cover image What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America

What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America

Tavis Smiley, as told to David Ritz. . Doubleday, $23.95 (260pp) ISBN 978-0-385-50516-1

Talk show host, force behind The Covenant with Black America and entrepreneur, Smiley begins his life story in self-improvement and moves through self-empowerment into self-aggrandizement. After a Pentecostal upbringing in an Indiana trailer park in the early 1970s, he first tasted success in the "ultra white culture" of his high school, attended Indiana University and landed an internship with Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley through sheer "chutzpah." After running for city council, he broke into radio, becoming "a household name in black America" and receiving "a compensation package for a half-million dollars, the biggest in BET history." But these vignettes serve merely as a platform for homilies and score settling that reach back to a college teacher, his controversial breaks with BET and later NPR. Following his mama's dictum to look for the " lesson and a blessing in everything we go through," Smiley learns from President Clinton that one "need not be intimidated by anyone, even when that person is the most powerful man in the world." Young adult readers may be reassured by the angst in Smiley's life before he hits the big time. The rest of his fans know what to expect—including the plugs for Smiley enterprises at the end. (Oct. 10)