All We Knew But Couldn't Say
by Joanne Vannicola
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Pub Date 25 Jun 2019 | Archive Date 30 Jun 2019
Dundurn, Dundurn Press
Joanne Vannicola grew up in a violent home with a physically abusive father and a mother who had no sexual boundaries.
After being pressured to leave home at fourteen, and after fifteen years of estrangement, Joanne learns that her mother is dying. Compelled to reconnect, she visits with her, unearthing a trove of devastating secrets.
Joanne relates her journey from child performer to Emmy Award–winning actor, from hiding in the closet to embracing her own sexuality, from conflicted daughter and sibling to independent woman. All We Knew But Couldn’t Say is a testament to survival, love, and the belief that it is possible to love the broken, and to love fully, even with a broken heart.
"A story fit for this time and the landscape of our culture. Incredibly raw, moving, and honest. Joanne has survived so much and come out triumphant. A book worth reading." — Denys Arcand, Oscar-winning filmmaker
"This frank, sometimes harrowing, always inspiring memoir should be mandatory reading for all — for those afraid of being true to themselves or anyone who needs a hero that demonstrates what personal courage and determination can do." — Colin Mochrie, actor and comedian
"Joanne Vannicola weaves a compelling narrative about hardship, survival, and resilience that reminds all of us about the enduring importance of forgiveness, family acceptance, and love." — Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO, GLAAD
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 59 members
The author, an award winning actor, activist, and writer, hides nothing and most importantly is honest with herself as she relates her real life story in raw, lyrical detail.
It’s a book telling of abusive parents, of being a professional actor since she was 8 years old, of brutal battles with anorexia, drugs, and alcohol before the age of 15.
It’s very difficult to read early on because you’re thinking, she’s 5, 8, then 11 years old, a child who is experiencing heinous acts, physical and sexual abuse, attacks on her psyche by the people in charge of her, parents, teachers. Her friends are in no better shape, skinny, gay kids like herself making it on the streets by any means or being shamelessly exploited by adults in the industry or who are in other roles of authority.
Then we follow her to Toronto at 14 years old, living on her own, still working as a professional actor, not even knowing simple adult things like cooking or even being able to afford a meal, doing laundry, or buying shoes because, again, she’s an exiled child with an already bitter and scarred disposition and no practical life experience. We wait for the bottom so that we can watch her make her way up. The author is alive to tell the story so we know there’s salvation in the end. No heroes come to her rescue. It’s the author’s own strength that not only
saves her but also gives her the insight to help others to climb out of the same type of “wreckage.”
If you can bear it, this is a hell of a read.
This is a poignant, heartbreaking story of a difficult life.
Joanne Vannicola has courageously laid her whole life bare for the world and the impact is huge. She has shown great sensitivity in writing about the physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her parents. She has said enough to share the extent and type of abuse she and her siblings faced, but hasn't let it degenerate into gory descriptions. In fact, at the end of the memoir, you really feel for her mother (who is mostly the biggest negative influence and factor in Vannicola's life) and both her sisters.
She describes her struggles with anorexia in great detail. So much so that at times you're wondering how she existed at all, leave alone be functional, work and and win an Emmy during this period.
Her discovering her sexual identity and the subsequent relationships are reminisced with the tone of narration rather than experience but remain engaging, nevertheless. They make you think rather than feel.
This is a difficult book to read in terms of the subjects that it lays bare...but it is an important and empowering life.