April Book: Between Two Trailers by J. Dana Trent

In this new memoir, the author examines her own childhood, which was shadowed by her parents’ mental illness, addiction and financial instability.
by Ayn-Monique Klahre

A professor and minister, J. Dana Trent usually writes about spirituality — but her latest book, Between Two Trailers: A Memoir, shares the story of her hardscrabble upbringing. Her earliest years were spent in Indiana with her father — a drug dealer who taught her to cut up weed for dime bags — and mother, whose mental illness often kept her bedridden. At age 6, Trent and her mother abruptly moved to North Carolina, where they wrestled with homelessness and bankruptcy. 

With hard work and the support of extended family, Trent found herself on her feet, graduating from the Divinity School at Duke University in 2006. But after both her parents died, she reexamined her childhood, corroborating her memories against military records, court records, medical records and family photos.

What she found included diagnosed mental illness, documented substance abuse and a grand jury indictment. “Until I did this research, I didn’t understand why my parents acted the way they acted,” she says.

Trent hopes Between Two Trailers will encourage others to explore their own painful memories. “So often we don’t share the hard parts of our lives, but that can be to our detriment,” she says.  

This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of WALTER magazine.