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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Between Two Trailers

Narrators: J. Dana Trent

Barbara Brown Taylor - foreword

ISBN: 9780593444078 Publisher: Convergent Books

Publication Date: 04/16/2024

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)


A powerful, unforgettable memoir about a girl who escapes her childhood as a preschool drug dealer in rural Indiana—only to find that no one can really “make it out” until they make peace with where their story began: home

Home, it turns out, is where the war is. It’s also where the healing begins.

Dana Trent is only a preschooler the first time she uses a razor blade to cut up weed and fill dime bags for her schizophrenic father, King. While King struggles with his unmedicated

psychosis, Dana’s mother, the Lady, a cold and self-absorbed woman whose personality disorders rule the home, guards large bricks of drugs from the safety of their squalid trailer. But when the Lady impulsively plucks Dana from the Midwest and moves the two of them south, their fresh start results in homelessness and bankruptcy. In North Carolina, Dana becomes torn between her gritty midwestern past and her newfound desire to be a polite southern girl, struggling to reconcile her shame with an ache to figure out who she is and where she belongs.

But the past is never far behind. After persevering through childhood and eventually graduating from Duke University, Dana imagines that her hidden Indiana life is finally behind her, only to realize that running from her upbringing has kept her from making peace with the people and places that shaped her. Ultimately, Dana finds that though love for family is universally complicated, there is no shame in survival, and for those who want it, there is always a path home.

My Review

J. Dana Trent's moving and provocative BETWEEN TWO TRAILERS, a memoir of resentment, regret, and redemption in Flyover Country—an honest, heartbreaking tale of grit, wit, and hope. Trent writes about her upbringing in an attempt to make sense of it.

A powerful and intimate look into the raw struggles of American poverty, mental illness, and a tribute to family. From a preschool dropout and child drug dealer to a professor and author.

"A book for anyone who thinks they cannot go home."

J. Dana Trent's (Budge) parents, known as King (Rick) and the Lady (Judy), met at a psychiatric institute in Cincinnati, Ohio. They both worked there as professionals with college degrees. Lady (PSYCHIATRIC NURSE) had previously married with one son and divorced. King was a (CERTIFIED RECREATIONAL THERAPIST).

At 41, her mother gave birth to the miracle baby, J. Dana Trent. Even though her parents were college-educated, it could not mask their illness.

A marriage between two mentally ill drug addicts that begins in a psych hospital is bound to end in MADNESS. Her dad said you could not fix crazy. It was always a life of highs and lows. Throw in a baby in the mix, and there will be problems.

KING: Dad: schizophrenia, specifically schizoaffective disorder, which combines the worst symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia with depression and anxiety. From military prison, federal draft dodging, and a grand jury indictment for drug distribution.

LADY: Mom: Narcissistic and dependent personality disorders, diagnosed in the 60s after a handful of suicide attempts followed by inpatient lockups she fondly referred to as vacations. Mania and depression, listlessness and hysteria while self-medicating.

Her father had her heavily involved in the drug trade from the time she was four years old in their run-down trailer when the mom was watching Christian TV shows either on uppers or downers in the back bedroom like a zombie.

King and the Lady both had their methods of manipulation:

LADY: Suble and emotional

KING: Direct and skillful.

Dana had to fend for herself and often went hungry, eating ketchup and white bread sandwiches. She lived for the days she could visit the Dairy Queen as a celebration after a drug deal and the midnight bike rides.

Her only salvation was her wealthy grandmother and some of her aunts and uncles, who tried more than once to offer money and bail out her parents. However, those kind souls always ensured she had clothes, food, and a good time when she visited them.

After King and Lady separated, she moved with her mother from Indiana to North Carolina to be closer to her family and where she grew up. There, they received help and an apartment from her oldest son, a doctor in Chapel Hill.

From there, it was one job to another and a different home and school. Her mom could barely hold down a job working odd jobs, and Dana was left with a sitter. When she was home, she was sleeping. Back in school and moving from one place to another, she missed King—back and forth between Indiana and NC. When she was with one parent, she missed the other. Then, there were years of therapy.

Her mom thought she had a personality disorder; however, the therapists said Dana was operating on a superior level of intellectual functioning with post-traumatic stress disorder and present emotional resources insufficient to cope with current stressors. Thus pulling out her hair.

The professionals said she was traumatized. A child who had already accumulated suitcases full of adverse childhood experiences, which, unbeknownst to her, made her very isolated and angry.

The King taught her to walk through the world, seeing everyone as dangerous. The Lady moved through life like everyone had done her wrong. The result was that she became suspicious of everyone, assuming most everyone hated her or was out to kill her. According to her parents, the world was not friendly.

There was bankruptcy, poverty, maxed-out credit cards, losing their homes, and her parent's mental illness. Dana was trying to be the parent and never got to be an average child. Later, there was destructive binge drinking and overeating.

Her life took a turn when she went to Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC, and later to Duke University Divinity School on a scholarship. She had to survive the polite southern culture of NC and her mom's ever-changing personality disorders.

After graduating, Dana finished college, married, and was ordained as a minister.

However, growing up, she did have a safety net of well-to-do grandparents, and her older brother ensured she had shelter. There were aunts and uncles in Indiana helping with her caregiving and other relative sleepovers. They lived off church meals, scrambled eggs, toast, and cans of tomato soup. They had Chef Boyardee candy spaghetti and white bread at her grandmother's home.

"Tough times never last, but tough people do." —Dr. Robert Schuller

Through it all, they had survived homelessness, bankruptcy, loss, and addiction. Dana emerged from the battlefield stronger. Courageous. Tenacious. Unbroken. She uncovered healing and home through a schizophrenic drug-lord father, her childhood, and her mother's personality disorders and mental illness.

The lesson she learned was you cannot deny that your past happens and not accept her parents for who they were: mental illness, addiction, poverty, and all. The real danger was in not realizing they were doing their best with what they had. The real threat was in hiding it all. She was supportive of them through it all.

She desires to relay the message to others who spend their life thinking they are adrift, leaving them secretive, ashamed, isolated, confused, wandering, and lonely. Home is where the healing begins.

BETWEEN TWO TRAILERS is an inspiring, heartfelt, beautifully written memoir full of emotion. It is heartbreaking yet witty at times. The author explores mental illness, poverty, addiction, a toxic childhood, and trauma—yet there is courage, survival, and hope after the storm. This is a compelling, remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption. I highly recommend it.

From the author: "I wrote this book to help us all make sense of the shrapnel of our lives. May Between Two Trailers be a companion for anyone who also longs for relief."

Fans of Jeannette Walls (memoir), Tara Westover (memoir), and Nora Dector (fictional) will enjoy this journey!

As an NC native, I enjoyed the setting, especially the Winston-Salem area, where I lived years ago and home for my grown sons and family currently. My daughter-in-law graduated from Salem College, and my granddaughter will hopefully attend Duke University after graduation next year.

Thanks to Convergent (Random House) and NetGalley for an advanced reading review copy.

J. Dana Trent is a speaker, professor, award-winning author, and minister. A graduate of Duke Divinity School, she teaches world religions and critical thinking at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Check out the characters on her website.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 5 Stars

Pub Date: April 16, 2024


“[Trent] captivates with this coming-of-age memoir about her parents’ mental illnesses, her realizing the meaning of home, and yearning to belong . . . This debut is everything fans of memoirs could hope for: a beautifully written, searing and honest tribute to family.”

—Library Journal, starred review

“A potent memoir about a young woman’s escape from a toxic childhood . . . [and] a powerfully intimate look into the struggles of American poverty and mental illness.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Fans of Jeannette Walls and Tara Westover will be drawn to Trent’s blend of grit and hope.”

—Publishers Weekly

“In a striking narrative of childhood trauma survival, Between Two Trailers pulls you into every breathless moment with ‘Budgie.’ Readers that exhale while rising beside her will find hope in the sweet air of redemption.”

—Carine McCandless, New York Times bestselling author of The Wild Truth

“If Dana Trent's books were truthful, that would be enough. If they were elegantly written, that would be even better. If they spoke straight to the hearts of her readers, that would make her a writer worth reading. In fact, they are all of these things, encompassing what it means to be human on this earth, making reality more bearable because it is so clearly a reality we share. Between Two Trailers reminds me of that again.”

—Barbara Brown Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of Learning to Walk in the Dark

“Hopeful, hilarious, and full of resilience and redemption, Between Two Trailers is delightfully messy and deliciously rare. Each chapter ventures deeper into the author’s riveting background—a world most of us were spared from. The whole journey is weighted with important reminders of how trauma-informed stories can both educate and heal us. Dana Trent provides a road map for assembling the different parts of one’s psyche that are so often split and shattered during childhood.”

—Sarah Edmondson, actress and author of Scarred

“How often do you come across a story about a grocery-store, kiddie-ride, drug-trafficking business? It’s a tough tale to tell, but Trent communicates it with winsome charm.”

—Jonathan Merritt, contributing writer for The Atlantic

“Come for the luscious prose and ludicrously good plot. Stay for a story about home that will haunt you with its beauty―and unflinching truth.”

—Erin S. Lane, author of Someone Other Than a Mother

“Between Two Trailers is a memoir in the vein of great literary coming-of-age narratives like The Liar’s Club and This Boy’s Life.”

—Micha Boyett, author of Blessed Are the Rest of Us

About the Author

Photo: © Venu Gopal Photography

J. Dana Trent is a speaker, professor, award-winning author, and minister. A graduate of Duke Divinity School, she teaches world religions and critical thinking at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina. WEBSITE

Author + Teacher+ Good Buddy

J. Dana Trent is an unlikely Hoosier and professor of religion and critical thinking in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is a graduate of Duke Divinity School and an ordained minister in the Baptist tradition.

She made her father proud by being a good buddy and pleased her mother by being a helpful reverend. Dana copes with life by moving and making lists, two skills she learned from King and the Lady, respectively. She and her vegetarian husband, Fred, have two cats.

Between Two Trailers is J. Dana Trent's debut trade memoir.







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