This Is How It Always Is
By Laurie Frankel
Flatiron Books, 9781250088567, January 2018, 336pp.
The Short of It:
A good book to discuss with a group because you will definitely want to talk about it after reading it.
The Rest of It:
This Is How It Always Is is a novel. It reads like a true story, and the author does in fact have a transgender child but it is a work of fiction. I had to remind myself of this many, many times while reading it.
Penn and Rosie have five sons, two older boys, a set of twins and then Claude. From a very young age, Claude is highly intelligent and interested in things that his brothers are not. Dressing up, for one. While young, this doesn’t appear to be an issue. In fact, his grandmother takes great pleasure in buying Claude tea-length dresses and girly things to wear at home but eventually, Claude wants to wear these things in public.
Rosie, a doctor, doesn’t see an issue with it. She figures he’s young and should be able to express himself however he sees fit. Penn, doesn’t have an issue with it either but he is more aware of the problems that it could cause. Perhaps, they should meet with the school administrators to discuss it. Once they do, they realize the challenges involved.
Claude becomes Poppy, but how much do they share? Do they make it public? Tell Poppy’s friends? The neighbors? Co-workers? If you had a child who was Poppy’s friend, would you want to know? Think about sleepovers, shared restrooms, etc.
Poppy’s story is hard to put down. As a parent, it would be a tough situation to be in. I’m not sure how I’d handle the situation myself. There were decisions made that made me want to scream at the parents but then I’d turn a few pages and feel empathy for their situation. Most of all, I felt for Poppy.
Because one of the parents is a doctor, we get the medical aspect of Poppy’s transformation but only a taste of it since she is so young. Hormone blockers are mentioned. Surgery is hinted at for a page or two. At the age of ten, is it right for a parent to consider surgery when the child could easily change their mind? That brings up another topic entirely. Is gender something you can change your mind about or something bigger?
There were aspects of the novel that I didn’t care for. I didn’t like that they ended up in Thailand even though much was revealed there. It seemed a little too convenient and not something that could actually happen. I do feel that the author did a really good job of presenting the issues in a clear way. I was conflicted the entire time I was reading it. I don’t know if a person can love a book like this because Poppy experiences so much heartache and angst but I love that the author put the topic out there because I am still thinking about the story now.
If you are stuck in a reading rut and need something to get you reading again, This Is How It Always Is will definitely get you reading and thinking.
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17 thoughts on “Review: This Is How It Always Is”
This sounds like a book that is inspired by real life. I am not sure what the medical community position is on surgery but generally, doctors tend to wait until children are fully developed for radical body changes made by surgery. Transgender could be an exception.
I imagine this would be tough to read, but I think these topics are very important.
I agree. There was something said about it being a more successful transition when it’s done before puberty. Makes sense that it would be but the idea of performing surgery on a child made me pause.
I thought this book was very well done and my friend who has a transgender read it and said it was spot on with the feelings and emotions that her family has gone through.
It seemed very authentic in that regard.
Just checking in to see if you are alright with the Tick Fire raging near you. Stay safe!
I had mixed feelings about this as well but it did help me understand how someone so young can be transgender. I think it would make a great book club pick but I don’t think it would go over well with my book club. *sigh*
That’s the thing though, it doesn’t have to go over well you just have to be able to discuss it. There was plenty to discuss for sure.
I would love for my library book club to read this….however, our group is mostly older women who I don’t think would be very open to this story or issue.
I agree with you! It gives you a lot to think about and it sticks with you for quite some time afterward. Plus it presents a perspective that you don’t often see dealt with in novels (at least I haven’t seen). I kept changing my mind with how things were handled in the book. It is clear there are no easy answers for how to raise a transgender child. I agree– it would make for a great book discussion.
Someone from the discussion last night said the book was a fairy tale and then mentionrd the pink turret on the house and that dreamy ending. The one character was telling a story the entire time to the kids so when you look at it that way, it sort of puts a different spin on it.
I liked this book very much, I thought the parents were great to be so supportive and was surprised the school was as well for such a young child. I know our high school has been very accepting of trans teens.
I mentioned this book to a social worker friend, whose immediate response was it’s child abuse. I was taken aback, did not agree with her.
Child abuse? Interesting. I wonder if she means that it allows for bullying which could be prevented if the child were not allowed to dress that way. In this story, the child clearly wants to be a girl. So it’s not the parents making them be this way or forcing her to be gender neutral.
Here at the university we are very open.
Pretty tough issue but it seems like it’s well done. I didn’t know they did surgery so young …. what age is he? I guess this book would inform me more about these issues.
I’m not sure surgery of this nature would be done here in the US at the age of ten but they end up in Thailand and I thought for sure it would happen there. Many surgeries are performed in Thailand. The story doesn’t fully explore that aspect.
One of the ladies in my book club said it best. This book was not the best writing but it put the topic out there and opened the door for someone else to come in and hopefully write an even better book.
I thought this was excellent. And the fact that the author knew what she was talking about gave it a sense of being so real. I loved the story aspect.
I wasn’t aware that the author had personal experience with a transgender child until I read those final pages. As a parent I imagine it would be a very difficult situation to move through. My kids say I am a tad helicopter mom so I know I’d be worrying all the time.
Oh, and it was clear that having money was helpful. People with less money would have a harder time, I think.