#bookreview – This Is How It Always Is – by Laurie Frankel

In a world where gender lines are slowly becoming more fluid, here is a book that explores all the subtlety involved in a family where one child appears to be transgender. Well worth reading this bestseller! Awarded four stars on Goodreads. But in truth, it’s more like 4.5 stars.

alwaysTwo loving parents, Rosie and Penn, are living in Wisconsin when they begin seeing signs that one of their five sons, Claude, may actually think of himself as a female. Thinking little of it initially, over time, they begin increasingly to address the complexities of making Clause feel ok about whatever he wants to be. And no surprise, it’s not easy.

There are teachers and administrators to deal with. There are the other children in the family who at times are more subject to the pressures exerted by their peers. There are other parents whose attitudes may not as accepting or liberal. And there is the huge task of weighing the needs of one child against those of the other six members of this family.

The questions are profound. Do they tell close friends or keep this a secret within the family? Should they move so that Claude can “start over” as a girl? What about balancing Rosie’s demanding career as an emergency room physician with the special needs of her family? And of course, the big question: what happens when puberty hits?

This novel covers a ten-year span and I think what I liked best, aside from the parents’ commitment to love Claude no matter what, was that despite how earnest and committed they are to do the right thing, being transgender is still a difficult path in today’s American society. Much more so than in some other parts of the world. I think this book helps to normalize the transgender experience, certainly makes it believable, and helps put this particular issue in the context as just one of many issues that all parents face as they try to raise responsible and caring human beings.

There’s a lot of humor in the writing. And wonderfully creative bedtime stories created by Penn (a writer) to help his children understand what is happening within their family. And I now feel I have more understanding of and am better sensitized to transgender people. For that reason alone, I highly recommend the book to everyone.

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