What I know for sure: my story of growing up in America

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Doubleday, Oct 10, 2006 - Biography & Autobiography - 260 pages
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“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 deeply and profoundly that, for reasons I couldn’t explain, I found myself crying. I wasn’t sure what those tears represented: maybe his words touched the pain and hurt and humiliation I was still feeling; maybe my tears stemmed from the new confidence and purpose his words gave me. Maybe I felt an empathy with my people whose history of suffering and survival was coming alive to me for the first time. In part, they reflected my pride in the courageous brilliance of a leader outspoken in conveying our purpose and passion.

I see now that King influenced me on several levels: First, he showed me that words have meaning—they aren’t arbitrary—and words are powerful. He showed me that words can carry the force of love. He also showed me that one man can make a difference. He himself had made that difference….Despite evidence to the contrary, King believed that things would get better. Every day that I read his words, they moved me like a powerful sermon. They changed my life and emboldened my ambition.
—From What I Know For Sure

From the man who catapulted The Covenant with Black America to number one on the New York Times bestseller list comes a searing memoir of poverty, ambition, pain, and atonement. Celebrated talk-show host Tavis Smiley describes growing up in an all-white rural community in Indiana and the impact it had on his life.

Tavis Smiley grew up in a family of thirteen in a small trailer in Indiana, where money was scarce and the sight of other black faces even scarcer. One of only a few African American kids in his high school, he grew up feeling like an outsider because of the color of his skin, his Pentecostal religious beliefs, and his family’s economic circumstances. It was the love and support of his family that sustained him. But that trust and support was shattered when his father, in a moment of rage, beat him with an electrical cord, sending him to the hospital. Tavis was placed in foster care for a time, and it took him years to bridge the emotional chasm between him and his parents.

Nothing, however, could quench Tavis’s fierce inner drive to succeed. His remarkable speaking ability made him an oratorical champion in Indiana and offered him a pathway to a different world. Determined to fight for the underdog and for African American rights, he entered the political arena, moving to Los Angeles to work in Mayor Tom Bradley’s administration. Later, he embarked on his career as a radio commentator, discovering that it was an ideal way to influence public discourse on the issues of the day. Now with his own show on PBS, he remains committed to bettering the lives of all Americans; he’s especially acclaimed for his work on behalf of people of color and the underprivileged.

An honest, deeply moving self-portrait of one of America’s most popular media figures, What I Know for Sure should appeal to readers everywhere.

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WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE: My Story of Growing Up in America

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

PBS host Smiley (Hard Left, 1996) tells his rags-to-riches—or, more precisely, trailer-park-to-television-station—story.Born in Gulfport, Miss., in 1964, the author grew up in a large family that ... Read full review

What I know for sure: my story of growing up in America

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Host of his eponymous show on PBS, Smiley (Keeping the Faith: Stories of Love, Courage, Healing, and Hope from Black America ) here collaborates with biographer Ritz (Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin ... Read full review

Contents

Gulfport to Bunker Hill
17
The Bully and the Lesson
37
In My Fathers House
57
Copyright

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About the author (2006)

TAVIS SMILEY is the host of Tavis Smiley on PBS and The Tavis Smiley Show from PRI (Public Radio International). He is the author of the bestsellers Hard Left, Doing What’s Right, How to Make Black America Better, and Keeping the Faith. This spring, his efforts to promote the publication of The Covenant with Black America helped to make it a number-one New York Times bestseller.

From his celebrated conversations with world figures, to his work to inspire the next generation of leaders, as a broadcaster, author, advocate and philanthropist, Tavis Smiley continues to be an outstanding voice for change.

Newsweek
profiled him as one of the “20 people changing how Americans get their news” and dubbed him one of the nation’s “captains of the airwaves.”

Smiley hosts the late night television talk show, Tavis Smiley on PBS, and his radio show The Tavis Smiley Show on public radio is distributed by PRI, Public Radio International. Smiley is the first American ever to simultaneously host signature talk shows on both public television and public radio.

Smiley, who started his career as an aide to the late Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, also offers political commentary twice weekly on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. In addition, he has authored nine books including Never Mind Success…Go for Greatness!, published by his own imprint (Smiley Books) with Hay House. Smiley made publishing history when the book he edited, the “Covenant with Black America” reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

In 2004, Texas Southern University honored Smiley with the opening of The Tavis Smiley School of Communications and The Tavis Smiley Center for Professional Media Studies, making him the youngest African American to ever have a professional school and center named after him on a college or university campus. Smiley cemented his commitment to TSU with a $1million gift to the Center.

The mission of his nonprofit organization–Tavis Smiley Foundation–is to enlighten, encourage and empower Black youth. Tavis Smiley Presents, a subsidiary of The Smiley Group, Inc., brings ideas and people together through symposiums, seminars, forums and town hall meetings.

Smiley has received numerous awards and honorary doctorate degrees including one from his alma mater, Indiana University.

One of ten children, Smiley is single and lives in Los Angeles. In his spare time, he enjoys a good game of Scrabble with friends.

To see photographs from Tavis’s life, as told in What I Know for Sure, and to learn about Tavis’s events and the Tavis Smiley Foundation’s activities, please visit www.tavistalks.com.

What People Are Saying About
TAVIS SMILEY…

The Los Angeles Times says he’s on the “fast track, left lane.”

The New York Post screamed, “Look out Larry Kinghere comes Tavis Smiley!”

The Washington Post declared that he’s “winning friends and influencing people.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer says Smiley is “one of the most important political voices of his generation.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer summed up Tavis' appeal best: "In the age of high-decibel, in-your-face talk shows, Tavis Smiley keeps the volume low and the content high. He also gets the best guests in broadcasting - presidents, the pope, A-list entertainers. Smiley's style of easy and engaging conversation makes them all feel comfortable. And it works."

Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Daily News columnist E.R. Shipp writes: "He does what too little of talk radio or television does these days: conducts civil conversations with a broad spectrum of politicians, newsmakers, performers and writers in a forum where one first has to declare one's political alliances. He's comfortable with conservatives, liberals and the undeclared; with the profound and the profane, with elder statesmen and the hip-hop nation. With such stratification in the country, he provides one place that helps promote dialogues that might not otherwise take place before audiences who might not otherwise think that they have anything in common.”

DeWayne Wickham in USA Today declares that Smiley is “arguably the nation's most influential black journalist.”

Vanity Fair inducted him into their Hall of Fame.


DAVID RITZ has written biographies of, among others, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, and B. B. King. His latest book, Messengers: Portraits of African American Ministers, is being published by Doubleday in 2006.

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