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This Is How It Always Is

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Claude is the youngest of Penn and Rosie's five children. With five older brothers, Claude could be many things, but he is kind, loving, funny, and intelligent.  And Claude prefers to wear dresses.  At five years old, Claude doesn't understand why can't wear a dress to school. but his parents say that he can't.  He just knows that he would rather wear dresses than pants, he would rather do crafts than play video games, he would rather be a princess than a prince.   He would rather be called Poppy than Claude. When a tragedy strikes the community Rosie realizes that Poppy will not be safe in Wisconsin.  She packs up the whole family to move to Seattle, a region known for their tolerance.  From their first day in Seattle, they were known as the family with four boys and a daughter. Poppy was Poppy.  She had sleepovers with her best friends, she took dance lessons and wore dresses. While Poppy lived a happy and joyous childhood Penn and Rosie lived in fear of their secret being revealed. What would happen to their fragile little girl *if* her secret was revealed? What will happen to their daughter *when* the secret is revealed.

This Is How It Always Is is an excellent book about many things.  Love, tolerance, secrets, acceptance, sacrifice and more.   I really, really, liked this book.  Rosie and Penn are great parents, they love their kids and all of their quirks.   And with five kids, there are bound to be a lot of quirks.  They aren't perfect parents, but when their instincts tell them to move their family across the country, that is what they do.  The thing is they made it too easy for Poppy to be Poppy, so when the secret is revealed, she didn't know how to handle it.  It is only natural that a parent would want to protect her from the pain and emotional trauma that so many trans people experience, and for the most part, they are successful at shielding her, until they aren't. I know that there are a lot of people out there who will believe that Penn and Rosie did it TO Poppy, but hopefully, they will read this book and realize that they didn't do anything to Poppy other than love her and allow her to be herself.   I really loved how the author explored this topic from a loving and accepting place.  And I *love* how Reese Witherspoon selected it for her book club, because that exposed this book, this topic, to an audience that may not have picked up this book. And may have never read a book about this topic.

Bottom Line - I truly believe that lack of tolerance for those different stems from a lack of understanding more than anything else.   In her book, This Is How It Is, Laurie Frankel explores a topic that is often a polarizing one.  I hope that it can generate a lot of conversation in book clubs all over the county and maybe, just maybe, change some views on the topic.

This is How it Always is by Laurie Frankel
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Pages: 336
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: 1/24/17
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Don't even know where to begin with this one...give me time to figure out what I need to say...

*Fast Forward 1.5 week*

I loved this novel. I couldn't stop thinking about this novel for days on end. I wish so much that every family in the world was as amazing as this family. I wish that every child that felt different had a Nan that went out of their way to make them feel normal. I wish all schools were lead with forward thinking leaders that had the best interest of the children in mind. 

The truth is, I personally feel, that it's a vast minority that are like this.

I think I'm pretty open minded. Or at least I try to be. I feel as if I understand what some people must feel. Reading this novel...well, how naive was I? This book made me see some things from a totally different angle. Yes, it's one thing to hear an adult say that they always felt's another thing to actually see a young child going through something so difficult.

This book is so important. 

Again, the parents of this novel did an amazing job! I loved them so very much. The siblings, again, A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!!!! I know parents and families like this DO exist. 

However, if I had one complaint about this novel, it's that the parents did too great of a job. That the siblings were too amazing. That the school leaders were too brilliant. That they fellow students were too perfect.

I don't know. That sounds horrible. I so loved Claude and Poppy. THEY WERE VERY REAL TO ME...they broke my heart over and over again, and they gave me such joy as well. I want the happiness. I don't want them to be hurt. I understand they were hurt. However, as in real life, much of the hurt we feel as preteens/teens is in our mind. No, that doesn't make it less real. It's still a valid hurt. It's still a real hurt. I'm just saying that it wasn't as bad in the school for Claude and Poppy as they imagined it to be. The peer group in the school DID accept them. 

I don't think the real world is like that. I think it's just as bad as Claude/Poppy imagined it to think it's much worse. I don't want that to be true...but I am afraid it might be. 

That saddens me to say that maybe, for me...and families that are going through this...well...maybe the book was a small disappointment in that regards. It might be hard for the Poppy's in the real world to relate to such perfect families and friends, when their own family and friends are very different.

I don't want that to be true...I want the Poppy's of the world to be free to be themselves. I want them all to be happy at the end. 

I don't know how to reconcile this desire with the reality of so much of the world...

ARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review

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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.
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I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a book this much. Wickedly funny, thought-provoking, and with a big heart. I'm off to see what else Frankel has written . . .

Review copy provided by publisher.
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Rosie and Penn are parents who really showcase the struggle that all parents have, universally. No matter what issues or characteristics our children have, we want them to be happy and protected. That magic strength we have as parents to protect them and love them is  the closest thing to a super power that I imagine I will ever have. And I sense that same desire to protect from Rosie and Penn. I love their family dynamic. I was immediately among them as I started reading the book. I was so drawn in. I loved the character development, the foreshadowing as Claude was a baby about what his future may hold for him and  just witnessing the overall growth of the entire family. I think the topic at hand and Claude's life are a topic that we need to talk more about- the more we talk about gender roles, the more mainstream or less taboo it will become and that's the number one reason I will recommend this book. Because more people need to understand that gender identity is a topic we need talk about openly with empathy and a yearning to understand be accepting.
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2.5 stars. An interesting and timely topic for a novel.. I thought the author did a great job documenting Claude's journey over time as well as his personal growth. I felt I knew and understand Claude very well. It was the behavior of most of the other characters that I just couldn't buy. I realize the parents were portrayed to be loving, supporting and modern thinking people but I thought their easy acceptance of Claude's issues were totally unrealistic. The most accepting parent would still be blown away by the idea that their child had a gender issue. They seemed far too easily accepting and I just couldn't take those two characters seriously after that. I felt the author missed an entire section of the book by glossing over that huge issue. And I really didn't care for much of the dialogue.  I often felt like I was reading from a parenting magazine. On a more positive note, I thought the struggle of the mother to balance family and work was well done. Overall, I think  this just isn't the best style of author for me. I think many people will enjoy this book and will appreciate the sensitivity the author showed when writing the character of Claude/Poppy.
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Let me start my review by saying this book deserves 10 starts out of 5. Although this book deals primary with the issues that arise when a child is born s one sex but wants to be the other sex, it also deals with general issues that may arise when you want your child to be whatever he wants.  This books deals with many parenting issues with the seriousness they deserve and yet there is much humor throughout the story. I truly love how Laurie explored these many issues and feel this is a must read for all "want to be" parents.
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This is How it Always Is immediately grabbed me as a wonderful story about marriage and family. Yes, the plot is driven by the child with gender dysphoria, but each of the characters are imbued with such authentic detail that Penn, Rosie and their children ALL wormed their way into my heart. The minutiae of their family life felt so familiar and intimate: from the details like the names given for the kids rooms (the self proclaimed 'shark cave' or parent named POH for 'pit of hell'), to those terrifyingly familiar moments of parenting decisions.

"When was the last time something was bothering one of the kids or he was acting strange or he wasn't sleeping or doing well in math or sharing nicely during free-choice time, and we knew why?" "Knew why?" Rosie said. "Knew why. Absolutely knew what was wrong and what should be done to fix it and how to make that happen." "As a parent?" "As a parent." "Never?" "Never," Penn agreed. "Not ever. Not once. 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 to be able to make that happen. You never have enough information. You don't get to see the future." 

DAMN. This novel is full of these sharp observations about life as a parent and how everything affects the family as a whole. At times it almost felt like an editorial, but with great breadth and depth of emotion: I laughed, I cried, I clutched my hand to my heart. And, of course, it's a fascinating portrait of a transgender child - written by a parent of a transgender child. As progressive as I am, I felt like I learned SO MUCH and gained even more perspective on this timely issue. It is not at all heavy handed, but we can all learn from someone so brave to share a part of her story. You can read more about Laurie in this Seattle Times article.
It sparked great conversation at the dinner table with my husband and he directed me to this article he found enlightening from National Geographic, which is also worth a read.

Thank you NetGalley and Flatiron Publishing for an advance copy for my review. And, of course, to Laurie Frankel for sharing a version of your story, your truth - and hopefully changing the world.
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Secrets have a way of coming out, no matter how things seem to be good at the time. Penn and Rosie have a good life, a busy life. Penn is a writer, trying to hammer out a novel, or his DN (damn novel) as they call it. Rosie is an emergency room doctor. They have four sons and Rosie does all the “tricks” to conceive a boy. But, Claude is born. Claude is a smart child but there is something different about him. He loves to dress in girls’ clothes. He wants to be a girl. He IS a girl. They start him in school with everyone knowing that Claude is now Poppy. But things happen and Rosie thinks the best thing to do is move away from their farm home in Wisconsin to Seattle. Everyone is happy about the move except their oldest son Roo but they go and start life anew. When their neighbors tell them that they are not going to confuse their children and tell them the truth about Poppy, the family starts living a lie. But as we know, the truth eventually comes out. What lengths do parents go to protect their children? And what life lessons do we learn from out children?

This is such a beautifully written story about family, love and acceptance. When Rosie and Claude go to Thailand for a while, we see just how different our country is about acceptance than so many other ones. There is so much love threaded throughout the book whether it’s the brothers protecting Poppy, or Penn looking into Poppy’s future, or Rosie worrying about Poppy’s future, this family is love. Humor is a big factor in this family as is a wonderful fairy tale that Penn is writing all through the story, not realizing that this is his story.  A lot of warmth and love went into the writing of this book and I applaud Ms. Frankel for doing such an open, honest job. I look forward to reading more of her books.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This emotional and compelling novel takes on subject matter that is both timely and so, so important for us to read about. Frankel’s sharp and witty dialogue perfectly complements her deep exploration of tough personal, family, and societal issues. Powerful and captivating, Poppy’s story – and that of her family’s – will leave you doing some serious soul-searching, while giving you insight on the multitudes of ways children’s minds are at work. Each character is exquisitely drawn and woven into this tale, bringing them to life such a way that you cannot help but see yourself and those you love within them. Everyone, especially parents, should read this book. {Thanks to Flatiron Books & NetGalley}
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This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel is a compelling story about a big family and their transgender child. I didn’t know what it was about when I started it and I am definitely interested in reading more. That’s what I love about reading, the opportunity to step into the shoes of someone else and look at a situation through a different lens.

Here’s the scoop:

When Rosie and Penn and their four boys welcome the newest member of their family, no one is surprised it’s another baby boy. At least their large, loving, chaotic family knows what to expect.

But Claude is not like his brothers. One day he puts on a dress and refuses to take it off. He wants to bring a purse to kindergarten. He wants hair long enough to sit on. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.

Rosie and Penn aren’t panicked at first. Kids go through phases, after all, and make-believe is fun. But 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.
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This is an extraordinary book about an uncommon family dealing with an issue which is very much in the lens of our society. Penn and Rosie are the parents of four sons, but their fifth child is not like the others. Though physically a male, it becomes clear to the family that he is dealing with gender dysmorphia. 

Frankel describes a family trying to balance, love for all their children with the special needs of their much loved youngest   The family is forced to move in an attempt to protect their beloved Poppy, but when problems arise agin, Rosie (a physician) volunteers to work in Thailand and brings her confused child with her. They both learn lessons and build resilience to face their future. 

Of course, as an educator, I wish all children had parents as extraordinary as Penn and Rosie, but sadly few do. I direct a large urban teacher education collective and I am aware of the struggles faced by schools to give these children exactly what they need. This book will appear on all my future recommended lists.
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Wow, wow, WOW!!! In "This Is How It Always Is", Laurie Frankel tells the story of the Walsh-Adams family. The family consists of Rosie, a doctor; Penn, a would-be author and stay at home Dad; and their five boys. They are a busy, happy family, supportive of each other, dealing with the demands of work, and raising five young, rambunctious children. Their lives become much more complex when their youngest son, Claude, decides at age three that he'd rather be a girl. 

Frankel handles the complex issue of transgenderism with poise and grace. Her writing style pulls the reader in and makes you feel part of the family. She depicts the impact on the entire family, parents and brothers alike trying to find their way in how best to support their beloved child/sibling, while protecting her from the hurt and discrimination American society is ready to dish out.

This is an important, thought-provoking book, that makes us ponder what makes "us" us, why American society is uncomfortable dealing with sexuality that doesn't fit "the norm", and how that expectation of conformation affects so many individuals who don't fit "the norm" and their families. Frankel also shows how other societies and religions view transgender people.

I highly recommend this book to everyone, and wish it could be required reading. It definitely sticks with you long after the last page is turned. Very well done - kudos, Ms. Frankel!

Many thanks to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for allowing me to read an e-ARC of this amazing book.
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