From the author of "The Covenant with Black America" comes a searing memoir of poverty, ambition, pain and atonement. "In What I Know For Sure" (Doubleday, $23.95), 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.
In many ways, his has been a life of overcoming. Smiley grew up in a family of 13 in a trailer, where some years he had to forego a new pair of shoes to replace the ones he was outgrowing. He was one of the only African Americans in his high school class, and, raised as a Pentecostal, he never dated, drank or watched a movie until he attended college. Moreover, he had to find a way to survive the harsh discipline and punishment he sometimes received at home — hospitalized after being beaten by his father, he later fully reconnected with his parents.
Although he had such tough beginnings, Smiley possessed a drive to make something of himself and his life. His speaking ability made him an Indiana State oratorical champion. He later went on to use his passion and speaking talent to become a celebrated proponent of the underdog and then a broadcast star, where he found he could shape public discourse on the concerns of the day.
Despite the obstacles he faced, Smiley relied on his faith and the inspirational teachings of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others to continue his pursuit of excellence. Whenever he met failure he channeled his negative feelings into positive energy. His difficult early relationship with his parents, tainted by his childhood beating, only drove him to tackle new challenges. Whether it was as class president in high school, a Kappa Alpha Psi at Indiana University or as an outspoken intern in Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley's office, Smiley strove to prove himself and the world that he could make a difference.
Smiley's hardships and the tough love of his parents transformed him from a small-town boy to a nationally recognized media figure and activist. These are some of the life lessons he shares in "What I Know For Sure":
• Embrace your talents
• Turn your fear into energy
• View yourself as a winner, and you will become a winner
• See beyond present pain and look to God for direction
• No one in life gets ahead without the help of others
Upon turning 40 and midway through his career, Smiley donated $1 million to Texas Southern University's communications school to provide scholarships for aspiring Black journalists. In 2005 and 2006 the Tavis Smiley talk show on PBS was recognized for its outstanding achievements with the prestigious National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Image Award.
"What I Know For Sure" is an honest self portrait of one of America's most popular media figures.