FBC ep43 Joanne Vannicola.mp3
5:36PM Sep 18, 2019
This episode is brought to you in collaboration with the monster project. The monster project creates artfully package legitimately scrumptious, super snappy, extra sturdy, crazy, versatile crackers that go with everything you put on it. Learn more at the monster project. com welcome back to the feminist book club podcast, a show for dangerous well read women. Each week we explore literature and media through a feminist lens as one small way to reclaim our time, our books and our stories. Let's get started.
Welcome back to feminist book club. I'm your host Renee Powers, and I am so honored you've tuned in for another week of discussing intersection of feminism and literature. Before we get started, I'd like to remind you that our October Book of the Month is The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I was overjoyed to see that our members suggested and voted to read this book together this month. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate this late, great author. If you're interested in reading and discussing this book with us, be sure you check out all of our membership options. We are more than a subscription box. We're also a virtual book club. But let's face it, the subscription box is what's up last week, I let you know that subscribers will be receiving a Shirley Chisholm notepad from the card Bureau and this week, I'm excited to tell you about another item you'll receive at monster crackers. Summer Camp friends Ashley Albert and Kevin Rodriguez set out to bake a new take on the culturally beloved but traditionally flavorless box of matzah. Instead, they got a super snappy, extra sturdy, crazy, versatile cracker that goes with every single thing they've tried to put on it. And that's a true story. I have tried them myself with hummus, guacamole,
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After selling out their first batch in a single day, these two friends moved out of their tiny kitchen and into a large kosher bakery in Brooklyn to take their unleavened bread show on the road. The monster project has been embraced by the cracker eating big shots at the James Beard house Zingerman's and Conan O'Brien's green room. The packaging of the monster project features a sassy Jewish grandma with some words of advice depending on the flavor. It's so cute. subscribers will receive one of their four varieties salted everything cinnamon sugar, or my favorite Orissa. So if you're interested in reading and snacking with us this month, you can reserve your October box now at feminist book club com slash shop and be sure to use code podcast for $5 off your first month, just a heads up for Twin Cities, folks, be sure to stop by our booth at the Twin Cities Book Festival in a few weeks, we'll be there selling boxes and subscriptions and some other things but mostly we're just excited to chat with you all about feminism and books. The festival is at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on October 12. So come on by and say hello. Now let's move on to today's interview. I actually have some help with podcasts editing for my friend Fallon, who also just relaunched her show the human journey and go check it out. I'll leave a link in the show notes. It's fabulous. But as she was editing this, she kept texting me how inspiring this author and this conversation is. I couldn't agree more. I hope you love it as much as Fallon and I do.
Hey, everyone, welcome back. I'm sitting down with Joanne vana cola today. Joanna is an Emmy Award winning actor and four time nominee, the recipient of the Leslie yell award for volunteerism, the founder of youth out loud and is the chair of the LGBT q actors committee in Toronto, which they started. And we're talking about the book all we knew but couldn't say, which is their debut memoir.
Welcome, Joanne. Thank you for having me, Renee.
I am so delighted to be talking to you today. I I've told you before email before we started recording, I just ripped through this book, I actually don't have it with me, because I've already loaned it out to our intern Lucy and said you have to read this.
good. Because I think it's fantastic. We're going to get into that in a second. But I asked everybody right off the bat, what is your definition of feminism?
feminism has changed a lot for me in terms of understanding temple ism. But basically, it means you know, working really hard for girls and women's rights. It means parity, it means equity and physical and sexual freedom. It means the right to make our own medical choices about our bodies, it means a rise out of poverty and economic freedom. It means that your sexual freedom, racial, gender, sexuality, all of those things, I think are really a broader definition of feminism, but mostly it's just equity and parity and freedom for girls and women as everywhere across the globe.
Yes. Cosine. Yeah, absolutely. So that definition is broad. But yes. How does it apply to your book? All we knew, but couldn't say?
That's a good question.
So the memoir is a massive sort of life journey about, you know, growing up in a violent home and being with them, you know, living with a man who my father who was quite violent, and can I pause?
Yeah, pause Just a moment. It's something I meant to do at the top. But I do want to just give a trigger warning for listeners, if you're uncomfortable with child abuse, physical and sexual abuse, and possibly eating disorders, we will be getting into some of those topics. So I just want to give that trigger warning before we get started. Sorry, continue, I'm sorry,
no problem. I just I just wanted to sort of Express where that route of understanding in equity and I, you know, came from and it came from being a child in a home where I was a second class citizen, as a girl and as a child raised by a, you know, adult parent to were violent and emotionally and otherwise cool. So, you know, I learned at a young age that I was not equal, and can men and boys and I learned that, you know, my struggle would be different and harder. And I guess by the time I left home, I was a teenager. And I ended up in the film industry quite young, and had a career professional career all life trying to survive, and an adult world as basically a child, a team in the world. So I got to see firsthand smack dab right inside the industry, which was incredibly male and white and heterosexual, dominated. You know what that was, and, you know, it ran the gamut from everything from sort of, you know, physical, emotional, and attempted sexual control. And so not to mention extreme homophobia, right. So there are a lot of levels and layers to my life to the book, that I'm up against misogyny and homophobia, and how I dealt with those issues. And up until this point, in my life, really,
this book touches a lot of community is one of the questions I sometimes ask is, who is this for? And it's clear to me that this book could be for a lot of people, anybody in the film industry, anybody interested in the me to movement right now? Because there's a lot of themes that touch on that as well, like you were just saying, All women, all queer folks, all survivors of any kind of trauma, how do you find that this book has been connecting with people?
You know, it hasn't been out for very long, but I but I have been receiving and it sort of overwhelming response of support. And, you know, there have been women who've been sending me letters as well around, you know, wanting to tell me their story. And thanking me for writing the message want to speak into issues of intergenerational violence and to homophobia, I misogyny in the home and what that is when it's compounded by multiple issues, you know, and I guess you could say, that could be intersection or intergenerational. But definitely, you know, you know, for people who are queer people who, you know, young teens dealing with eating disorders, trauma, around childhood memories, and or, you know, girls and women in the film industry, who are, you know, yes, dealing with what the issues that we're dealing with, now, that we are, we've seen this explosion around me too, and time's up, and, you know, fighting back, but that's what that's been going on for decades until it just kind of reached this, this pivotal moment in time, right? So, but people who are contacting me are, are expressing gratitude, and thanks for you know, being a voice for, I think different, different parts of who we are as people and whatever touches touches them within the number one, which I guess you're right, there are multiple themes and multiple people who could read this book and find a part of them shelf and, and to me, that gives me great joy. Because I feel like I'm being I'm able to reach people where they are even with a booklet with a book like mine. So yeah,
yeah, I found so many points of entry to the book. And I know, we don't share a whole lot of similarities. But there's still something I think there's something for everybody in it. Can you talk a little bit about? It runs the gamut of several decades. But what are some of the stories that you cover? And what are the experiences that that this book covers? That's why don't know why that took me so many times to try to get out of my mouth. But yes, tell me about the book.
Okay, so when you when you say, what are the experiences of the book, I just want to get more clear, so I can answer that effectively. What do you mean by that question?
So we gave it to her trigger warning for child abuse, physical and sexual abuse and eating disorders? So talk about your life? And what is this book cover? What are some of the your experiences with abuse and trauma? Okay, all right, you're comfortable talking
about? Yeah, totally comfortable talking about it, because I feel like it's in the speaking and in the writing of the stories that we're able to maybe be a bridge for other people or, or a reflection, right. So I'm totally cool. It's in the book, so I can talk about it. So I, as I was saying, earlier, I did, I grew up in a in a violent home. And you know, I had a father who was quite physically very abusive, and I watched my eldest sister in particular get the worst of the physical violence, and she was removed from the home, and that was devastating. But the rest of us were left behind, and I never quite, could figure out what was going on. Because I didn't understand the world we lived in as a child, my mother was quite obsessed and focused on me and wanted me to go into the arts. And the obsession became sexual, because she just, I don't know, it was almost if she wanted to consume me consume my life, be my life, I was somehow an extension of her. And I think I was her her, her hope as the baby. And, you know, the one that she wanted to put all of her dreams into at that stage of my of my life. And so it got very, very, very obscure, weird, awful really to live with. And I really needed to get out because we, by the time I was a teenager, I couldn't stand there. And I think she knew. And also, she had her own secret. And that secret was that, you know, she was, you know, sexually abusing my, my boyfriend, my first love of my life as a teen. And so there's a lot of stuff there that happened. That was, I didn't know at the time, and it took me years to figure out later, and people would come to me and tell me the truth. It was very complex. But I left home when I was 1415, which is in the book. And, you know, I had to deal with being in the world as a kid. But also, I had had to, I had to learn how to live in the world as a as a teenager, and to enter a film industry as a professional, but also carry the memories of trauma, and then deal with my own body. And I was struggling around food, I was struggling around self care and things that people told me in the industry that I wasn't feminine enough, or maybe I wasn't skinny enough. And I just been internalized all of this stuff from childhood and from the industry and ended up with an eating disorder. And it just was very, very difficult to survive all those years. But I eventually found my way, you know, ended up coming out and experiencing a whole other reality. Once I got to that stage in my life.
This book opens up with your mom mother's dying, wishes, essentially your last moments with her while she's in the hospital. And it made me wonder, could you have written this while she was alive?
No know, because I hadn't reconnected with my mother and I had been disconnected until I learned she had terminal cancer. And I don't know that we ever would have reconnected again. Unless it was something big, like cancer. And so really, that nine months with her, almost a year with her was some strange GIFs going away, because I don't know that we've ever had a conversation or many conversations, unless that was the diagnosis and what brought us together, you know, that said she denied ever having any done anything harmful. And so that was very, very difficult. But at least the learning about her history, and the things that she needed to tell me really did put a piece of the puzzle together for me and allow me to kind of start to heal and let go.
What's been the reaction from your family?
I've had this question three or four or 20 times now?
I'm getting getting better at answering it.
You know, the truth is, is that, that my family, the ones who have contacted me have been incredibly supportive. So far, I haven't really had any negative reactions. I've had questions. I've had people, not sure if they can believe everything that was written, but no one has been mean, no one has been cool. And, uh, certainly people have been very supportive. And wishing you well. So I think it's print overall, pretty positive.
I'm really glad to hear that.
Yeah, me too, because it's, it's a hard book. And it's very hard for family to read a memoir like this, which really does expose a lot of stuff. And I did the best I could to be respectful to extended family and to not expose too many things about my family, in terms of siblings, and so on. So I tried to keep that, you know, one step removed. But certainly, my eldest sister, I think, had the most exciting, but she was thankful for her for my having written it. So that was a big relief for me. And I felt like I had given a space for her story to be told. And that made me happy that, you know, she received it well,
how does it feel for you to have these stories out there?
It's interesting, because I forget that these stories are out there. Because you know, we all, we all live in our bodies and our skins every day, and we do the things we do. And we go to, you know, if the work isn't work, you know, we meet the people that we work with, or that we hang with socially. And I forget that they know the intimate details. But for me, mostly, it's been an opening and a way to step into the next part of my life, which I really mean. And I want to dedicate my time to, to, to being part of the new change into helping people and I wanted this book to be a springboard for that, too, help women and youth and queer people and be a voice and you know, do what's needed to spread awareness and hopefully make a dent in the culture. So for me, this is an important moment.
I want to shift a little bit and talk about your advocacy work now, because I know that's incredibly important to you. And what are the things that you brought up earlier on was this culture of these are your words with culture of hate, and I was wondering if you can speak to that, and then maybe talk a little bit about how we can lift each other up how we can heal within a culture that once marginalized people to be silent.
And I think it's fascinating because I live in, in Canada, and I'm very aware of what's happening in the States. And also, I think, like, freedom and equity and policies and democratic policies and rights are very frail. Sometimes, depending on where you live, just because you have the right to marry. For example, if you're queer may not mean that you have, you know, freedom from homophobia, or you know, from violence out on the streets, or, you know, that neo nazis aren't going to, you know, rise and show up at your parade to try and, you know, intimidate and, and, and make you fear for your life. And I think like, you know, it's, we're living in fragile times, because I do think, unfortunately, there's been a rise of hatred, and sort of white nationalism. And, and it's somehow has allowed people who, who seem to hate queers and women and black people and immigrants, and people who are not white and heterosexual, forgive me for saying that, but I'm not talking about our allies. I'm not talking about you know, you know, white people who get it and who are active and who are, you know, allies. I'm talking about the ones who, who don't get it, who thinks that they're in the right who think it's okay to be hateful and and to take away our rights and, and to demonstrate and to literally hurt us physically beat us and or try to kill us. And I am deeply saddened and worried about the culture that we're in right now. But on the flip side of that, I'm like, Well, there are brilliant, amazing people who continue to rise above all of that and continue to speak out about women's issues and immigrants rights and and LGBT q rights and marriage and transgender rights and non binary rights because we can't allow ourselves to be invisible, and we can't allow ourselves to sit idly what people demonstrate against us and try to denigrate us. And I think we just have to be brave, we have to be brave like the women and you know who won the right to vote, we have to be brave, but that's not people during civil rights and, and people all over the world. And there are brilliant people, young people like the Parkland students who are genius and or Mila live, do you know what happened to her. And I just think those who those voices, those those kids, that you generation, is the light and the hope. And I think if they can, if they can continue to rise in the face of all this hate, we can be their allies, and we can continue to fight and rise as well.
I couldn't agree with you more. I don't know if this is just a part of getting older, do we always think that the generation behind us is going to change the world because I truly believe that Gen Z. And like you said, the kids that are in high school and and early college now I could not be more inspired by them. Just brilliant. They're brilliant. And they're so I don't know, things that aren't as natural for millennials, Gen. x and above come very naturally to Gen Z. I've just in terms of language and inclusion, and it's just, it's incredible. So tell me about you get loud, the organization that
show you thought loud was something that I founded in around 2004. it you know, I came together with a friend of mine, her name is Sharon Simone, who I'll just give you a brief story about her because I loved her and love her. She's in her 70s now, but she had been sexually abused by her FBI, child abuse expert dad. And let that thing with that thinking. He was the expert of child abuse, and he was raping for his girls. And she became an advocate later because they, you know, the girls took their father to court and they won the case. And it was a precedent setting case in the United States at that time, which I think was in the 80s or something. And they made a TV movie about her and I and I got to play her daughter. And then since that time, we became friends. And you know, we started doing some advocacy work around Child Sexual Violence together in Washington, DC. And then I came home to Canada thought I want to do more. And I founded youth out loud. And the idea was to raise awareness about child abuse, sexual violence youth. And I started a yearly March and a place for youth to expose their poetry or their writing or, or their art. And I went on a stage event nearly tears to open up to speakers and to people who wanted to join us on the march and community organizations with their tables and their literature and a place for youth art to be exposed. So people could could watch and, and look at the art and read the poetry. And it was really an amazing adventure. And I was very heavily, you know, doing that actively for about four or five years. And then I got, you know, incredibly tired. And I needed to shift focus, because I just needed, I just turned down a little bit. So what it is now is it still actively a website, which allows for you to send in their poetry or artists that they'd like to, it includes a history, and then also has a link for resources as well as you know what the definition of the rights of the child is. And eventually, in the future, I would like to go back to organizing more events once again. But right now, I'm just focusing on where I am with the writing and this promotion. And hopefully I'll get back to that in time.
And I'm I have no doubt that you will, it's very clear to me that this is work that everything that you've experienced, has culminated so you can do this kind of work. And it, it's not a surprise to me that you do it now.
Thank you. Yeah, it is true. I mean, it is the life experience that led me to want to use my life experience in a way that was bigger than me. And that could help other people and at least provide platforms for other people as well.
There are a few scenes in your book, where you go back to the theater where you kind of grew up in Montreal. And the way you speak about the kids is so it's a Youth Theatre. It's so beautiful and inspiring. And there's a girl all that you kind of connect with, and you later find out that she has been killed in a mass shooting. And you'll have to forgive me, we experienced them in the US so often that I can't remember which one it was, but it was one in Montreal. And it seems it feels like a turning point for you. It would I be is that correct?
Yeah, no, it was a turning point because I was young. I was 21 myself maybe when that happened. And Genevieve Belgian always one of the 14 women who was gunned down and was considered it was called the Montreal massacre. And 14 women were murdered. And it happened that equals Polytechnique, which was a school in Montreal, and all the girls were engineering students, and they were bright, and beautiful. And a guy went in with a gun and he separated the boys from the girls and he targeted feminist, what he's called where feminists, whether they identify the feminist or not, wasn't really didn't really matter. And he killed them. And it, I knew her. So that was emotionally crushing. But the idea that, you know, all this work, and all this hope and all this effort and energy enjoy that, as a girl and young women and teenagers, we, you know, me and my colleagues and friends had, were so inspired about the about the possibilities of change, and the idea that somebody could take that away in a second. And, and, and, and take away lives. bright, beautiful people. It guided me and I and I kind of thought oh my goodness, this really, people are not invested in the world getting better. There are men out there. And many people out there who, who hate us so badly. They're willing to pick up a gun and kill us. And that reality is rocked my world. It really did it. It. It just broke a piece of me that I hadn't yet been broken. Right. So it was like a cultural, political understanding that was way deeper than my own personal experiences, or childhood or adolescence. It kind of made me understand that the fight was going to be way bigger than I knew at that point.
Yeah. Do you feel like we're making any progress?
yes. Look, I think that's the thing about progress is that yes, we are making progress. I feel like there's, you know, we just keep pushing and pushing. And then there are these massive backlash is that happened. But I think there is progress. Because I mean, look at the youth that are coming out today. I don't, you know, we weren't the youth that they are today, as we were talking about, but just generation, they understand the intersection of feminism, they understand gender, non binary, and transgender issues. They, they get it they understand things way before we did, because we didn't even have the language. I didn't even know the word non binary when I was young or upset would have been my word of choice. So I do think we're advancing and I do think we're moving forward. But at the same time, all you know, even having a you know, Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, in the White House for that time, and the good work that they did, there's backlash to that. And so I think that's the way the human species has gone, we've gone this way where we move forward, step back, move forward, step back when it comes to human rights and equity and, and justice. And I think we just have to keep doing it, because that is really what changes about and so I think if you look back at everything that we've done, we've won the right to vote in the 20s. There's women, you know, and and there's much more white women. Absolutely. Yeah. white white women. Yeah, they weren't they were certainly racist, but not that that's funny. But I mean, but that is part of the change. Right? So we won the right to vote, but Okay, so So who is it that had the right, in the 20s I, which women, you know, got to experience that kind of freedom. But I think like, that's what the youth of today are so brilliant, that they are intersection of feminists, they are, you know, they understand gender, and they understand our rights and equity. And, and this is the the movement now. So when I say look at how far we've come, because what we were then is not what we are now, we're way better now. It's just that the backlash is also way bigger. Yeah,
yeah, I think, absolutely. You just clicked something for me is, the more progress we make the louder the rise of the right is going to get, I guess it's a law of physics, right? The bigger the splash, the more I don't know, I don't know anything about physics. I don't know why I went there.
It seemed to work for you.
So thank you, I think that's,
that's really illuminating, and helps me feel a little better about everything. And the, I feel like we do need hope. I think that's the flip side of that, right? We can't feel hopeless, or which will never be able to a feel any joy be, you know, extend our community and, you know, and make the world a better place. And you know, so corny when I say that, but but it really is the truth, right? How do we advance culture? How do we make the world safer and better for everyone, not just one segments of our society, but everyone. And the only way we can do that is just we do love each other and lift each other up and not get stuck in the in the in the mud, or the rumors, or the gossip or the hate. Because once we fall into those traps, it takes away our hope, and it takes away our light. And it's hard to do sometimes. But I think we have to daily remind ourselves and seek out the people who are on similar paths and just keep moving.
Yeah, it's so important to find people in these times. It's so important.
Yeah, it is, really is I think about that every day so that I don't get down in the dumps fight, huh.
And it's one way to deal with significant trauma, like you've experienced, but also the everyday trauma, the micro aggressions, I mean, we need others to be seen, and for our stories to feel validated, so we don't feel so fucking lonely all the time.
I totally agree with you. I mean, even just watching stuff around around, you know, women's rights to control their own bodies, or, or, you know, like black people being shot in the streets, and, you know, people being killed in cages, children in, you know, who are dying. And LGBT q bashing, and you know, taking away rights to trans people and non binding given I just think all that stuff every day is so present and how, how are we going to make ourselves feel better and each other better? And how do we change that, like, you know, you look at the protests and in places like Hong Kong, and I think, Wow, like the batch, while those are those are brave people because they are standing up to a dictator, and fighting no matter what. So
from students to like we said, these younger people, it's so much of that, right?
Yeah, well, gentlemen, Twitter was like that. And people didn't, they maybe didn't win the fight, but they certainly raised awareness around the world for their fight. And I think that that is part of that is part of the hope. Right? Even though you may not win in the moment, you're raising awareness in the moment, and you're bringing attention to what's happening politically around the world. And that really matters. Yeah,
I think it's a great way to wrap up actually, that's like a cherry on a otherwise shit Sunday.
I went to the dark place for us, that was all my fault, you
know, but, but listen up people, here's the thing. I feel like, we all have to care for each other. And we all have to have a little little bit of fun, it's important to laugh. And it's important to to just, you know, all of those things matter, right? And when you're feeling incredibly weighted, go do something fun, you know, go go, go watch a movie, go go do something in the world, go for a swim, you know, hang out with an animal, whatever it is, make your heart feel better, and then pick yourself up and keep moving.
That's the thing.
Yes, yes. We can't get stagnant. We have to keep moving. And whatever it takes to propel ourselves forward. If it's something Yeah, yeah, snuggling Robin care, self care.
Take care of yourself, and then take care of your community. Right, right. do everything we can. And community
can mean anything to and that's something that I think people are upon is do we mean my city? Do we need a neighborhood? Do we need mean other queer folks, other people of color is just pick a community and dedicate yourself to it?
Yeah, yeah. or four?
So use your energy is better, then you can? Absolutely.
We wrap up? Thank you.
Well, thank you. Holy cow, thank you for that.
We always wrap up by recommending a book that isn't your Oh, now what do you have a book that you'd like to recommend our listeners check out?
Yeah, I mean, I have a book by someone I know. That's coming out in a couple of weeks. It's called the world on either side. But it's a YA book by Dan Toronto. And also, I mean, I mentioned it with Melanie Florence, who is a Canadian author she's created and Scottish descent and she's quite genius. Her words are really and she's written YA books and picture books. And all of them are incredibly poignant and worth printing. And she's just awesome. At one of them was called, it was called stolen words. It's literally a picture book. But I cried. Right, I cried at the pictures obsessed. Because the story is so beautiful. It's about the loss of the free language. And you know what happened during colonialism and into that generation?
Well, we'll link will put links to those as well as your book all we knew, but couldn't say in the show notes. So you can check them out. Make sure you find these books at your local independent bookstore. And if they don't have it, you can always request it. Otherwise, we'll put links in the show notes, because I know that that is most convenient for a lot of people. Do you if we want to learn more about you or follow you online? where's the best place to do that?
Yeah, you can visit a few places. My author website is Joanne fan, Nicola author.com. Or you could find me at Twitter at Joanne Bennett cola or on Instagram, and Joanne Bennett Cola, or my other website, which is www.jn. Medical. com. Excellent. He put those on the show. So I, I just want to do a little plug for the youth out loud side. Yes, there are youth who are listening. Its youth out loud.ca. There's another, you know, web address for that. But that's for the youth out loud side, you were on youth flights and ending child abuse issues and come and you know, find some resources or look at some poetry or art or send me some poetry or art for you so loud, whatever it is that works for anybody out there.
Perfect. I'll put that in the show notes too. And I'll make sure that we amplify that on social media, because I think that what you're incredibly important, so thank you so much for yesterday.
Thank you, Renee, really, really appreciate it. And though it was a tough conversation, I think it was a really good one. So thank you for making space.
Oh, I completely agree.
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