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Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,822 ratings  ·  220 reviews
Riveting, rousing, and utterly real, Surpassing Certainty is a portrait of a young woman searching for her purpose and place in the world—without a road map to guide her.

The journey begins a few months before her twentieth birthday. Janet Mock is adjusting to her days as a first-generation college student at the University of Hawaii and her nights as a dancer at a strip cl
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by Atria Books
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 ·  1,822 ratings  ·  220 reviews

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Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I first saw Surpassing Certainty on a display table at a bookstore last year and skimmed the synopsis. My interest was piqued but I had no idea who Janet Mock was and didn’t bother to investigate. Not until I purchased this book and began reading it nearly a year later, did I learn who she is - a writer, who previously worked at People, a transgender woman, and a transgender rights activist.

She wrote another book, Redefining Realness which I was also unfamiliar with (and have not read). While I
Jessica Woodbury
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you read REDEFINING REALNESS, you'll be happy to find that Mock's second memoir is even better: warmer, deeper, and in many ways more personal. This is a good book for anyone in their 20's, the story here is one we often skip over when we talk about the narrative of people's lives, how your early attempts at personhood and independence shape you.

Mock is able to explore a wide array of experiences but always keeps you emotionally connected to her. She explores desire and being desired, when a
Lindsay Love
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are absolutely no words to express how much I loved this book. I loved Redefining Realness. But Surpassing Certainty really spoke to me as a black woman still trying to be seen and heard.
I first heard about Mock when she appeared on Chelsea Weekly on Netflix, I made note of her book but didn't really get around to really researching it. Fast forward to July and I saw all over my twitter the boycott of The Breakfast Club- again Mock name came up. It was then I read an article she wrote specifically about the boycott, and it is through that article I found out she is transgendered, with that said, I decided it was time I give this book a read.

I have to say, I was impressed with M
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Good, bad, or indifferent - Mock writes with an authenticity and bravery that few can match. To read the rest of this review and to see an interview with Janet Mock and Francesca Ramsey CLICK HERE. ...more
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was not as good a read as her first book. It may be because I'm in my thirties and this memoir chronicles her twenties, or maybe because Redefining Realness taught me so much and really endeared her to me. Either way, while this was well written, it was kind of boring.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
4.5 Stars

This was so good!

I've been listening to Janet Mock's Surpassing Certainty over the past day, and I found any spare moment to press play. This is her second biography and I need her to keep living her life, because her memories make the best stories. I know, I sound like an insufferable gossip feeding off other people's lives, but I don't just watch anyone, I watch the interesting ones, and Mock is a very interesting one.

I loved Mock's first bio, Redefining Realness , but I adored Sur
Ed Center
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I ignored my two kids, work responsibilities, and the desire to binge The Crown and finished Janet Mock's memoir in three days. It was riveting. Her storytelling style is accessible (the pages turn quickly) and she is honest and sincere without sentimentality. I grew up in Hawaii, and so I enjoyed her references to strip clubs, food joints and beaches that I frequented. But I realized I knew little about trans experience or native Hawaiian perspectives on non-binary gender.

I most appreciated he
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Certainly, it's always interesting to read about something that's new to you, and I haven't read anything else yet about someone's transgender journey. Mock writes well too. My qualm with this book is that Mock doesn't seem to accept or own up to her own part in major events in her life. The easiest example involves the manner in which she discusses her romance and eventual marriage to her first husband. Perhaps I should have started with her first memoir, but this one had been recommended by a ...more
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
Janet Mock writes eloquently and openly in Surpassing Certainty focusing on her life in college and through the her mid-twenties. It is the story of becoming an adult in the face of discrimination. It is the story of becoming comfortable in her skin as a Black woman, a transgender woman, and a feminist.

She is honest and forthright when discussing her love life even when it doesn't always paint her in the best light, and even when it delves into uncomfortable and painful moments. I would have lik
Domonique Francesca
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-my-bookshelf
A must read for women in their twenties - I loved everything about this book and am eager to purchase her other bestseller “Redefining Realness”!
Mary McDonough
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. I am glad it was written. IMO there aren't enough autobiographies written by trans people, and the ones that do exist are about trans-ness, when clearly there is also so much more to each trans person's story. This book is about Janet and her first marriage, and her first job in the publishing industry, and her brushes with racism in publishing.

I hope readers of her first book also pick this book up.
Mar 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, 2018
a second memoir in the span of three years might be considered indulgent. then again, memoirs from trans writers are undeniably underrepresented on history's bookshelf. I am grateful to read trans stories that document love, complexity, triumph and joy in the writer's life while refusing the narrative that trans lives equate tragedy.

at first I didn't know why I was reading this book. it read like an itinerary of important milestones and their adherent feelings, a statement of facts to devour qu
Brian Tofte-Schumacher
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fav-non-fiction
May 2017 be remembered as the year when, instead of dragging myself to any of the festivities celebrating Saturday of Pride weekend, I sat in a park devouring the second half of Surpassing Certainty. Though I was alone, reading Janet Mock's work always makes me feel as if she is speaking directly to me, animating details of the kinds of stories most of us only share with our best friends.

I am grateful for Mock's writing not only for the feelings she evokes with her writing, but for the history s
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-audiobooks, memoir
Another amazing book from Janet Mock! Do yourself a favor and listen to the audiobook. It's so much better hearing her tell her story.
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have spent a long time refusing to read memoirs about fellow transpeople. Not out of hate, but because so many of them are about the individual's transition rather than about the individual person themselves. The reason I don't like those is because it feels like giving into cisgender voyeurism. It reduces us to our transition rather than focusing on our lives and what we've learned while living them. I admit I could have just read a handful of bad memoirs, but that's the sense I got from them ...more
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
i did not want this book to end! it is a mostly breezy, sometimes touching, and inviting read, with Janet Mock's warmth and resilience shining through the writing. this story of self-discovery and coming into oneself is a lovely tribute to loves of many kinds, to revealing our truths and to spiritual and emotional risk-taking. also to the confusion and heartache and growing pains of our twenties, which as painful as they are, have their place in shaping us and propelling us into our dreams. i wa ...more
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had no idea what to expect from "Surpassing Certainty," but Janet Mock exceeded all of my expectations. Mock's second memoir didn't teach about her trans-ness. Instead, she explored the difficulties of navigating the world in your 20s, a decade I'm knee-deep in the throes of. She explores being a first generation graduate student, stripping to provide for herself and her family, marrying a man she loves and learning love is more than a lifetime commitment, moving to New York, and navigating pu ...more
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Mock's second memoir of her coming out process as a trans woman is just as great as, if not better than, her first book (Redefining Realness). If you have not read Redefining Realness, I strongly suggest you start there.

Janet Mock is an extraordinary woman with a highly colorful journey, full of obstacles and accomplishments. I enjoyed listening to her read the book in her rich, creamy voice.

I felt a little sorry for Troy. He simply could not keep up with
Nicole Gathany
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read Janet's first memoir and love her to death, but didn't think I would read her second memoir because a friend said it was much of the same.

I ended up reading it for a black feminist book club I frequent and I can tell you it's not the same story! There are new people, new loves, new experiences.

I loved this book. I read it in one day which I can't say for everything I read. Other than her hat tilts to womanist like Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, and Zora Neale Hurston, my favorite thing abo
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 3.5-4 stars

If you haven't read "Redefining Realness" Mock's first book please pick it up. I'd never read a book about a Black transwoman before and learned a great deal. It's one of the most riveting memoirs I've read. Her writing is an amalgamation of gender studies, relatable earthiness and pop culture insertions.

"Surpassing Certainty" picks up where her first book left off. She chronicles her life as a young college student seeking love and acceptance to her rise in journalism. She lays
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mock does a wonderful job of discussing her tumultuous twenties: romantic entanglements (cheating, drama, marriage, drama), her ambitious goals (New York! Publishing!), and a lot of the growing up she does between 20 and 30. Her identity as a trans woman plays into a lot of this, but ultimately she is dealing with what everyone else in their twenties deals with... figuring out who you are and what you want out of life. She's pretty straightforward about her actions, good and bad, and I appreciat ...more
Jordan Rubenstein
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtq, trans
In another fantastic memoir by Janet Mock, she shares intimate details of her journey to adulthood. Her vulnerability and the breadth of her experiences are inspirational, and her writing makes this book an easy read and a new personal favorite.

I recommend reading her first memoir first, Redefining Realness, where she introduces her story starting with her childhood. The two memoirs flow nicely for anyone reading both, but can also each stand on their own as powerful narratives.

Janet Mock share
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
A quick and enjoyable memoir from Janet Mock in which she details her growing up and meeting her first husband in Hawaii, her move to New York for graduate school and work as a magazine editor, and the end of her marriage. She is straightforward in her writing and reflects on the many things she learned, not just pertaining to her career and marriage but also colorism within the black community, racism and sexism in the workforce, "disclosing" oneself as a trans individual, and more. I don't fee ...more
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-o
I fell in love with Janet’s story in Redefining Realness but I fell in love with Janet, the woman, in Surpassing Certainty. She is so candid and forthcoming, well spoken and real. In her first book she let us behind the curtains to see backstage but in this book the walls come down completely. The strength she possesses to know herself and express herself is awe inspiring to me. Even when she is vulnerable or not making the best decisions for herself at the time, she still shows strength of conv ...more
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm not really an audiobook person but I have discovered that I enjoy audiobooks where the author reads their own memoir. Janet Mock's voice is very soothing and she tells her story with grace, self-reflection, eloquence, and courage. I'm glad I listened to it. Not much more to say because it feels weird to critique a memoir as it's about how someone chooses to share their story and I want to respect that.
TMA Library
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
I just couldn't love this one like how I wanted to. Her first book, Redefining Realness, was such a triumph. It read like something you'd expect from that super-cool yet intellectually savvy professor everyone adored back in college. In her last book Janet really took us there - into what it meant to be trans even as the entire world is challenging you. I didn't get that here. It was more like "Hey, world, I'm Janet and this is what I did when I was a Twenty-something." Not my cup of tea.
Hannah Barnes
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Surpassing Certainty picks up right where Redefining Realness left off. I appreciated reading about Janet's 20s, and how she learned and grew into herself during them. It's a comfort to a 20-something like myself to see another person describe their struggle. I was surprised at some things, like how long her marriage lasted, because of the way parts of Redefining Realness were framed. Overall, it's a great read, and I'm glad I read it.
Heather F
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
I LOVED Redefining Realness, so I was eager to read this book. While Mock's first book showed the struggles of a young trans woman, this book just sort of disjointedly jumps around her twenties. Mock is such al lauded figure that I expected more growth and character development than took place in this book.
Aug 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I love Janet Mock and my gripe is this book isn’t long enough! I really related to coming from a poor family and being the first to go to university and having no idea what that looks like, I honestly have never felt so seen as I did when I was reading those passages.
I also realised I held my breath so often when I was reading parts of this book, waiting for the inevitable violence I assumed she was going to meet. I don’t think she shies away from how living in a world that doesn’t embrace trans
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Janet Mock is a writer, TV host and advocate whose work has appeared in Marie Claire, The New Yorker, and Lenny. With a Masters in journalism from New York University, the Honolulu native worked as an editor at, produced HBO’s The Trans List, hosted a series of specials for MSNBC, and appeared on OWN’s Super Soul Sunday. Oprah Winfrey has called her a “fearless new voice” and “trailblaz ...more

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