Two or Three Things That I Know for Sure

A slim memoir of poverty, abuse, agency and power, this story of a young gay survivor growing up in dirt-poor Carolina is only ninety-four pages long. Those ninety-four pages, however, are luminous with love and loss as the author tells not only her own story but fragments of the other women‘s stories in her sparse family tree. As a teenager, though, I suppose I read it because I liked the idea of anything that even remotely justified becoming a lesbian. I remember reading a paragraph out to my class at school and being greeted with largely mystified ‘golf claps,’ at a recital contest. (I didn’t win).

These are people who don’t ordinarily get to tell their stories, to sit still or stop waiting tables or drinking, making love, planting tomatoes, playing pool or raising children, long enough to bear witness to their own lives. It’s also about growing into a loving, compassionate parent and leaving behind the cycle of violence. Telling stories was Allison's way out.

Towards the end, Allison writes about her dream after hearing a woman at a book party talk about the potential of the internet and hypertext for telling stories. Her mind becomes hooked on the idea of hypertext once she hears the woman say, ‘If you look at it from the side, it would go down and down, layers and layers. All the stories you've ever told. all the pictures you've ever seen. We can put in everything.’ There’s a hypertext version of The Waste Land; there isn’t one of Two or Three Things I Know for Sure. There should be.

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Dorothy Allison
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