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Two or Three Things I Know for Sure

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  2,570 ratings  ·  168 reviews
Bastard Out of Carolina, nominated for the 1992 National Book Award for fiction, introduced Dorothy Allison as one of the most passionate and gifted writers of her generation. Now, in Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, she takes a probing look at her family's history to give us a lyrical, complex memoir that explores how the gossip of one generation can become legends fo ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published August 1st 1996 by Plume (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
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
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
Angela Brown
"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
Earlier I was thinking about how I give a lot of four- and five-star reviews. I was self conscious about it, but as I was reading Dorothy Allison's memoir today, I realized that it's nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn't mean I have bad taste. It means that a) I fall in love hard, and often; and b) I rarely finish books I don't love.

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 Su
Mary Lou
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
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
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
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
"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
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."

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.
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
Julie M
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
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.
"I was born trash in a land where the people all believe themselves natural aristocrats."

Allison is under appreciated as a writer!
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
Dorothy Allison's life has been nothing like my own, except that we both live in South Carolina and we both have strong women in our family. This slim volume is very packed with experiences, some not so great, of the author and her family. Apparently, it was culled from a performance piece she did a while about. There are moments that are poignant, like when Allison, was in fourth grade and trying to complete a homework project on family trees. The teacher had instructed the children to go home ...more
Abigail (Abbe)
I think every woman should read this book but especially two kinds: those born during the 1950s and queer women. I love Dorothy Allison and this book made me tear up on multiple occasions. She has suffered tremendously at the hands of her stepfather and has come out alive and a SURVIVOR. Ms. Allison states it so much more poetically throughout this work.

What hit me the hardest..what resonated most closely to my own my own pain was this passage when the author was speaking about why sh
B. Hale
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
One of the literary concepts I truly believe in is the idea of survival through storytelling - particularly in the feminist tradition. Allison is a primary example of the raw strength that comes from putting pen to paper (her novel Bastard Out of Carolina is simply amazing). Two or Three Things I Know For Sure is Allison's memoir about her life growing up in the South surrounded by her own poverty and abuse - it focuses on the women in her life - her sisters and mother, her aunts and girlfriends ...more
This book was given to me on a whim. My friend Jori said that I might be interested in the story of the author. And I was, except for the fact that I felt so jumbled around. I felt as of thoughts were started and then never finished.

I did like the length of the book though. At 94 pages, I felt like I was getting okay information without feeling overwhelmed.

I wish there had been more detail, but for the subject matter, I'm very happy with my 2 hours of reading.
There were parts of this memoir that were incredibly moving; other parts that seemed the author was trying a bit too hard to show her affiliation with (and possibly empathy for) a specific SE class. The effort in this short piece, however, is laudable. It takes guts to print the unsavory details of our past and not mask it as fiction or, (insert throat clearing here), "creative" nonfiction. Brava, Ms. Allison. Brava.
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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...
Bastard Out of Carolina Trash Cavedweller Skin: Talking about Sex, Class and Literature Bastard Out of Carolina / Two or Three Things I Know For Sure

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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.” 1915 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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