When I was a little girl, I daydreamed about what it would be like to be a writer. What would it feel like to come home and do a book signing in the local little bookstore, to have a reading at the town’s only historical venue, the Hoard Dairy Shrine? I would be a celebrity!
I guess one can never be too sure. At this point in my life, the childhood me would be drumming her nails on the table going where’s the book already?! And where are all the cool clothes from Anthropologie I’m supposed to have by now?
I thought a lot about how different my story was from that of Danielle Trussoni. Trussoni grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and was named after her father, Daniel. My parents didn’t even name me, they let the waitresses at our restaurant do it. Our memoirs would be very different from each other, but I still understand her.
Trussoni’s memoir, Falling Through the Earth, is a story of survival, a coming of age tale most of us wouldn’t dream of. It jumps around between Trussoni growing up in the household where her parents divorced and into her twenties when she traveled to Vietnam, trying to understand the war her father came home from. Danielle always felt closest to her father, that they were one and the same. When her parents divorced, her brother and sister went to live with their mom, and Danielle stayed with their dad. Daniel Trussoni was a stubborn man, returned from the Vietnam War, where he had worked as a tunnel rat searching for Vietcong in the jungles of Asia. He kept a human skull on the TV mantle.
This book is a picture of what America looked like for more people than we’d like to admit. Danielle’s father suffered from Post Tramautic Stress Disorder and cured it with cigarettes and booze. He wasn’t diagnosed until 30 years later when chemicals like Agent Orange had taken their toll on his alcohol-hydrated body. He was married three times, had several other children he never claimed, and as hard as Danielle tried, wouldn’t talk about or relive much of his days in Vietnam.
The thing I loved and hated about this book was Danielle’s honesty. A funny thing to love, since rumor has it the family put up quite the stink over her publication of this story, saying much of it was false. The way I see it, it’s Danielle’s story, and this is what she saw and dealt with growing up. She’s got a humorous side, like using her father’s gas card to buy hoards of candy and soda for her siblings. She’s got a courageous side, like walking to one of the bars her father frequented and keeping quips with the locals and bartenders as a grade school student. She’s got a rebellious side for sure, for example she started smoking around 12, kissing boys, and sneaking out at night.
In her twenties, Danielle traveled to Vietnam by herself trying to understand the world her father both glorified and resented for all the hell it brought him. I think that trip must have been one of the most frightening and exhilarating things Danielle ever did. While there, she actually crawled into one of the remaining tunnel systems from the war to get a glimpse of the underground world her father lived in for years.
Her story is unlike any other. It could have happened to many. It could’ve been my tale. My father and his brothers were all in service during the Vietnam War. But my dad came back able to love and hug and tell us he was proud every day. My parents stayed together. My family is not a perfect family, but I appreciate and understand Danielle’s alliance. In many ways, I am like my father. What wouldn’t I give to understand him better? To know what he went through?
I now live in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The Trussoni’s house is still there and so are the bars Danielle and her father went to. She grew up on the North Side. I live on the South. It could have been my story, but it was entirely Danielle’s. I highly recommend you check it out.
Do you have any local authors where you live? What was it like to read their stories? How does it enhance the book to read about and know the landmarks in a story?