Insightful, Blunt, and Encouraging: All We Knew But Couldn't Say by Joanne Vannicola

§ I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel. §

All We Knew But Couldn't Say by Joanne Vannicola
Joanne Vannicola is a Canadian actor who won an Emma Award for the role in Maggie's Secret. Their most noted role is Dr. Naadiah in the Neflix series "Being Erica." Further well known roles include: Human Remains, Slashers, and My Dad the Rock Star. After years of acting, they decided to add writing on their resume and publish a memoir recalling their childhood, and adolescent until the mid-30ies.

However, the accounts are not easy and the childhood had been anything but homely or domestic. Instead, Vannicola tells the unflattering truth about growing up in an abusive household, where the mother only wants to live her dreams through her child, and a father who does not hesitate to use his fists. When Vannicola moves out, at only 15, you think that things are going to go uphill from now. Instead, they begin to suffer from anorexia, loneliness and suicidal thoughts.

All of these events, emotions, and actions are not written to be dramatic or soften the harsh world for the reader. Instead it is just the blunt truth. A few passages had been hard to stomach for me, especially because "All We Knew But Couldn't Say" is not a fictional piece.

Thus, if you are sensitive or could experience a negative reaction to violence, eating disorders, suicide, child abuse, sexual abuse, or child prostitution, I would advice you to stay clear of this book.

Despite the negative and painful events in their life, Vannicola becomes a spirited and fierce person. Halfway through the book, things start to become better. They are almost at home in their skin, proud of who they are, and you notice the positive impact therapy can have on a person.

While in the first part, Vannicola strikes you as a person who just manages to get by and barely survive, in later parts they clearly know what they want in life. Not only does this show in thought processes but also when they break up with their first girlfriend because they have different goals in life.

Vannicola wants to be out and proud as a butch lesbian and be unashamed of who they are.
Lesbian, a beautiful word even though so many tossed it around like it was something dirty. [...] I liked belonging to something so edgy sounding and fiecely female. The world rolled off my tongue as I stared at myself in the mirror and looked for the lesbian every time I said it with a newfound confidence, a world that so many despised and I adored, les-bi-an.
Later on you can feel their determination to change to world and raise awareness towards women's, and LGBTQ+ issues. Despite getting negative reactions, even from their own peers, Vannicola never gave up and became even more determined. And yet, their heart never hardened, instead it remained soft and willing to bring a little bit of change to the world and make it into a better place.

Personally, I think that Joanne Vannicola is a person worthy of looking up to. I would enjoy sitting in a pub with them and hearing all of the stories they have to tell, plans and ideas still in waiting.

"All We Knew But Couldn't Say" is not a story of an actor making it. The career takes a step back, and later seems to become a means to make money, just another job. The book is well-written, and shares the blatant truth of growing up queer in a time before google, any gay characters, or information about gender outside the binary was available. It is insightful in many way, and gives hope and encourages to be yourself. I am glad to have such a strong and unapologetic person to be part of the LGBT+ community and I encourage everyone - who can stomach it - to read this memoir.

All We Knew But Couldn't Say  by Joanne Vannicola
Published2019 by Dundurn
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  1. Great review. Sounds like an interesting read.

  2. Lovely review! Sounds like a nice read. It's so important to hear from queer voices, their own stories - so we don't forget where we've been or where we came from.

    1. Yes, I fully agree. Furthermore it just shows how many of us are out there and it's important to share those stories ❤️

  3. Sounds like a difficult and emotional read. Great review.

  4. This one sounds intense, I wants it

    1. It is quite intense. Please read it ❤️

  5. Sounds like a raw, emotional read. Thank you for putting it on my radar.

  6. Great review! I'm so glad you enjoyed this book!

  7. This sounds like a really good read.

  8. This sounds like a really powerful and emotional book. Great review!


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