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Two or Three Things I Know for Sure

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  4,101 ratings  ·  282 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, 94 pages
Published August 1st 1996 by Penguin 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
Nov 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Diane S ☔
Nov 28, 2018 marked it as to-read reading now. Found it here for free. ...more
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
Sep 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs-bios
3.5 A good read for a day when you feel down -- when you feel vulnerable to the whispers saying "you're not that smart, you're not that pretty, you're not that strong," Allison reminds you that you are all you need to be and more than you know.
Hailey Zipfel
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Dec 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: jo
powerful, fast, intense, honest.
Wayne Spiceland
Jun 18, 2013 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
Angela Brown
Aug 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 06, 2014 rated it did not like it
I seem to be in the minority with my low rating but I just didn't see why this was a great story. Not only was it very very short but I just found it disjointed and didn't get the point. I also wanted to know more, she didn't explain a lot of things and usually memoirs are a lot longer. That being said I always hate to give a low rating when I know its about someone's real life.
Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Two or three things I know, two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is that if we are not beautiful to each other, we cannot know beauty in any form." Page 86.

I read this book in one sitting. It was raw and gritty and painful to read at times, yet so beautifully written and another reminder to me of how often real life is messy and it is what makes us real.
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
She is an excellent writer and a good soul.
Lauren Collier
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, haunting, and honest. Only wish there was more of it. Happy pride!
Mary Lou
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Lauren Bailey
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
I don't know about two or three but one thing I know for sure is that you've got to read this book.
Dorothy Allison's like the oppositional force to the Tories in my life - I don't think my love for her could possibly be bigger, then I read a new thing she's done and it grows! I cannot even with this gem of a book. It got me wondering if my underlining habit is spiralling out of control or if she's just that fucking good (it is because she is just that fucking good). This was such a healing book for me to read, as a survivor, as a writer, as a dyke. She's fucking magic. I am beginning to pre-e ...more
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
Aug 16, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Helena by: J Acosta, College Professor
Read for Sex and Death class at CCA.

Second reading. July, 2010. I feel like this style is dated already. I've seen the live version mimicked at LGBT shows, and it was stronger. I'm not sure a book was the way to go with this material. And the hypertext part made me laugh. We have flash now kiddos. It all diminishes the story, which gets lost under the sentimental stylistic mess. I'd really like to see the author completely rethink this.
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Julie M
Jun 09, 2010 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.
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer-lit
Ohhh, I cried. I think it would probably be best to read/teach it alongside Bastard out of Carolina or Trash, since this piece reads more of an extended essay than a standalone book. But it was beautiful and moving. I would teach this in two of my dream syllabi: the mother/daughter lit class and the class on queer girlhoods.
Eric Cepela
Apr 09, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
this is a choppy mess that shouldn't have been published. hugely disappointing after reading Bastard Out of Carolina. it's supposed to be about storytelling, but she never finishes a story. there's even a quote that says, "telling the story all the way through is an act of love." that's one of the two or three things she knows, which is a nonsense device.

1 star
Derek Siegel
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such an awesome treat for people who have read Allison's work before (if you haven't read Bastard Out of Carolina - stop what you're doing, and go read it!). It offers a lot of context, I think, for her novels. But also - what a beautiful writer. And I'll never not love the centering of relationships between women. Read this book in one sitting on a plane.
this book. a masterpiece.
Ammara Abid
Sep 22, 2016 added it
Shelves: not-for-me
Not my cup of tea -_-
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought that I would enjoy this more but I truthfully didn't want to read details about the author's love affairs with women, not exactly my cup of tea.
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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

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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.” 1859 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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