This is How It Always Is
This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.This is how children change…and then change the world.This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever."This is a novel everyone should read. It’s brilliant. It’s bold. And it’s time.” ―Elizabeth George, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Banquet of Consequences

This is How It Always Is Details

TitleThis is How It Always Is
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 24th, 2017
PublisherFlatiron Books
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Lgbt

This is How It Always Is Review

  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    “Well. Usually boys don’t wear dresses to preschool,” Rosie admitted carefully. “Or tights.”“I’m not usually,” said Claude. This, Rosie reflected, even at the time, was true. I've been going back and forth on whether I wanted to read this for a while. On the one hand, the premise interested me, the critics' reviews have been gushing, and the average GR rating is impressive. On the other hand, the few negative reviews have been calling it words like "sentimental", and even Kirkus begrudgingly ad “Well. Usually boys don’t wear dresses to preschool,” Rosie admitted carefully. “Or tights.”“I’m not usually,” said Claude. This, Rosie reflected, even at the time, was true. I've been going back and forth on whether I wanted to read this for a while. On the one hand, the premise interested me, the critics' reviews have been gushing, and the average GR rating is impressive. On the other hand, the few negative reviews have been calling it words like "sentimental", and even Kirkus begrudgingly admitted that it is "cloying at times". Those are two things that can turn me off a book right away.But, for whatever reason, This is How It Always Is was the exception to the rule. Is it sentimental? I mean, sure, maybe... but it was also a deeply emotional reading experience for me, too. Is it sweet, nice, neat? I would argue not. There is much in this book that warmed my heart, but to dismiss its struggles as too easy, too nice and too easily solved is to dismiss the gender dysphoria and violent transphobia as something that is easy.At its heart, This is How It Always Is is a book about all seven members of the Walsh-Adams family. I love family drama/saga style books so this was right up my alley. They are a loving, hilarious, complex and dysfunctional family, all trying to do right by one another (and screwing up many times along the way). I was utterly charmed.After four boys, Rosie and Penn are sure their fifth child will be a girl... until Claude arrives. It will be a few more years before they realize that their first predictions weren't exactly wrong. Drawing from her own experiences, the author explores how the family reacts to the realization that Claude (now Poppy) is transgender. Rosie and Penn instinctively try to protect their child by moving to the supposedly more liberal Seattle. However, instead of celebrating who Poppy is, they keep it a secret and urge her brothers to do the same.Like most secrets, the weight of hiding Poppy bears down on all of them, especially Poppy herself. The characters note the irony that they are hiding the "fake" Poppy, and the real Poppy is the one her schoolmates and neighbours have known all along. Eventually, of course, everything blows up in their faces.I found it very easy to become absorbed in the story. I became angry at the transphobic and homophobic comments made by kids and adults, and frustrated at the smaller acts of misunderstanding as the Wisconsin teachers tried to accommodate a trans student whilst still enforcing the gender binary: “Little boys do not wear dresses.” Miss Appleton tried to channel her usual patience. “Little girls wear dresses. If you are a little boy, you can’t wear a dress. If you are a little girl, you have to use the nurse’s bathroom.”***“Meaning if he is a girl, he has gender dysphoria, and we will accommodate that. If he just wants to wear a dress, he is being disruptive and must wear normal clothes.” Frankel highlights an ongoing problem in which schools try to recognize trans students but still demand they check one box or another, and adopt the expected characteristics of the selected "male" or "female". The ultimate issue is about more than accepting someone with XY chromosomes as a girl; it is also about being able to accept someone with facial hair and a deep voice as a girl, or as both a girl and boy, or as neither. “This is a medical issue, but mostly it’s a cultural issue. It’s a social issue and an emotional issue and a family dynamic issue and a community issue. Maybe we need to medically intervene so Poppy doesn’t grow a beard. Or maybe the world needs to learn to love a person with a beard who goes by ‘she’ and wears a skirt.” This is How It Always Is is an emotive read, but it also explores a lot of practical issues. Like the decisions parents can and cannot, should and should not, make for trans kids. Or kids in general. Throughout, Penn keeps up a long-running fairytale of Grumwald and Stephanie, painting in some rather obvious messages and parallels for his kids, which I suppose is what some would consider "sickly sweet" but hell, if he isn't the best dad ever.I loved them all. I loved Rosie and her scientist's logic as a way of dealing with problems. I loved Penn and his sweet romanticism and hopefulness. I loved messed-up Roo and all his mistakes. I loved precocious Ben and how much he cares for Poppy. I loved the goofy twins who offered so much light and cheer in this book. And I loved Poppy. Of course I loved Poppy.Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
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  • Larry H
    January 1, 1970
    I'm about 4.5, maybe 4.75 stars.Penn and Rosie fell in love almost instantaneously. Penn was a writer forever working on his "damned novel," while Rosie worked as an emergency room doctor forever on the night shift. When they decided to have children, especially as their family grew to four boys, they adopted a tandem approach to parenting—"It was just that there was way more to do than two could manage, but by their both filling every spare moment, some of what needed to got done."One final try I'm about 4.5, maybe 4.75 stars.Penn and Rosie fell in love almost instantaneously. Penn was a writer forever working on his "damned novel," while Rosie worked as an emergency room doctor forever on the night shift. When they decided to have children, especially as their family grew to four boys, they adopted a tandem approach to parenting—"It was just that there was way more to do than two could manage, but by their both filling every spare moment, some of what needed to got done."One final try for a girl landed them Claude. Claude was precocious—he crawled, walked, and talked earlier than his brothers, but he also was tremendously creative. He liked to write, draw, play music, even bake. He was warm, friendly, and truly a special child. But as Claude approached his fifth birthday, he became obsessed with dresses. What he wanted more than anything was to be a princess, and be able to wear a dress to school.Rosie and Penn aren't sure what to do. Do they nurture their youngest son's wish, stares and cruel comments and jibes at their parenting be damned, or do they explain to Claude that boys don't wear dresses, and he is a boy? For a while Claude settles for dressing as a boy for school and changing into girl clothes when he returns home, but that really doesn't make him happy. He wants to be a girl."How did you teach your small human that it's what's inside that counts when the truth was everyone was pretty preoccupied with what you put on over the outside too?"As Claude grows, and becomes Poppy, they encourage her to be true to her feelings and who she is. But is that the right parenting choice for a child so young in age? What are the next steps in this journey, not only for Poppy and her parents, but her brothers as well? At some point the burden of keeping Poppy's secret becomes too much to bear for everyone, and then everyone needs to figure out where to go from there.What choice is the right one? How will Penn and Rosie know if they're acting in their child's best interests, or the best interests of all of their children? How do they protect their child from what they know the world always seems to have in store for people who are different?Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is is a truly wonderful book. She draws you into the Walsh-Adams family so fully, that you really see how things affect each of them. The book isn't preachy or heavy-handed (although those who believe transgender people to be less than human, and that no matter what you always must remain the gender you're born into will probably not agree), but it also doesn't pretend the whole situation is perfect, for anyone. She emphasizes that it's just as easy to make mistakes by not doing or saying things as it is by doing or saying them.Frankel is a tremendously talented writer who imbues her books with beautiful emotion. Her previous book, Goodbye for Now (see my review), had me in tears (and I read it a few years before my father died). Frankel even brings emotion to her author's note. But this small exchange in the book moved me the most:"Tears crawled out of Claude's eyes and nose, and besides he was only five, but he tried to comfort his parents anyway. 'I just feel a little bit sad. Sad isn't bleeding. Sad is okay.'"Maybe sometimes things happened a little too easily, but I still loved this book. Read it.See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
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  • Trevor
    January 1, 1970
    I'm really conflicted on the rating for THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS because on the one hand it's great that this book has so many positives & doesn't end on a pessimistic tone; we need LGBTQIAP+ stories that don't end in tragedy. (We need more of these books in general.) On the other hand, at times, there were such unrealistic situations taking place that I was wondering if the author was living in fantasyland- you'd have to suspend disbelief to enjoy it. It's clear that this is a personal stor I'm really conflicted on the rating for THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS because on the one hand it's great that this book has so many positives & doesn't end on a pessimistic tone; we need LGBTQIAP+ stories that don't end in tragedy. (We need more of these books in general.) On the other hand, at times, there were such unrealistic situations taking place that I was wondering if the author was living in fantasyland- you'd have to suspend disbelief to enjoy it. It's clear that this is a personal story for Frankel, even though she makes it clear this isn't based off one specific person (her daughter) or her own experiences. With that in mind, perhaps this is truly what Frankel wishes for herself & the world which is wonderful, but it's not peachy keen for many families, & that's where I got a bit distraught. At its core though I did like this story so 3* it is.The greatest thing that felt unrealistic to me:- Rosie & Penn. They are such supportive parents! (I wish this was the case for everyone!) They are protective & move the family across state lines for safety reasons. Many families cannot afford to just leave when the going gets tough; safety reasons include a father who discloses he doesn't want his son to play with f***. (Other than this family, there is no blatant violence against them that is really threatening, for the most part people understand or don't know.) Then when Claude's secret is revealed, Rosie takes Claude to Thailand. Again, most people can't just pack up & go across the globe. It is for Rosie's job, but still. It doesn't ring authentic.The ending wrapped up way too nicely for me, like everything was going to be hunky-dory. I liked how Claude decides they are nonconforming & they are more than what has been offered, but honestly, to get to that point wasn't worth it. Frankel's prose wavered my interest- I thought the middle was strong while the beginning & end were on the verge of a snooze fest. I would have liked to see more from Roo & Ben & a more thorough discussion on hormone blockers.THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS is a good start. By no means is it perfect but it opens the door for important conversations. More books like this need to make their way onto shelves & into hearts. Slowly but surely, we are doing just that.
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  • Kelly (and the Book Boar)
    January 1, 1970
    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/Dear Book: Also, be forewarned I highlighted pretty much the entire thing.I usually am a person who opts not to read a synopsis before starting a book (as was the case here) and encourages others to do the same. However, since we are living in a world where Nazis . . . . oh excuse me . . . . “Alt Righters” feel free to spew hate wherever they see fit and although I know I have none of those people on my friend list I’m not naïve enough Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/Dear Book: Also, be forewarned I highlighted pretty much the entire thing.I usually am a person who opts not to read a synopsis before starting a book (as was the case here) and encourages others to do the same. However, since we are living in a world where Nazis . . . . oh excuse me . . . . “Alt Righters” feel free to spew hate wherever they see fit and although I know I have none of those people on my friend list I’m not naïve enough to believe those types of deplorables won’t crawl out of their baskets in order to troll every review of this book they possibly can and dump their ignorance on the masses I’m going to tell you the basics.This is the story of Rosie and Penn’s family. Five spirited boys who each have their own delightful personalities. While this is the story of the entire brood, the focus in This Is How It Always Is is mainly on the youngest, 5-year old Claude . . . . “He said he wanted to a chef when he grew up. He also said he wanted to be a cat when he grew up. When he grew up, he said, he wanted to be a chef, a cat, a vet, a dinosaur, a train, a farmer, a recorder player, a scientist, an ice cream cone, a first basement, or maybe the inventor of a new kind of food that tasted like chocolate ice cream but nourished like something his mother would say yes to for breakfast. When he grew up, he said, he wanted to be a girl.” Penn and Rosie encourage Claude to be any and all of those things whenever they are brought up. But one of his “when I grow up” wishes seemed to stick a bit more than the others . . . . “When I grow up and become a girl, will I start over? . . . . Will I have to start being a girl from the beginning and grow up all over again? Or will I be a girl who’s the age that I am when I’m growed-up and become one?” Claude’s persistence regarding his desire to become a girl grows to the point where Rosie and Penn are faced with the decision of allowing him to do just that which lead them to question whether or not they’re doing the right thing . . . . “You never know. You only guess. This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of your kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands, who trusts you to know what’s good and right and then be able to make that happen. You don’t get to see the future. And if you screw up, if with your incomplete, contradictory information you make the wrong call, well, nothing less than your child’s entire future and happiness is at stake. It’s impossible. It’s heartbreaking. It’s maddening. But there’s no alternative.” So Claude gets a new wardrobe and handles the dreaded “bathroom” dilemma like a pro and ceases to be a sad little shell of a person, instead becoming a vibrant and wonderful Poppy. And when their town proves to be not quite as forward-thinking as Rosie and Penn would like it to be, they pack up and move across country where Poppy is only Poppy and no one knows about Claude. But a secret so big can’t remain a secret forever . . . . . This book was everything. As I said in a status update, I want to marry it. Either that or I want to track down this family and become a fly on their wall so I can be a part of their life. I want to dress as Grunwald for Halloween and become a night fairy in charge of all the stars after I’m sure my own children are asleep. These characters were perfection. Rosie and Penn were so real - parents with the best of intentions that somehow ended up fucking up anyway, because that’s what parenting is all about and really as long as your kids know one thing, everything else is cake . . . Poppy was absolutely brilliant . . . . “What are you then?”“I’m all of the above. And I’m also more to come.” Carmy was the grandma every child should dream of having . . . “You’re too old to be open-minded and tolerant,” said Rosie.“I’m too old not to be.” And although I’m pretty sure I’d put triple locks on my door if she lived next to me, Aggie was a hoot . . . . “Weird,” said Aggie. “What do you think it means?” “I dunno.” Poppy shrugged. “Something. There’s always some kind of secret message.” Aggie considered the matter. “I think your dad wants us to know it’s okay to use drugs. And not to tell anyone about it.” When I started this story I was having a very much this type of experience . . . . At some point things changed . . . . Making my kid look at his brother with an expression that clearly stated . . . . This Is How It Always Is shows that . . . . But you gotta do what’s true to you, and for anyone who doesn’t like it???? “Fuck the bastards.” I will confess the ending of this one kind of went off the rails, but I loved the story so much I’m not deducting anything for it. I will also say there’s a solid chance if you are not a parent (or at minimum old enough to have experience with your friends and relatives kids) you might not be able to fully appreciate the beauty contained within these pages. All the Stars.
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  • Rose (Traveling Sister)
    January 1, 1970
    This book has me WEAK. It's an education I didn’t even realize I needed. 500 rainbow night fairy stars and a spot on my favorites shelf for This Is How It Always Is.Claude is born the youngest of 5 boys, but HE isn't Claude at all. SHE is Poppy. Her family struggles with the correct language to use regarding her body dysphoria. Hard questions like hair and wardrobe turn, with age, into much harder ones: how do we handle hormone blockers and when, if at all, do we consider surgery? The balance be This book has me WEAK. It's an education I didn’t even realize I needed. 500 rainbow night fairy stars and a spot on my favorites shelf for This Is How It Always Is.Claude is born the youngest of 5 boys, but HE isn't Claude at all. SHE is Poppy. Her family struggles with the correct language to use regarding her body dysphoria. Hard questions like hair and wardrobe turn, with age, into much harder ones: how do we handle hormone blockers and when, if at all, do we consider surgery? The balance between protecting her and teaching her the harsh reality of her situation is treacherous.Okay, SO. While this novel is honest and moving, it's important to remember that not all LGBT children have this experience. Many are at the mercy of closed-minded parents or governments and don't get to “decide” how to handle their lives. There aren’t discussions with schools about pronouns and bathrooms. There’s no “How should we tell the neighbors?” and there sure as hell isn’t any way to start over in a new place. There is only ignorance and repression and hate. This is one reason 40% of transgender individuals attempt or complete suicide at some point.The fictional Walsh-Adams family is (relatively) blessed in that regard. However, the last third of this book focuses heavily on those less fortunate and the ways that other societies treat their trans citizens. There is balance. I think that by focusing the story on a privileged, progressive family, Frankel is able to build a narrative that illustrates some crucial things:1. How one should and should not view those whose gender identity doesn’t match their sexual assignment. She really scrapes the depths of why it's no different than any other thing that makes a person unique, in a way that doesn't seem "hippie-ish" or "new age." It's just the facts.2. Even families who are set up to be perfect support systems in seemingly understanding communities encounter bigotry. It doesn’t matter where you are; there will always be people who judge and glare and intrude. 3. Furthermore, fear and doubt know no bounds, and the many questions surrounding those in transition are present for all families, rich or poor. Adequate time is given to the parents, each brother, and Poppy herself. This is about as well-rounded a book as I have ever read.I would recommend this for every human, and I'd make my cats read it if I could. Chances are, even if you're already open to the trans community, you will learn immensely from This Is How It Always Is. And if you're not, especially after reading this, maybe we can't be friends.
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  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    Happy New Year! A gorgeous eye catching book cover....A story with a lot of heart...Kept me reading into the New Year early morning hours. I enjoyed this novel very much - but it’s not without flaws. The ‘very-VERY’ beginning ....”Once Upon a Time Claude Was Born”, I felt the writing was ‘too busy’- ‘too wordy’...But then....It got FUNNY...really hysterical: We get a glimpse of Rosie and Penn’s dating life,(inspiring dating life...I was impressed), sex life, work schedules, - marriage - and how Happy New Year! A gorgeous eye catching book cover....A story with a lot of heart...Kept me reading into the New Year early morning hours. I enjoyed this novel very much - but it’s not without flaws. The ‘very-VERY’ beginning ....”Once Upon a Time Claude Was Born”, I felt the writing was ‘too busy’- ‘too wordy’...But then....It got FUNNY...really hysterical: We get a glimpse of Rosie and Penn’s dating life,(inspiring dating life...I was impressed), sex life, work schedules, - marriage - and how they manage their lives with 5 boys. Very moving parenting - loving open parents.....ALTHOUGH THEY MIGHT HAVE REACHED OUT FOR LEGITIMATE GUIDANCE. Plus....later in the book, I wasn’t convinced a family secret that developed (withhold really), was the best choice to insert in the storytelling. All the children in the family needed some counseling. I would have liked to have seen how that dynamic might have played out. The family live in Madison, Wisconsin- so ‘snow’ was to consider when driving to kids to preschool. Hectic mornings getting everyone out of the house. Later in the story the family moves to Seattle....a reason for the move! Also - towards the beginning- we learned about Rosie and Penn’s childhood- just enough - which might explain why they had a large family. And - no....it wasn’t because they were of the mormon faith. They were Jews. Jews have no issues about birth control. Rosie was a doctor/Pediatrician - Penn a stay at home novelist. Penn’s the family storyteller....as for those novels ... well, he’s living inside his own...busy years of child raising a gender dysphoric child. “Claude” was the last birth: the baby of the family. He was 3 years old when heexpressed wanting to wear a dress. He also said he didn’t want to be a “big boy”. His immediate family was very supportive - open-minded - and tolerant of all their kids choices. Even Grandma bought him a pink bikini — when she told him he could pick out any swim suit he wanted for summer to wear to the public pool. At some point Claude changes his name to Poppy. There was a clear reason for this. Rather touching- but just one of several places in the book where it seemed to me, Claude was much more mature-in-thinking than his actual developmental age. “This Is How It Is”, by Laurie Frankel is a great book club choice - it doesn’t always move in the directions the reader thinks it might - which is great - showing sides of raising a transgender that many people have not thought about: debate about treating trans kids with puberty blockers, or hormone suppressors for one example. A little too long...yet....it’s easy to forgive because most important — the author took a complex subject - created a loving family with wonderful child character in Claude/Poppy. We feel’ empathy for this child.... charming & loving - and..........isn’t that what every trans child want to feel in the world - loved and accepted? Recommended....enjoy this family: Claude/Poppy,... the humor, the complexity- compassion - the love.
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  • Skyler Autumn
    January 1, 1970
    3 Stars This is How It Always Is, is a book I don't usually gravitate towards call me a chicken but when I read a blurb about a transgender child coming into their own I right away go to all the negative and horrible people that child will have to endure in their adolescents. Then I start thinking how societies the worst, the obstacles the little kid is going to have to face so early on in life, and then I weeping in the middle of Indigo all because I read the back blurb of this book. But that' 3 Stars This is How It Always Is, is a book I don't usually gravitate towards call me a chicken but when I read a blurb about a transgender child coming into their own I right away go to all the negative and horrible people that child will have to endure in their adolescents. Then I start thinking how societies the worst, the obstacles the little kid is going to have to face so early on in life, and then I weeping in the middle of Indigo all because I read the back blurb of this book. But that's what book clubs do, they make you read outside your comfort zone and I am glad they did. This is How It Always Is revolves around Penn and Rosie's family made up of not one but five boys. As much as they wanted that daughter it never seemed to be in the cards for them that is until their youngest boy, Claude (and then Poppy), tells them when he grows up he wants to be a girl. This novel was a great introduction to the dialogue surrounding transgender and raising a transgender child. The multitudes of steps, obstacles and arguments on the proper way to handle it were all thoroughly examined in this novel. Spoiler alert there is no proper way to handle the severe transformation of a child. Everyone is just trying to do their best and you as a reader at no point are able to judge the parents in this novel because you realize the decisions made are never easy ones. This book was interesting at the beginning and gave me information I never was aware of before like about hormone blockers, vagina shopping and other things that just made me realize and appreciate how much people have to go through to be their authentic selves. The first part of this novel had me completely engrossed and curious but unfortunately the last part lost me.... got a bit wishy washy and fairytale in the end (especially since there was a running fairytale story throughout). You know one those "it's all ok now! We solved the problem of our lives" kind of endings. I think with topics like this it'd be better with more of an ambiguous ending because isn't that just life anyways, ambiguous.I also was surprised with the choice the author made with the family. I thought it might be more realistic to have at least one family member hesitant about Claude's transformation to Poppy. I love that Poppy hit the jackpot when it came to family but it felt unrealistic. Really not one person slipped up in a fit of anger and said something regretful or there's not one relative that's a tiny bit ignorant? Am I only the one with Grandfather that told me I was going to Hell when I read Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code when I was fourteen?The book also took the easy out choosing not explore actual surgical transformations or hormone blockers. Keeping Poppy in adolescence this whole time instead of exploring the messier side to such extreme physical transformations. And last issue (I promise) the third part of this book took part in Thailand and I found it boring and took the story off course. I know Thailand has one of the biggest and open communities of transgenders in the world but the storyline with Poppy finding herself in Thailand felt a bit forced and honestly dull. I was almost tempted to skim these chapters. The whole book revolved around the family and Poppy's dynamic with them and her classmates and then the author decided to remove all these characters we were invested in and plant Poppy in a new country with new characters. To me it took me out of the story for a bit and I lost that emotional attachment I was having for the novel up to that point. All and all This is How It Always is, is not a perfect novel but it is a good introduction into this world. I'm glad I decided to read outside my comfort zone and will definitely be looking to read more diverse books that involve the LGBTQ community in my future. Reading a book like this make me so aware how under represented this community is and I'm glad there are authors like Laurie Frankel out there that are sharing these stories.
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  • Margitte
    January 1, 1970
    From the blurb: This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.This is how children change…and then change the world.This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Cl From the blurb: This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.This is how children change…and then change the world.This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever. There are many enjoyable and certainly well presented elements in the book, which kept me reading most of it. I would say around 80%. Everyone who reads this book will be unable to not feel compassion and empathy for a little boy with an identity crisis and the pain of the family in their struggle to protect him. The wit was fantastic. The characters were all true to self and lovable within the context. I really enjoyed K, the medic in Thailand, and the super perfect dad. I felt immensely sorry for the family in their struggle to survive in their social environment.However, I was not convinced that a ten-year-old boy could have the insight in his dad's stories as presented in this book. It is a themed-book. Although the characters were great, the choice of professions for the parents were just too convenient to make this book work. I had the impression that any other profession would have made the story too challenging. For instance, the dad had to be a writer, so that the fairytale could unfold. The mom had to be a doctor so that information could be dumped. The medical and literary world cross-pollinated each other perfectly in the book. This is a story built around a topic which must be explored in as much detail as possible, including the social and emotional impact transgender issues have on people. It is written to elicit as much emotional reaction as possible from the reader while presenting as much information from different viewpoints. For me it resulted in too much information dumping, the overkill element, despite the excellent skill with which the book was written. The twist to live a fairytale was surprising, and the denouement equally so. Very convincing indeed. Really great. A person can either read reports, or watch detailed interviews and documentaries on the subject, and get the real situation, or get informed through a book like this in which the reader is soft-soaped in a way. Sometimes very obviously so. It depends on the person how to get acquainted with this subject. Some prefer it in novel form. What is important though, is to get to know the people around the situation, and this book is brilliant in that context. The author wrote a compassionate story with gentle kindness. I will go with a four star rating, but would have loved to give it 3.5. Word-dumping simply does not work for me. I prefer a story which leaves my curiosity alive and well, and my imagination roaming free and wild. I want to discover the magic, and not being force fed to me. But that's just me. Show-don't-tell is number one in my book!Overall a good read.
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  • JanB
    January 1, 1970
    This book takes on the subject of transgender children, a subject the author knows of personally, as one of her children is transgender. But really, there are lessons here for everyone about unconditional love and acceptance of anyone who is different.Penn and Rosie have 5 boys. Claude is the youngest and at a young age it becomes clear he feels he should have been born a girl. The title refers to the struggle all parents face: "This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on This book takes on the subject of transgender children, a subject the author knows of personally, as one of her children is transgender. But really, there are lessons here for everyone about unconditional love and acceptance of anyone who is different.Penn and Rosie have 5 boys. Claude is the youngest and at a young age it becomes clear he feels he should have been born a girl. The title refers to the struggle all parents face: "This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of y0ur kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands, who trusts you to know what's good and right and then to be able to make that happen. You don't get to see the future. And if you screw up, if with your incomplete, contradictory information you make the wrong call....it's heartbreaking. It's maddening. But there's no alternative."This book navigates these waters as the family tries to do what is best for Claude/Poppy. How do they support him while also trying to protect him? Should this information be kept private, a secret? And what happens if the secret, as secrets tend to do, is revealed? The family grapples with these hard questions. They sometimes fail with heartbreaking consequences, but they pick themselves up and start over. There are lessons within these pages, not just for parents of transgender children, but for parents everywhere. Let's face it, we all fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to raising our children. I've seen a criticism in some reviews that the parents and family were too perfect. But I've been mulling this over for a few days and decided to view it as a blueprint of how parents SHOULD be. An ideal to live up to. They don't always get it right but they try.And if you're not a parent, there is still much to enjoy about this book as it relates to unconditional love, compassion, and the circumstances many transgender individuals face every single day.Parenting is hard, and transgender or not, we all have hard, tough things to deal with at one time or another. There are no easy answers but all children deserve parents who will love, support and guide them through tough circumstances. And no, not every family can pack up and move or traipse off to Thailand when things get tough, but wouldn't it be lovely if everyone who struggles could move to a place where they find acceptance and support?I have two minor criticisms: I'm not a fan of fairy tales inserted into books and I grew tired of the father's re-telling of one to his children. I know there was a lesson he was imparting to his kids but I began skimming past them. Second, the book went on a little too long. I would have preferred it if the story wrapped up before the trip to Thailand. I appreciated the research the author did in Thailand but I didn't enjoy reading about it.Highly recommended for fans of fiction focused on timely issues, complicated families, and tough topics dealt with in a compassionate and heartfelt way.
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  • Suzanne Leopold
    January 1, 1970
    Rosie and Penn are parents of five boys in Madison, Wisconsin. From a young age it was clear that their youngest son Claude was different from the other boys in the family. At three years old, when asked what he wanted to be when he grows up, he replied “a girl”. During the next few years his family observes him wearing dresses and barrettes in his hair.Acting in the best interests of their child, Rosie and Penn are supportive of Claude’s feelings. He begins to transform into a girl named Poppy. Rosie and Penn are parents of five boys in Madison, Wisconsin. From a young age it was clear that their youngest son Claude was different from the other boys in the family. At three years old, when asked what he wanted to be when he grows up, he replied “a girl”. During the next few years his family observes him wearing dresses and barrettes in his hair.Acting in the best interests of their child, Rosie and Penn are supportive of Claude’s feelings. He begins to transform into a girl named Poppy. Her parents make provisions with the school so that Claude can be Poppy outside of their home. Conflicts and hostilities develop from their community causing them to move. They relocate to Seattle where they seek a fresh start for Poppy and their family. In Seattle, they decide to keep her transgender status a secret. Ultimately, this causes stress and grief to the entire family.This novel is about two parents seeking optimal choices for their family where one of their children is transgender. It is a strong reminder that we should judge less and embrace the differences in people. Laurie Frankel writes a heartfelt novel and has a transgender child.1 copy giveaway on my blog until 3/22 https://www.facebook.com/suzyapproved...
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  • Sue Dix
    January 1, 1970
    I don't want to give any hints as to what this book is about. Don't read about it first, don't read the blurb on the dust jacket. Don't read a recap. Just read it, as I was told to do. You won't regret it.
  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    The only reason I finished this is because I think the topic of discussion is important and I wanted to give it my attention. This book is a character study, and not just of Claude/Poppy, but the entire family. I made no real connections with any of them individually, but did feel the love amongst them as a whole. Character studies are just not my thing. I don't enjoy it. I don't want to study fictional characters this closely. The writing style was horrid and I hated it. There was so much unnec The only reason I finished this is because I think the topic of discussion is important and I wanted to give it my attention. This book is a character study, and not just of Claude/Poppy, but the entire family. I made no real connections with any of them individually, but did feel the love amongst them as a whole. Character studies are just not my thing. I don't enjoy it. I don't want to study fictional characters this closely. The writing style was horrid and I hated it. There was so much unnecessary page filler and every single sentence was long-winded almost beyond comprehension. I'm frustrated even thinking about it. These two factors alone definitely influenced how I felt about the story as a whole. I did not enjoy reading this book and I will not recommend it to anyone.
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  • lucky little cat
    January 1, 1970
    Speaking as the mom of a mildly autistic child, I'm recommending this book as a valuable emotional resource for any parent of a child with differences from the norm. (Whatever the heck "norm" is.) I am not a perfect parent. I yell, I swear, and worst of all, I have to blink and think twice before defending my child from random blatant unfairnesses the world visits upon her. I hate that I hesitate. For example, when a teacher assigned my daughter Tater a failing grade for not eating in class as a Speaking as the mom of a mildly autistic child, I'm recommending this book as a valuable emotional resource for any parent of a child with differences from the norm. (Whatever the heck "norm" is.) I am not a perfect parent. I yell, I swear, and worst of all, I have to blink and think twice before defending my child from random blatant unfairnesses the world visits upon her. I hate that I hesitate. For example, when a teacher assigned my daughter Tater a failing grade for not eating in class as a component of a major-grade project. I defended Tater after it all went to hell, and we got her points back for her, but I'm still embarrassed I didn't declare war from the first minute I heard about the assignment. And that's just one instance from my child's life, and one tame enough that I can stand to share. Parents of exceptional children spend much energy trying to anticipate where that next fire is going to spring up, and still we're pulled up short. Just like "normal" kids' parents. Just way, way more often. In This Is How It Always Is, Rosie and Penn, the parents of Claude, who is transgender, are nearly perfect parents. They listen to Claude, they don't judge her, and they never, ever swear. They admit when they don't know answers, and they search for new, creative, and fair solutions. And still it's not enough, not really. Claude's life does not run smoothly because it can't. Life, especially exceptional-kid life, is way too complicated for that. For kids with differences that go against the grain in our culture, ugly surprises drop from a clear blue sky, and are then frequently followed by even uglier consequences. So, perhaps oddly, I found it enormously comforting that even fictional super-parents couldn't fix everything. But it didn't mean they ever stopped trying. And now I need the world's longest charm bracelet so I can have all my favorite quotes from this book engraved on a few hundred little hearts that I can jingle whenever I get the least bit scared, sad, or worried. Or confused. Or when anyone *else* does. What a lovely book about the human condition which is, of course, change.Signed lucky little catwho attended her exceptional daughter's first day of college right along with her today
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  • Dan Radovich
    January 1, 1970
    Did this novel change my mind? No. Did it sway me at all to consider changing my mind? No. That being said, Frankel has written a helluva good book. The Walsh-Adams family is filled with males; Father Penn and sons Roosevelt, Ben, Rigel and Orion (twins) and Claude. Mother Rosie is the lone female; until one day Claude decides he wants to grow up to be a girl - and wants to be named Poppy. On the first day of Kindergarten, due to a dead goldfish mishap, Claude/Poppy cannot attend wearing the per Did this novel change my mind? No. Did it sway me at all to consider changing my mind? No. That being said, Frankel has written a helluva good book. The Walsh-Adams family is filled with males; Father Penn and sons Roosevelt, Ben, Rigel and Orion (twins) and Claude. Mother Rosie is the lone female; until one day Claude decides he wants to grow up to be a girl - and wants to be named Poppy. On the first day of Kindergarten, due to a dead goldfish mishap, Claude/Poppy cannot attend wearing the perfectly pressed dress he wanted to; so a red patent leather handbag suffices as a lunch box. Let the fun begin. Frankel fills her story with plenty of humor to buffer the subject matter she deals with beautifully. Her characters are real people expressing real beliefs and feelings about transgender life, especially at such a young age. Life for everyone in the Walsh-Adams house is brought forth in quality prose. This is the first book of hers that I have read, and I do want to check out her early works. She has a message to tell, but is not preaching or beating you over the head with it and that is what makes the book so good. I did not feel as if I were being forced to change my opinions about the subject. Some may be educated by Frankel's work, I was entertained.
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  • Sandra
    January 1, 1970
    When I started this book I wasn't sure I was going to like it. I thought it was going to be preachy and would try too hard to sway the reader to form an opinion. It didn't. Frankel simply told a beautiful story about what the power of secret/lie does to the fabric of a family. Well done!
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  • sue
    January 1, 1970
    I must say that the complex message in the blurb is what first attracted my curiosity I had heard or seen nothing about the hype of this book until recently which is good for me, I could walk in open minded and away from distractions from the hype.The first half of the book was a struggle for me. There is a huge amount of narration and not much dialogue although at times even the dialogue was hard for me to follow at times to.I got it though. I got the gist of it all.This is a good modern times I must say that the complex message in the blurb is what first attracted my curiosity I had heard or seen nothing about the hype of this book until recently which is good for me, I could walk in open minded and away from distractions from the hype.The first half of the book was a struggle for me. There is a huge amount of narration and not much dialogue although at times even the dialogue was hard for me to follow at times to.I got it though. I got the gist of it all.This is a good modern times family that accept things, like they have accepted Claude their young son who needs to be Poppy.We learn from the start the complexity of her sons feelings at an early age.It's a powerful book with a message.There are some fun things that will make you smile.I've given it a 3 star simply because I really struggled reading this, not because of the subject matter, not because of the complexity, more from the readers POV in keeping with it.My thanks to Headline via Net Galley for my copy
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  • Mary Ruthless
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed this book but definitely had some issues with the narrative. This novel is about a family. Not just any family though, but the absolutely fairy-tale perfect family. Penn and Rosie meet in college and it's basically love at first sight. Even before first sight because they both had weird feelings before their first date. *heavy eye roll* Penn is studying to be a writer and Rosie is studying to become a doctor. Her schedule keeps her from really being able to date so she breaks things of I enjoyed this book but definitely had some issues with the narrative. This novel is about a family. Not just any family though, but the absolutely fairy-tale perfect family. Penn and Rosie meet in college and it's basically love at first sight. Even before first sight because they both had weird feelings before their first date. *heavy eye roll* Penn is studying to be a writer and Rosie is studying to become a doctor. Her schedule keeps her from really being able to date so she breaks things off with Penn. He's so romantic though that he sits in the ER waiting room (where she's doing her residency) every night, waiting for her to finish work just so he can see her for breakfast before they go home. *another heavy eye roll* Penn & Rosie get married. Of course. And everything is totally perfect. Her job, their relationship, the house they live in, literally everything is glittery perfect. So they decide to have kids. They're all boys and then you learn the first not-perfect thing about Rosie: her sister, Poppy, died when she was 10 & Rosie was 12. It devastated Rosie but she decided then that when she had a daughter, she'd name her Poppy and they'd do all the things together that she and her sister never got to do. So, poor Rosie, has no daughter out of FIVE boys. All perfect boys, by the way. They're generally respectful, polite kids and they all have some talent or trait that makes them the perfect addition to Penn & Rosie's perfect family. (Can you tell that the perfect thing got a little old for me??)UNTIL.Claude, the youngest boy, begins to show signs of being transgender. He wants to wear girl things and play with girl toys. He wants to be a princess. He wants to wear high heeled shoes and get manicures and pedicures. Rosie & Penn, of course, respond to this perfectly. They accept Claude as he is, which is great, truly, if the author didn't spend so much time telling us how well they accepted Claude. When Claude goes to school, he decides that he wants to be a she and, without prompting or suggestions, decides that he wants to be named Poppy. Look, that's cute and all but there's NO WAY something like that would happen--except in a fairy tale. So, Claude-turned-Poppy goes to school and everything is *mostly* fine. The kindergarten teacher is a bit of an asshole and tells little Poppy that she has to pick (NOW, IMMEDIATELY in kindergarten *really heavy eye roll*) whether she wants to be a boy or a girl because no one will understand if she's both or neither. The 5 year olds I know and have known sometimes think they're animals or aliens or wacky plants or robots or things you've never heard of. Pretty sure they wouldn't care one way or another about gender. This teacher's resistance to Claude/Poppy's transition is pretty much the realest thing in this book. Anyway, Poppy continues living out her life with her perfect family. Things are confusing but no one ever fights or argues. If there's a disagreement, they talk calmly and rationally to reach a solution that works for everyone. All the siblings get along and have fun together. It's PERFECT. Then, Poppy's friend's dad tells Poppy that she's gross and disgusting and "queer". He has a gun and almost gets into a fist fight with Penn. It's a shitty situation, to be sure, but the reaction to it is a little dramatic. And by a little, I mean...THEY MOVE TO ANOTHER STATE. Rosie does a lot of research and basically decides that Seattle is the most liberal, accepting place they could go and that her kids won't be in danger there so they pick up and move. Look. I get that your kid's safety is paramount but to move an entire 7 person family seems a little much. But, Rosie wanted Poppy to be able to start over and be just Poppy, without everyone knowing that she used to be a boy. So, they move and don't tell ANYONE except their new neighbors who then make them feel uncomfortable about it and so they stuff their secret down even deeper. In Seattle, Poppy finally blooms (see what I did there?). She can be the little girl she is and meet and play with friends who like her and the things she likes too. Poppy deserves this but the move is really hard on her oldest brother, who gets into fights with homophobes (because SURPRISE there are shitty people NO MATTER WHERE YOU GO) and fails history because he makes a controversial project and will not redo it. Seriously, these are the most difficult problems this family has to deal with. I'm not saying that having a transgender kid is a walk in the park but it's genuinely hard for me to believe that there are five kids and only 2 have issues. Anyway, as secrets are wont to do, Poppy's secret is discovered and everyone at her school finds out that she used to be a he. Poppy is mortified, runs away from school, and her mom picks her up. Poppy then refuses to go to school. And her parents just let her skip and don't try very hard to get her to talk about everything that's happening. Then Rosie decides to take Poppy with her on a work trip to Thailand. Penn's feelings are hurt by this because they had a little disagreement and he thinks Rosie just wants to get away from him. Rosie is just running though, because Rosie always runs away from her problems. It's just hard to tell because the woman doesn't have any GD problems. Rosie and Poppy are in Thailand (which is known for its acceptance of transgender folk because of their Buddhist attitudes) where they both have emotional epiphanies. Almost immediately Rosie realizes that she's not really that mad at Penn (duh) but she finds perspective in her work. In a country where childbirth can kill you or bugs or landmines or infection, Rosie realizes that, hey! she's actually pretty lucky and her problems aren't really that bad. *extreme eye roll* I'm sorry (not sorry) but I find the trope of "extremely privileged people being miserable ass hats until they are taken from their situation and can appreciate how great they have it" to be boring and tiresome. Poppy has almost the exact same realization: school is a privilege (even if everyone knows about your penis), family is important, being trans isn't something to be ashamed of, etc. This comes about of course because she met some poor, third-world kids and feels bad for taking her life for granted. Then they go home and get to work at fixing the "damage" caused by Poppy's secret (seriously, the worst thing that happened was Poppy's bff stopped talking to her for a minute because she felt like Poppy didn't trust her).I, obviously, had some issues with this story. I guess if it had started from the beginning like a fairy tale, I think I would have been less frustrated with the book. However, I was hoping to read an insightful, honest take on what it's like to raise a transgender child. I wanted hurt and anger and pain and confusion--from *all* the characters. All the trans people I know had a hard childhood, for various reasons, and still have a difficult time functioning in our bigoted society. But that's not what this book is. Everyone is open-minded, thoughtful, kind, reasonable, logical, and works hard to make Poppy feel like a normal little girl. There are no fights, just discussions. There are no disagreements, just differing opinions. There's no bitterness or irritation in the marriage only openness and communication. True love. And these are all great things but no one acts like that, at least not in my life. So every scene was just a little unbelievable for me. It wasn't until the end of the book, when Penn is talking about the fairy tale he's getting published that I realized that I was taking the whole narrative structure too seriously. I thought I was reading a literary fiction but I was reading an adult fairy tale. Even once I realized that though, I wanted the darkness of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale and, instead, I got a Disney story. This isn't a bad book, by any means. The story was funny and touching. I laughed out loud quite often while listening to it and, even though it's a little too cookie cutter, Frankel got a lot right about parenting. I really enjoyed the bedtime story that Penn tells the kids throughout the story and how that all ends up by the end of the book. I thought it was a cute touch and I can appreciate meta-stories. I think this story could probably be useful for a lot of people, especially if you don't understand how someone could be trans or love trans or accept trans people. For me though, it felt a little self-congratulatory (the author has a trans kid) and unrealistic. If you want to learn more about transgender people but don't necessarily want to hear about the horrible reality of being trans in America, then I recommend this book. Or, if you want a little fluff in your reading pile, this is for you.
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  • Barbara
    January 1, 1970
    WOW!!! I found this novel amazing: amazing domestic fiction, amazing literature, amazing subject matter. I urge all readers who read to learn of the human condition; who read to consider ideas; who read to change your perspective on the world; who read for the love of reading to read this novel.It’s a story of a family with five boys, and these boys are hilarious and rambunctious. The mother is an Emergency Physician and the father is an unpublished novelist and stay-at-home Dad. Both parents ha WOW!!! I found this novel amazing: amazing domestic fiction, amazing literature, amazing subject matter. I urge all readers who read to learn of the human condition; who read to consider ideas; who read to change your perspective on the world; who read for the love of reading to read this novel.It’s a story of a family with five boys, and these boys are hilarious and rambunctious. The mother is an Emergency Physician and the father is an unpublished novelist and stay-at-home Dad. Both parents have been strong in their parenting that each child can be whatever they want to be when they grow up. Find your passion, work hard at it, and you and be whatever you desire. The youngest boy wants to be a Princess. If he can’t be that, he wants to be a girl. What I loved most about the novel is the honesty in the parental struggle of allowing your child to express himself and protecting him. Every parent can identify those days when the scariest part of your day is when your child leaves the safety of your home and goes out in public. All children are eccentric; that’s what makes them wonderful. How the world responds to each child’s eccentricities is a crap shot. Another piece to this novel that I found enlightening is how schools and administration respond to transgender children. What I previously determined as reasonable responses became glaringly clear that many are fraught with complications. What I enjoyed was the domestic fiction piece: how this affects the other children in the family. How this affects parenting and each parent’s individual struggle. Plus it is an enjoyable read of parenting boys and parenting five children.In this novel, the author chose to have the family keep the biological gender of the youngest boy a secret. Author Laurie Frankel explores how secrets eat at each family member; the struggle and anguish of keeping this secret. What Frankel was able to do in this novel is show that this family is every family. We can all identify with the chaos of raising children, of parenting, of marriage. It’s domestic fiction at it’s best. The added bonus is the enlightening piece. There is no political message in this novel. The message is the struggle of parenting, working, and keeping the marital bond. This is a beautiful story of a family.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    Maybe just a little too preachy, and a little too neat. I suspect that: a vast majority of transgender children do not have such understanding and accommodating parents and siblings, most families with transgender children can not afford to move a few states away to a neighborhood of their choice in the hopes of escaping discrimination, and it is not nearly as simple for even a young child to "pass" as a different gender in a new school system for several years without being discovered (as this Maybe just a little too preachy, and a little too neat. I suspect that: a vast majority of transgender children do not have such understanding and accommodating parents and siblings, most families with transgender children can not afford to move a few states away to a neighborhood of their choice in the hopes of escaping discrimination, and it is not nearly as simple for even a young child to "pass" as a different gender in a new school system for several years without being discovered (as this novel would suggest). And, once that cat is out of the bag, most families won't be conveniently taking their transgender child on an escape to Thailand so they can experience a culture where transgender is more acceptable, and that child is unlikely to be immediately accepted back so casually at the school dance once he or she returns. But this is a work of fiction. And it's probably time for more books that address this difficult subject.
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  • Ali Edwards
    January 1, 1970
    I feel a whole lot of love for this story. For the characters, for the message of acceptance and inclusion, for the nuances of the middle-path. Highly recommended.
  • Eilonwy
    January 1, 1970
    Rosie and Penn Walsh-Adams are living a fairy tale, raising four boys in a farmhouse just outside Madison, Wisconsin. Rosie makes a good living as an ER doctor, and Penn is a house-parent while he works on his “damned novel,” known as the DN. Then they decide to have a fifth child. Claude appears to be another boy -- but he isn’t like any little boy his parents, or anyone else around them, expected. Because nothing and no one has prepared Rosie and Penn for a son who wants to wear dresses and sw Rosie and Penn Walsh-Adams are living a fairy tale, raising four boys in a farmhouse just outside Madison, Wisconsin. Rosie makes a good living as an ER doctor, and Penn is a house-parent while he works on his “damned novel,” known as the DN. Then they decide to have a fifth child. Claude appears to be another boy -- but he isn’t like any little boy his parents, or anyone else around them, expected. Because nothing and no one has prepared Rosie and Penn for a son who wants to wear dresses and swim in a bikini, and who draws himself as a princess. Where do I start in praising this book? How about the love. This is a book about parenting, and Rosie and Penn are awesome as they navigate the always-unknown and unpredictable territory of raising children. Their struggle to try to do the “right” and “best” things for their kids -- if only they knew what was right and best; if only right and best for one child was always also good for the other four -- kept my heart thudding with shared anxiety, but also filled to bursting with the unwavering love that infuses every page of this novel. How about the thoroughness? The story manages to cover a lot of ground about transgender children and experiences without ever reading like a manual or being heavy-handed. It’s all put into short but insightful scenes that illustrate different reactions and responses (not everyone is as understanding about boys in dresses as Rosie and Penn), or possibilities and potentials (hormone blockers or not? When should a person “have” to decide on a gender? Should there only be two choices?). The story also presents openness versus secretiveness, and how secretiveness weighs on individuals and a family. How about the writing? Oh, wow, the writing in this book is just so, so good. For one thing, I didn’t actually intend to read this when I did. I thought I’d just look at the first page, since I do that with most of my new library books. But once I’d read the chapter title -- and the first sentence -- and then the first paragraph, there was no stopping. The mood and the tone are perfect. The pacing is perfect. The little writerly insights from Penn are delightful (I especially loved how Penn tells the boys a never-ending fairy tale as a bedtime story, and how he works in their actual problems and challenges and presents them with potential solutions while never failing to keep it entertaining). My one concern with this book is that I’m not sure how I would see it if I were a transgender person myself, with parents less understanding than Rosie and Penn. I think I might have sobbed the whole way through, and possibly found it unbearable. (One statistic from this book that will stick with me: 40%+ of transgender children and adults attempt suicide at some point. 40%! That’s a lot of misery and pain reflected in that number.) I could go on for many more words about what an incredible story this is. But I think it’s better if everyone just finds out for themselves. I have to plug Kelly’s review, because she convinced me to run straight to the library and grab this. I got it right off the New Books shelf, but I’ll bet there will be a wait list soon.
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  • Alaina Meserole
    January 1, 1970
    This is How It Always Is was a pretty good book. It was a lot more insightful to read than I thought it would be because it dealt with the struggles that a transgender goes through. However, it's not one person dealing with this struggle, no it's friends, families, and loved ones. This book provided the good and the bad and the ugly of it all. Not everything goes has planned because sometimes decisions can bite you in the ass.I absolutely loved the beginning of this book. It just grabbed my atte This is How It Always Is was a pretty good book. It was a lot more insightful to read than I thought it would be because it dealt with the struggles that a transgender goes through. However, it's not one person dealing with this struggle, no it's friends, families, and loved ones. This book provided the good and the bad and the ugly of it all. Not everything goes has planned because sometimes decisions can bite you in the ass.I absolutely loved the beginning of this book. It just grabbed my attention instantly and I was really curious to see how this was all going to play out. More and more people are coming out as transgenders to this day and I am in full support of their decision. Who am I to judge them or tell them who they can or can't be? However, the book did have some flaws. To me at least because I didn't think some of things happening were realistic. Again, just in my eyes. Everyone has different opinions and experiences and I've never gone through this before. Before you yell at me after reading this review, I just think that if a person decides to go through with this big decision.. that they wouldn't just give up when things got tough. Life is tough and it always will be. Never back down from that. Suck it up and put your big human pants on and go make the world your bitch. In the end, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the overall message from it. I'm a firm believer that you should love your child no matter what. I have no children at the moment but I'm sure as hell going to support them in any decision they want.. unless it's murder. I also absolutely loved Claude from beginning to end.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsThis is How It Always Is was well on its way to being a 5 star read for me. I LOVED parts 1 and 2. But after that, the book kind of fell off the rails for me. Part 3 just didn't seem to mesh well with the rest of the book. Part of why I liked the first parts of the book so much were the interactions between all the siblings and their parents. When those were absent for Part 3, it just felt like it was missing something.I also felt like it all just wrapped up too tidy in the end, which i 3.5 starsThis is How It Always Is was well on its way to being a 5 star read for me. I LOVED parts 1 and 2. But after that, the book kind of fell off the rails for me. Part 3 just didn't seem to mesh well with the rest of the book. Part of why I liked the first parts of the book so much were the interactions between all the siblings and their parents. When those were absent for Part 3, it just felt like it was missing something.I also felt like it all just wrapped up too tidy in the end, which isn't representative of real life. For example, while it was lovely gesture, would a 10 year boy really ask a 10 year old Claude/Poppy to dance and risk the ridicule of his friends and classmates? Seems doubtful. Despite the issues mentioned above, I would still recommend this book even though it was bumped down to a 3.5 star read for me.
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  • Louise Wilson
    January 1, 1970
    Rosie & Penn have 5 sons. Then one day, the youngest son, Claude, announces he should have been born a girl, and wants to be known as Poppy.The story is so current just now. We are hearing more and more of children who have been born the wrong gender. The author deals with the subject with a mixture of humour and honesty, but it's tactful at the same time. It covers transgender by expressing people's beliefs in such a young age. A beautifully written, honest look into transgender life.I woul Rosie & Penn have 5 sons. Then one day, the youngest son, Claude, announces he should have been born a girl, and wants to be known as Poppy.The story is so current just now. We are hearing more and more of children who have been born the wrong gender. The author deals with the subject with a mixture of humour and honesty, but it's tactful at the same time. It covers transgender by expressing people's beliefs in such a young age. A beautifully written, honest look into transgender life.I would like to thank NetGalley, Headline and the author Laurie Frankel for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • debra
    January 1, 1970
    I LOVED THIS BOOK!! I listened to the audio version and the NARRATOR WAS WONDERFUL, she became the embodiment of this totally splendiferous novel. Laurie Frankel really can write marvelously funny stuff as well as she writes about serious issues.Kelly(and the Book Boar) loved This Is How It Always Is in the same way that I did. She wanted to "marry it", and "sleep with it under her pillow", and "highlighted pretty much the entire thing." I agree with all of it, and also wanted to hug it until it I LOVED THIS BOOK!! I listened to the audio version and the NARRATOR WAS WONDERFUL, she became the embodiment of this totally splendiferous novel. Laurie Frankel really can write marvelously funny stuff as well as she writes about serious issues.Kelly(and the Book Boar) loved This Is How It Always Is in the same way that I did. She wanted to "marry it", and "sleep with it under her pillow", and "highlighted pretty much the entire thing." I agree with all of it, and also wanted to hug it until it fainted. Read Kelly(and the Book Boar)'s stellar review-The gifs she found are outstanding, and the quotes are wonderful! The gifs perfectly personify my exact feelings about the book at different times. Read her review,although I did cite many of her comments, there is so much more great content in her review.Read it!Trumpet blare (Larry will understand reason for trumpet)Larry H wrote a marvelous review with quotes from the novel. He was not quite as smitten as Kelly and I- he deducted 1/4 of a *- prob for ending- see his point, but gave it a pass- because the rest of the book was, IMO, that good. Notwithstanding the .25 of a* deduction, his review is wonderful!PS I posted how much I was loving this book when I first started it. I was a little concerned that I was prematurely ejaculating ( sudden spoken exclamation). I am happy to report that my ejaculation was not premature- I loved it!PPS In the future- I will try not to rewrite so much of the review that I am referring you to. I think know my "excite" for this book got the better of me. Sorry.
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  • Nigel
    January 1, 1970
    In brief. The idea and the principle behind this book - bringing up a child of uncertain gender - is excellent. Sadly the - for me - overly descritive writing made it hard for me to feel engaged. No more than 3 starThis is the story of Rosie, a doctor, and Penn, a writer. They have four boys and, wanting a girl, they have a fifth, Claude. From a very early age Claude is inclined towards not identifying as male. This is the story of the journey of Claude's parents and siblings dealing with Claude In brief. The idea and the principle behind this book - bringing up a child of uncertain gender - is excellent. Sadly the - for me - overly descritive writing made it hard for me to feel engaged. No more than 3 starThis is the story of Rosie, a doctor, and Penn, a writer. They have four boys and, wanting a girl, they have a fifth, Claude. From a very early age Claude is inclined towards not identifying as male. This is the story of the journey of Claude's parents and siblings dealing with Claude's identity issues.Initially I found the style of writing took a little getting used to. Equally there were a few Americanisations that I was not familiar with. The characters were all fairly credible and largely interesting. I found the outline of this story appealing. I'm pleased that this general topic is now being written about in mainstream literature. All credit to the author for tackling this subject and very openly. Claude's insistence on wearing female clothes very early on in school certainly presented challengesWhile the writing was perfectly good it was also very descriptive which slowed down the story for me. I found was never really fully engaged with the narrative unfortunately. It is not a bad read but some aspects of the story did strike me as less than credible. It is a pity because I do think the basic idea for this book is very good indeed. I notice that plenty of other readers find this a good story so it may simple be that it is a personal thing and I trust the book will be successful.Note - I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair reviewhttp://viewson.org.uk/fiction/always-...
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  • Bookworm
    January 1, 1970
    This Is How It Always Is was a thought-provoking, warm and touching book. At times it was quirky and made me laugh. It was not just about gender dysphoria but about unconditional love for one's children. The story focuses on Poppy née Claude's gender transformation as a young child and the impact this has on her family, self-identity and those around her. The author successfully crafts a narrative of what it's like to be a parent whose only wish is to protect their child out of love and caring a This Is How It Always Is was a thought-provoking, warm and touching book. At times it was quirky and made me laugh. It was not just about gender dysphoria but about unconditional love for one's children. The story focuses on Poppy née Claude's gender transformation as a young child and the impact this has on her family, self-identity and those around her. The author successfully crafts a narrative of what it's like to be a parent whose only wish is to protect their child out of love and caring and what happens when the cocoon is ripped open.The plot also includes short snippets of Poppy's father, Penn's, fairytale he has ritually told his children at bedtime throughout their lives The adventures of Grimwauld and Princess Stephanie mirror the challenges that each of his 5 children face as they grow up. Penn's hope is to provide guidance and acceptance with his fairytale as each child undergoes their own life struggles. Although I would not describe these bits as magical realism, they strayed from the main plot and took the reader into another dimension. Truth be told, I was less captivated by these bits than the actual narrative. In all, it was a fabulous read. There were aspects I never considered about gender dysphoria and I felt like I learned a lot. The author uses a 3rd perspective to tell the story, which worked well in this case. I would absolutely recommend this book to others looking for a heartwarming story.
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  • Martie Nees Record
    January 1, 1970
    I was told this needs a SPOILER ALERTFirst off, please excuse this review that was written in a New York minute. I’m off to Paris tomorrow and swamped with things to do. Okay, the message in the blurb was what attracted me to this novel. The story was about a brave and loving family that usually was in a hectic state from the responsibilities of raising five sons. Besides all the challenges that come with a large family, they were also struggling with the difficulties of bringing up a transgende I was told this needs a SPOILER ALERTFirst off, please excuse this review that was written in a New York minute. I’m off to Paris tomorrow and swamped with things to do. Okay, the message in the blurb was what attracted me to this novel. The story was about a brave and loving family that usually was in a hectic state from the responsibilities of raising five sons. Besides all the challenges that come with a large family, they were also struggling with the difficulties of bringing up a transgender child. The parents immediately noticed that their youngest son was different. He was sweeter, calmer and more sensitive than his older brothers ever were. He didn’t like to wrestle with them or blow things up, he would rather spend his time in a Cinderella coloring book. At the age of three, he started to ask his parents if he could wear a dress. They didn’t see any red flags because they thought, Don’t most children of both sexes want to wear their mom’s heels sometime in their early childhood? By the time he was five, they let him wear a dress at home but not to kindergarten, but it was so clear that this little boy did not want to be a boy.My heart broke for this child when he asked his parents, if when he grew up, would he finally be a girl. He was so miserable being a boy that both parents knew something needed to be done. With the help of the school’s social worker, his parents let him wear a dress, hair barrettes and all sorts of “girly” accessories to school. This was too confusing to all at the school and the poor kid had to use the nurse’s bathroom. The family decided to move from Wisconsin to Seattle, which is a more gay-friendly state. However, even in Seattle (where their little boy is now passing as a little girl) they still kept their secret, because they simply didn’t know how to explain the situation. Nevertheless their unhappy five-year-old son starts school as a very happy little girl.In the end-notes, we learn that the author has a transgender daughter, but she makes it clear that this is not her story. She does a wonderful job of raising awareness on gender dysphoria. But for me, the story read unrealistically. All the complications that would arise in such a family were too easily solved. All of her brothers were 100% supportive without any questions asked. At the age of ten, this child was “outed.” Of course the transgirl was devastated. So the mother, who is a doctor, takes her youngest child to Thailand on an excursion to work at a clinic there. Here the child is exposed to Buddah and discovers that Buddah could be a man or a woman. In Thailand, she meets many people who are genderless. The country is very accepting of all gender identities and she gets a big boost of encouragement and decides that it was time to go home and try school again. This is wonderful for the character, but let’s be realistic. Most moms wouldn’t be able to just pick up and go to a foreign country. Plus, the ending was so tidy, it should have been wrapped up in a bow. Back in the States, at her school (where now all know what is under her pants), she is completely accepted. At her first dance, she is asked to dance by a boy she has a crush on. It is doubtful to me that such acceptance would come so easily to children. How I wish this was true, and maybe one day soon, it will be. But in the year of 2017 it was hard to buy. I hope I’m wrong about this. This was a sweet story about a loving and wonderful family who would move mountains if that was what it took to raise a happy child. The story was more about how to be a loving parent to a transgender child, so I guess the book needed to be written. But, I found that the tale often went flat. (I actually started to skip the father’s fairytales created to help his daughter cope). For me, I much preferred the novels “Trans-Sister Radio” by Chris Bohjalian and “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides that were also on the subject of being transgender.Find all my reviews at https://books6259.wordpress.com/
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  • Elaine
    January 1, 1970
    I won a copy of This Is How It Always Is from a Goodreads Giveaway.One of my goals for 2017 is to write a review for every book I read on Goodreads so I can keep track of all the good books (always far and few in between) and the bad ones (always more than I can keep track of) and remember why (XYZ sucked) and why (ABC did not). Not surprisingly, I generally remember why XYZ was so bad and ABCs are rare, not truffle rare but not easy to find, like an alligator in the sewer.Right now, my track re I won a copy of This Is How It Always Is from a Goodreads Giveaway.One of my goals for 2017 is to write a review for every book I read on Goodreads so I can keep track of all the good books (always far and few in between) and the bad ones (always more than I can keep track of) and remember why (XYZ sucked) and why (ABC did not). Not surprisingly, I generally remember why XYZ was so bad and ABCs are rare, not truffle rare but not easy to find, like an alligator in the sewer.Right now, my track record is not looking so good; the latter is winning but hey, its still early. Maybe I should have added "Optimism" to my 2017 Goals List as well.But I'm happy to say that finally, finally, in only the second week of the first month of the new year, I have a great review to write!Happy happy happy dance!!!A part of me went into This Is How It Always Is with a little trepidation because I watch the news and I'm not ignorant to the terrible obstacles and ignorance the LGBT community faces each day.But I was surprised (in a good way!) and that happens too rarely in my life. This Is How It Always Is is not just about a transgirl and how her identity impacts her family but its really about love. If that sounds corny, you can bite me.And its about all kinds of love.The love between a doctor/wife/mother and her writer/father/husband; the love and loyalty of a family for their daughter/sister, the love that comes from acceptance and understanding; the love of a culture and religion that just accepts you for who you are, not what you are; the love that comes from a weird, odd, quirky family that defies convention because let's face it, normal is overrated and there's no such thing, not in 2017, not now, not ever. We are all wonderful, weird and strange and our families are no different, no less troubled, no less special and crazy. I loved the Walsh-Adams brood, all the brothers and their laughable antics and funny idiosyncrasies; the loving parents, how refreshing to meet a couple who have chemistry and compatibility, I could feel their love for each other and the love they have for their ever growing family; and yes, I could empathize and understand their fears, struggles and angst. I wanted to be a part of their family, the loud and tightly knit Walsh-Adams, not conventional in any way and that's fine by me. I wanted them to adopt me, I wanted to listen to their random conversations and bask in their unconditional love and acceptance, not the acceptance that just is because they are your family and they have to accept you but the understanding that comes from not understanding what is happening to a beloved child, the gradual understanding that comes with life experience, listening not just to your own heart and soul but to others who can relate and impart invaluable advice, and to realize that sometimes it is wrong to shelter, to keep it in, to run away and hide because the problem will still be there. That you may not have all the answers but if you keep looking and do your best, it will get better.In the end, we all have to embrace who we are (or try our best to), to step into the light and take what life will throw back at us because in the end, as long as you have the love and support of your family and good friends, you truly can survive anything.This has been the most fun review to write (so far) and I certainly hope it won't be the last.
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  • Cody | codysbookshelf
    January 1, 1970
    Gender dysphoria. It's a controversial topic that makes some people uncomfortable; Laurie Frankel tackles it head-on in This Is How It Always Is, a relatively short novel (it clocks in at about 320 pages) about a young boy, Claude, who feels he is a girl and desires to live the life of one. The story largely focuses on the family structure: Claude is the youngest of five kids — all boys — and was borne to two progressive, understanding parents. But all the liberalism and understanding in the wor Gender dysphoria. It's a controversial topic that makes some people uncomfortable; Laurie Frankel tackles it head-on in This Is How It Always Is, a relatively short novel (it clocks in at about 320 pages) about a young boy, Claude, who feels he is a girl and desires to live the life of one. The story largely focuses on the family structure: Claude is the youngest of five kids — all boys — and was borne to two progressive, understanding parents. But all the liberalism and understanding in the world cannot solve every problem. True gender dysphoria, as Claude has, is confusing and scary and causes a lot of trouble. Frankel does not shy away from it; instead, she shines a bright light on the issue and dares the reader to look, to feel. I enjoyed this read. I loved every moment spent with Claude (or Poppy, the name he takes after his transformation) and the rest of the family; they were a joy to read about. I must admit, however, the parents and others felt a little too understanding at times. I mean, yeah, there were conflicts here and there, but by and large this family is wholly accepting of this phenomenon that is more common than folks would care to admit. Perhaps I felt a bit of disconnect because I'm from the south. High-level tolerance and understanding is rare around here. Maybe it's different in Wisconsin (and later, Washington), which is where this story takes place. I dunno. It just felt a little unrealistic to me. Maybe? I'm giving this 3.5 stars. It was a good, provocative read, but it is not without issues. Some of the peripheral characters are total ciphers; the whole Thailand plot is random and almost pointless; the ending is almost too tidy. Still, I would recommend this one for its wonderful message alone, despite its blemishes.
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