Cover Image: All We Knew But Couldn't Say

All We Knew But Couldn't Say

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A brutal and emotional memoir that is a tough read content-wise but powerful, compelling, and inspiring.
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Hard to read.  The early abuse is heartwrenching.  In the end the power of the individual and perseverance comes through.  It's hard to believe how much people can overcome on there own.  Inspiring.  I recommend this book.
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This book was very well written but damn was it heartbreaking. I struggled to get through parts of it because it was so heavy. It blows my mind that these are real
Things that happen in people’s homes. This memoir reads like that of Educated or the glass castle which are both tough but worth it. I was not familiar with joannes work as an actress but as a person I feel like I know her like an old friend now.
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While this memoir is hard to read as Joanne Vannicola recounts her childhood in an abusive family setting, it is a story about a strong woman not letting her hardships break her down.  Although she had every right to turn into a hardened, bitter person, she is instead is a shining light that proves that good can come out of bad.  She has the power of forgiveness and strength when she could easily have given in.
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It was a very heartbreaking and sort of hard read. Because i most of the time wanted to hug Joanne, make it so that they didn't have to go through this her and her siblings. It was devestating that it happend to them, because in the end it should'nt have.
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Well written and heartbreaking. The author evokes many emotions with her words and the story flows well. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC copy of the book. The opinions expressed above are my own.
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This book is simply amazing (what a weird thing to say about this sort of book), one of my best read this year so far. As someone who grew up with a loving family, it's always hard for me to imagine that a child can be abused that much and at such young age (she was so young, too young). And the fact her parents were so evil *shivers*.µ I truly wish happiness to the author and hope life will only be nice things to her.
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This was a great book. Thank you for sharing your story and I commend the author on the strength it took to share.
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I really enjoyed this book, perfect for those who read biographies and Memoirs.  This book was generously provided to me through NetGalley.  Highly Recommended!
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Really emotional book to read and to put down a few times it just got to me! Wonderful story line and you feel these characters in the book! He prepared to go through emotions! Never really read something like this before but so glad I did !
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I was unable to complete this book as it was too upsetting and had details of abuse that I could t read. I don’t feel I should mark this book as bad because of my own issues with it.
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I am yet to give this a star rating. As a consequence I've listed it as 5* until the book proves otherwise.

Unfortunately I didn't have the time to read this before it was archived, but the plot sounds so interesting that I shall be purchasing it to read at a later date, I'm looking forward to it.
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actual rating: 3.5/5 stars 

for some reason, even after reading the blurb, i went into this thinking that it was fiction. so i'll have to admit that i was a little disappointed when i found out that it's actually a memoir as i generally have close to zero interest in the life stories of people i know nothing about. 

that being said, this was a difficult read and must have taken a lot for the author to recount the traumatic memories of her childhood (tw: suicide, eating disorders, sexual/physical/mental abuse, homophobia). we follow the author as she revisits her past by her mother's death bed and seeks answers from her ailing mother, and each truth revealed is even more painful than the last. 

this is a story of resilience, of learning to heal and embrace the past. sadly, it just wasn't my cup of tea. i could empathize with her, but felt no other connection to the author.

special thanks to netgalley and dundurn for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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When I decided to read All We Knew But Couldn’t Say by Joanne Vannicola, I knew from the blurb that this memoir would not be an easy read, and I was right. It is not easy to read parts of this tale, but I am so very glad that I did.

This is a memoir, an autobiography of Joanne Vannicola’s life from the age of five until the present day. As a young child, she and her sisters endured what I can only call horrific physical, emotional, and (at least for Joanne) sexual child abuse. What makes it even more horrifying, this abuse comes from her parents. Her father was a monster who used to physically beat the children for minor infractions. Her mother was mentally and emotionally unstable, and unfit to be in a parental role. Ms. Vannicola is brutally frank about what she went though as a young girl and how it affected her later as a teen and young adult.

This sounds like a depressing story, and obviously part of the story is hard to read, but it is also inspiring. This is a story of survival. This is the tale of a person who survives an extremely horrible childhood, and works through the trauma to become an Emmy award winning actress, an activist for women, for children of sexual abuse, and for the LGBTQ2+ community. Joanne Vannicola is an inspiration to me, and if you read her book, I think she will be one for you as well.

I must give a trigger warning here. This story discusses episodes of child abuse that occurred in the author’s life. If these stories could cause triggers for you, you might want to read another book. 

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley and Dundurn Press for an honest review.
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I received an ARC of this book from Dundurn through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Child abuse, sexual abuse/assault, eating disorders, alcohol/drugs, and anxiety/depression

This memoir written by Canadian actress Joanne Vannicola is both profound and appalling.  Joanne writes on her life growing up from the age of 3 to her early twenties, and delves into her darkest parts of her past.  Being a victim of physical abuse from her father and sexual and mental abuse from her mother, Joanne has led a life that I would not wish upon my worst enemy.

The content itself is disturbing for the fact that everything is written bluntly and without a cushion.  This is not a book for the feint of heart, and it WILL leave you scarred.  I cannot express how many times while reading this book that I was either enraged to the point I wanted to throw my book across the room, or breaking down and sobbing at the disgusting nature of the parenting that Joanne had experienced and how it ultimately nearly killed her several times throughout her life.  

That being said, I enjoyed the bluntness and rawness of this memoir.  Joanne didn't shy away from exposing almost every single detail of what happened to her and her sisters growing up, and how damaging it was to her psyche and overall physical and mental health.  She explores her alcohol and drug abuse as a teenager and young adult, and doesn't redact any of the things that she experienced trying to make it as a Canadian actress.  She also discusses her developing sexuality from her teenage years to her first adult relationship with another woman.  The writing itself is self-reflective, and shows that Joanne has come a long way from when she was a child, but she understands that she no longer has to put up with any of what she endured growing up.  

Joanne's life is truly held on display in this memoir, and reminds me that I truly will never know how someone else's life is until they tell me themselves.  There is no way to know what someone else has been through, and it is incredibly important that that is remembered, as what we don't know and assume about another person can damage them and make things worse.  Never make assumptions about anyone's life being "perfect".  More often than not, it is the complete opposite.

Rating: 5/5 stars
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The author doesn't hold back in this masterpiece and I felt all the emotion with this. The things the author goes through as a young girl is just so sick. I had a hard time reading this but it was worth it in the end.
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I’m not familiar with Joanne Vannicola’s film or TV work but her memoir is a testament to her strength of character and sheer survival skills. Joanne grew up in Canada as one of four children of a controlling mother and abusive father. In 2002 she sees her mother for the first time in fifteen years because her mother is dying with stage four uterine cancer. With her visit to her mother in hospital, she begins the recollection of her childhood. The unfolding of what she and her siblings were put through is devastating and horrific. 

Her mother, who seemed controlling and unprotective of her children initially, is revealed as an appalling human being. I got to the point where I couldn’t understand why any of the children would go and see her in hospital just because she was dying. Then I realised that it is perhaps easier to forgive someone when they’re dying because one can release oneself from that destructive attachment. I think it is extraordinary that Joanne was able to be there for her mother and converse with her as she lay dying. 

Her story is powerful and engaging as is the way it is written. There is one thing that did have me raising my eyebrows though. She refers to her ‘secret escapades’ in Cape Town.
“I found an illegal underground gay bar and danced to music from the seventies, even though it was the nineties, while men in tight suits sniffed poppers and we all knew to be careful.”

My sister lived in Cape Town in the late eighties and nineties and when I was visiting her we would go to clubs and people really didn’t give a damn what you were doing. My sister and I were both open about our orientation and publicly demonstrative with our partners. People in Cape Town really didn’t care and it was always one of the most liberal cities in our country. In 1996 our post-Apartheid constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

I will concede that Vannicola’s experience and perception is her own and that may be how she genuinely felt. Perhaps my perception is coloured by the fact that I was from a more conservative city and Cape Town seemed so free and accepting. Other than that this is a superb autobiography and well worth reading even though it is not an easy read.

Book received from Netgalley and Dundurn Press for an honest review.
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Thank you NetGalley, Dundurn and the incredible Ms. Joanne Vannicola for the opportunity to read this advanced Readers Copy of "All We Knew But Couldn't Say".

This is an absolutely heartbreaking memoir that will make you cry, make you angry, and make you want to do something to change the world.

This is the no holds barred story of abuses; physical, sexual, child, body and drugs.
This is the story of a child actor, all alone, trying to survive in the industry.

This is the story of a queer teen trying to fit in.

This is the story of a Lesbian actor looking to fit in a heterosexual misogynistic Hollywood.

This is the courageous story of one amazing powerhouse of a women who fought to survive...
who fought for a voice...
who fought to love... 
who fought for an identity.

She is a Heroine.
This is Herstory.

5 stars
Published 25 June 2019

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*Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Content warnings for suicide ideation, physical and sexual abuse, drug abuse and eating disorders.

Joanne Vannicola, the award-winning actress, activist, and writer, gives us an astoundingly honest account of her life. Vannicola grew up with a sexually abusive mother and a physically abusive father, and she tells her story of how she had to fend for herself, and go through the brutal battles with anorexia, drugs, and alcohol before the age of 15. She also shares her experiences of being in the acting industry and what it was like to be a child performer, while also learning about and discovering her sexuality. Despite her trauma, throughout the memoir, Vannicola demonstrates the need to write her own story and the power of writing and explaining her past in a way she has control over.

To put it plainly, sometimes this book was hard to read due to Vannicola’s insight. One such horror was learning about how her body, and other children’s bodies, in show business, were regulated at such a young age – Vannicola was required to undertake “image consultant” lessons at just age twelve. Horror lies in the fact that their bodies, and in extension, their being, were treated as commodities to be neatly packaged and sold to the cameras. Horror lies in the sexualisation of the child actors, something we still see today in modern media in how young stars, particularly girls, are forced to mature too quickly.

It is also hard to read about how the abuse she experienced was ignored or overlooked by those around her, and the reader shares the same sense of betrayal Vannicola feels when those even closest to her participated in this willful ignorance and denial. Vannicola even explains how she was rejected in feminist circles, a place which should be a safe space, for speaking out about her abuse. She reminds us that we all have power to harm the vulnerable, that mothers must also be held accountable.

“No one talked about women who hurt women. I didn’t want to take away from the larger conversations about sexism, racism, or male violence against women, but when I started to ask or mention the idea of women as perpetrators, I was chastised. It kept me out of the circle, unable to speak to it because the space was needed to talk about misogyny.”

Just because her experience is less common, Vannicola’s story shows how this abuse is just as painfully real.

Vannicola’s haunting and lyrical prose often made me forget I was reading a memoir and not an ingeniously crafted novel. Her writing brings us intimately and sometimes frighteningly close to her. However, that is not to say that readers ever forget these experiences and trauma were anything but real and experienced. Vannicola’s prose is compelling and honest, to a point that I felt sucked into her perspective and with her in the moments of her childhood when she experiences fear and horror; I warn some readers that this could be deeply upsetting and disturbing. Whilst being a master of detail and depicting emotion, Vannicola’s prose also excels in its cinematic quality, as I could vividly imagine all the locations she describes.

One of the uplifting parts of the novel was the process in which Vannicola finds a way to live her authentic self. Much of the grief in the novel stems from Vannicola feeling as if she had to regulate the image of herself to appease others, whether this be in her appearance and weight, or her sexuality. A lot of the queer memoirs I have read so far have been about living one’s truth and Vannicola’s story is no exception. She recounts how she had to unwillingly hide her sexuality until she absolutely could not do it anymore, documenting the moment that she decided not to allow herself to hide, even if it cost her own career.

Vannicola uses the spaces of the page to work through her trauma and creates a place where she can both confide the darkness of her life but also a place where her thoughts, voice, and identity can exist without restriction. Vannicola teaches us how to live, rather than just survive in fear. This book allows for this separate existence, despite so much of the story being shadowed over by the figure of her mother. There is overall something powerfully restorative in Vannicola being able to finally tell us all she knew but couldn’t say.
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What an incredibly brave thing to write this and let everyone know what you’ve been through.  A lot of trigger warnings as the material is heartbreaking..abuse, eating disorders, drug use, death.  I don’t typically read memoirs but I’m so glad I did after hearing so much about the book.  My best wishes to the author on healing and living her best life.
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