Tag Archives: Gender Studies

Review: This Is How It Always Is

This Is How It Always Is

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.

Source: Borrowed
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Review: Annabel


By Kathleen Winter
(Grove Press, Black Cat, Paperback, 9780802170828, January 2011, 480pp.)

The Short of It:

Annabel is incredibly moving. It will touch you, and steal your heart.

The Rest of It:

The story is simple. In a small seaside town, a baby is born a hermaphrodite. Jacinta and Treadway must decide how to raise the child. Should they raise a boy, or a girl? As Jacinta holds her baby, she knows deep down, that the baby is a girl; a beautiful daughter whom she feels a deep connection to. But Treadway has always wanted a son, and so the child is named Wayne and raised as a boy. Although this goes against everything Jacinta believes the world to be, she does not voice her feelings and goes along with it.

Jacinta’s close friend, Thomasina, also the women who helped bring Wayne into the world, knows that the child will have a complicated life down the line. These decisions are never easy ones to make, and although Wayne’s parents love him dearly, Thomasina also looks out for him, and supports him in ways his own parents can’t. Wayne’s parents do not clue him in to what’s going on with his body. It’s after it becomes medically necessary, that he finds out and it’s not even his parents who explain it to him. It’s their dear friend, Thomasina.

Wayne’s struggle to find himself is so painful at times, that I just wanted to reach into the book and give him a hug. Each character is so vividly drawn and deeply complex and wonderful in their own way. The parents are good parents. Treadway is distant as a father, but he loves his son and he has a deep sense of duty to his family. The decisions he makes, are (in his mind) for the good of the family. I cried for Jacinta. She knew from the moment she held that baby that Wayne should have been Annabel, named after Thomasina’s daughter who died with her father in a hunting accident.

What I truly appreciate, is that Winter does not shy away from the tough topics. Wayne’s upbringing affects the family as a whole, but each member of that family quietly falls apart before they become whole again. Nature vs. Nurture is a huge theme here and you see the devastating effects of both. But what makes this a very hopeful story, are the good friends Wayne meets along the way and the fact that his parents love him. The love they provide is what holds him up.

I loved this book. I adored it. My moods continued to shift as I read it and it wasn’t until the end that I began to breathe easy again. Annabel is everything that a good book should be and it’s a book that everyone should read and discuss.

Source: Borrowed

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