unspeakable. Ultimately, I feel she is a beacon of love and light in a dark world.
I got this book from the Strand for my first semester of college in 2000. I was supposed to read it during a writing class about memoir. I didn't read it, but I read an additional essay by Dorothy Allison and I liked that, so I always kept the book. In retrospect that was my best class that term. My sister is at the same point in college now, so it seemed fitting to work this one out finally. When I finally opened the book I discovered a receipt for its purchase tucked inside, from a Brentano's ...more
Aug 08, 2008 Mel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Allison’s memoir employs many new strategies for me. She incorporates photographs into her work, whether they are successful or not, I don’t know, while I enjoyed them, they were at time distracting, as they had no identifiers. Allison also admits this text was originally meant as a performance piece, this aspect definitely gave the piece a different feel. I read several sections out loud. This offers a new dimension to the text. One can hear the story told.
While it is Allison’s story, about All
Wayne Spiceland
Jun 24, 2013 Wayne Spiceland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s a shame that Dorothy Allison’s memoir Two or Three Things I Know for Sure will likely never receive the widespread reading it so richly deserves. The slim volume should be required reading. It is raw, filled with emotion which cuts to the bone. Tales of searing pain and loss, loss, even, of what one has never possessed. Ultimately, though, a book of hope, hope springing from the very fact that the book exists.

It is, I suppose, a book meant for other women, but one whose greatest potential
Apr 08, 2015 Olly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A memoir for people that don't like memoirs. Impeccably written, incredibly concise, read it in a couple of hours.

This is a store of an incredible woman whom any reader could learn a thing or two from.

Happy Reading!
Dec 11, 2008 Jen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Beauty is a hard thing. Beauty is a mean story. Beauty is slender girls who die young, fine-featured delicate creatures about whom men write poems. Beauty, my first girlfriend said to me, is that inner quality often associated with great amounts of leisure time. And I loved her for that."

"Women lose their lives not knowing they can do something different. Men eat themselves up believing they have to be the thing they have been made. Children go crazy. Really, even children go crazy, believing t
Powerful and compelling autobiography. Having the author read this work herself for the audio version (on cassette!) really brought the short work to life for me. She was able to pack so much emotion into this telling and to really highlight the repetition of the "two or three things I know for sure" theme. If only I knew anyone else who still listened to cassettes, I'd send this along to share it. Alas, I must be one of the last people out there who still has a cassette deck in the car and does ...more
Elaine Ruth Boe
Jul 07, 2014 Elaine Ruth Boe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-memoir
Normally, I would never pick up a book like this. I haven't read many memoirs or short story/essay collections, mostly because none of them spark my interest. But when I asked a friend to recommend me one collection of essays/short stories, this is what she gave me, and I'm glad I read it. Although this book dealt with the trauma of child rape, it wasn't depressing or self-pitying. The tragedy focused more on the inevitability of misuse all of the women in Allison's family experienced. This book ...more
Simply; candid, arduous, inspiring and eerily familiar. "I am no longer a grown-up outraged child but a woman letting go of her outrage, showing what I know: that evil is a man who imagines the damage he does is not damage, that evil is the act of pretending that some things do not happen or leave no mark if they do, that evil is not what remains when healing becomes possible."

Hannah Kwon
Allison is truthful and honest with what she shares. It is interesting to me how light she seems to keep the mood, though the content is none to be taken light of. I might believe she strings together an array of stories with the convicted belief that the common denominator is the belief of each story. She trusts the validity of her story telling and as such shares blatantly, but still light-mooded by her choice.

The title of the book is very fitting, and the reoccurring "Let me tell you a story
This is the second I've read by Dorothy Allison, the first was Bastard out of Carolina. I'm not sure whether it's because I'm from South Carolina, a little lost on my own family history, have dealt with similar instances of abuse, or if it's simply the weight and importance of her words, but each time after completing a reading of her work I've had to take a few deep breaths and a solid hour or two to recover.

If you care about sisterhood, about family, about individuality, truth and meaning for
Julie M
Jun 09, 2010 Julie M rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A for honesty for this short memoir by the author of 'Bastard Out of Carolina' - watch out for some explicit language about lesbian/love. Would have liked more about how she felt her family influenced who she became as an adult and less about her adult relationship(s) with other women. Very short <100 pp.
Yasmine Tajmouati
February 20 2015

In the Biography of Dorothy Allison, she explains how her family struggles with poverty and how she endures rough times during her childhood. Dorothy was born on April 11, 1949 in Greenville, South Carolina. She loved telling stories and make people think they are true. She used to tell a lot of them to her younger sister, and she would usually believe her. “I used to whisper to my sisters stories behind the red-dirt bean hills and row on row of strawberries” (Allison 5). One day
Apr 05, 2016 Morgan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A postmodern masterpiece in miniature. By turns harrowing, tender and heartening. In the first pages Dorothy Allison suggests that not everything here may be accounts of "real" events, but it is to her credit that, despite this disclaimer, the final product feels so breathtakingly honest and revealing, in all of its alternating brutality and warmth.

I adore Bastard Out Of Carolina, but I think that this, with all its brevity, works as an ideal introduction to Dorothy Allison. The sheer volume, we
May 18, 2015 Sonja rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book, along with Allison's Trash, when I recently went to one of her readings which was amazing. Allison could be an actress as well. I had already read Bastard Out of Carolina and Cavedweller more than several years ago. I just finished reading this short, autobiographical sketch and for Allison to have come out of her childhood experiences, as well as later ones, to be the woman she is today is a tribute to this gutsy, strong, tough, honest, thoroughly down-to-earth, loving, kind ...more
Leah Horlick
It's a good thing I didn't actually read this in its entirety until *after* I met Dorothy Allison, because I don't think I would have been able to function in her presence. Holy shit.
Apr 16, 2009 Ruth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
"I was born trash in a land where the people all believe themselves natural aristocrats."

Allison is under appreciated as a writer!
Jun 04, 2013 Heidi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, 2013-reads
Oh my goddddd, her writing is incredible. I want to devour every word she's written.
this book. a masterpiece.
Mary Kinietz
Autobiography by a southern girl who is a story teller as a child and becomes a writer. Illustrated with photographs of mostly the women in her family. Her aunt used to to say, "Two or three thing I know for sure, of course it's never the same things and I'm never as sure as I'd like to be." of them is what it means to have no loved version of your life but the one you make
...the way you can both hate and hate and love something you are not sure you understand
...change when it come cracks
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Dorothy Allison is an American writer, speaker, and member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Themes in Allison's work include class struggle, child and sexual abuse, women, lesbianism, feminism, and family.

Allison's first novel, the semi-autobiographical Bastard Out of Carolina, was published in 1992 and was one of five finalists for the 1992 National Book Award.

Allison founded The Independe
More about Dorothy Allison...

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“Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is the way you can both hate and love something you are not sure you understand.” 1910 likes
“Behind the story I tell is the one I don't.

Behind the story you hear is the one I wish I could make you hear.

Behind my carefully buttoned collar is my nakedness, the struggle to find clean clothes, food, meaning, and money. Behind sex is rage, behind anger is love, behind this moment is silence, years of silence.”
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