All We Knew But Couldn’t Say


Joanne Vannicola grew up in a violent home with a physically abusive father and a mother who had no sexual boundaries.

After Joanne is pressured to leave home at fourteen, encouraged by her mother to seek out an acting career, she finds herself in a strange city, struggling to cope with her memories and fears. She makes the decision to cut her mother out of her life, and over the next several years goes on to create a body of work as a successful television and film actor. Then, 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 Joanne’s fundamental 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

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

What you need to know about All We Knew But Couldn’t Say is how brilliantly Joanne Vannicola says what couldn’t be said. She writes about mayhem and emotional violence with such precision that it’s like becoming mesmerized by a tornado moving directly towards you. Becoming an actor may have been Joanne Vannicola’s first step in avoiding the path of destructive forces heading her way, but it’s her writing that feels like a storm contained. This is a story you won’t soon forget.

David Layton, author and Diaspora Dialogues mentor

I am completely gutted by reading Joanne's beautifully penned heart-wrenching memoir. When every important relationship that shapes us is broken and lacking in nurturing love, it stands as a testament to the power of becoming whole. Raw, unflinching, brave and important, it makes me grateful to know that a voice with this power and honesty is sharing her truth with us all.

Cynthia Dale, actor

Jo Vannicola’s memoir is shocking, upsetting and occasionally graphic, yet what sets it apart from other similar accounts is an underlying sense of optimism. Out of despair there has emerged a beautifully written account, where the author has not only come through the tribulations of her early life, but become a leading voice for the overlooked and the marginalized. I cannot recommend it enough.

Linda Riley, Publisher, DIVA Magazine

About the Author

Joanne Vannicola

Posted by KathrynB on August 21, 2018
Joanne Vannicola photo

Joanne Vannicola

Joanne Vannicola is an Emmy Award–winning actor who has worked in theatre, film, and television. As well as acting, she has written and produced several plays and developed screen projects. A fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, she lives in Toronto.