This book was very hard for me to read, but at the same time I found it cathartic, inspiring, and an absolutely important read. As a survivor of generational trauma and abuse and intent on breaking the cycle once and for all, there were areas where I completely related to Joanne Vannicola’s childhood, her thought processes, her actions and reactions.
There are descriptions of violence, child abuse, anorexia, and pedophilia that may be difficult to read for many people.
Joanne Vannicola is a Canadian actress and activist who has starred in movies and TV series since she was a child. Her activism is also quite extensive, having fought for civil, women’s, and LGBTQ+ rights for many years now. Her memoir All We Knew But Couldn’t Say is a must read in my opinion: honest, stark, and inspiring.
Joanne’s father was extremely violent and abusive towards his four kids (mainly his three daughters Sadie, Lou and Joanne, the only son, Diego, was mostly spared). But her mother was too, taking pleasure in watching her children get beaten up, and also turning towards sexual abuse with Joanne. Pushed out of her mother’s home at the age of 14, Joanne is left to find her own way in the world, navigate life as an actress, as a lesbian, as a woman, while she is still a child. She finally cuts all ties with her mother until she receives a phone call 15 years later telling her that her mother is dying. (This is a very bare bones summary of the book, the memoir itself is much deeper; dark but also bright, and beautifully written).
There are so many talking points in this book: the incredibly damaging effects of child abuse, the reasons why so many children remain silent way into adulthood, the way so many people turn a blind eye, the different ways we react to trauma, the deeply entrenched roots of white male supremacy in our world, the bigotry in the film and TV industry and beyond, the difficulties of talking about topics that make people uncomfortable, the rarely discussed abuse by mothers, and survival. Joanne Vannicola is so very brave and so very amazing.
Thanks to Netgalley and Dundurn for providing me with an advance copy of this important memoir.