Book Review – This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

My Opinion:

This book is heartfelt, honest, and eye-opening.

This Is How It Always Is does a fantastic job of helping us understand what gender dysphoria is and isn’t. On the outside it would appear that this book is about Claude, who was born a boy, but identifies with being a girl, Poppy. In reality this book is actually about the entire family and how gender dysphoria affects everyone in the family, not just Claude aka Poppy.

I feel that in order to do this book justice I would take a different approach with my review. I decided to highlight a few quoted passages that I found especially profound.

“I have to wear my dress.”

“Sweetheart, you cannot wear that dress to preschool.”

“Why not? Josie wears a dress to preschool. Taya and Pia and Annlee wear dresses to preschool.”

“Is that why you want to wear a dress? Because all your friends wear dresses?”

“I guess,” Claude guessed. “And tights.”

“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. 

Five years of Orion wearing all manner of weird stuff to school had occasioned not so much as a raised third eyebrow from anyone. “What an imaginative boy Orion is,” his teachers said. “His spirit brightens everyone’s day.” If an eyeball sticker was creative self-expression, surely Claude should wear what he wanted to school. How could you say yes to webbed feet but no to a dress, yes to being who you were but no to dressing like him? 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?

“Did you have fun?” Rosie tucked the sheets in all around the corners of the bed. It was too warm for a blanket.

“So much,” said Poppy, and Penn and Rosie both looked hard at their baby, so fervent was this reply. “No one here knows. They say she and they say her, and it’s like they’re not even pretending, you know?”

“They’re not,” Penn said.

“It’s like I’m not even pretending too.” Poppy’s eyes were closing, sleepy-happy.

“Well, no one here knows who we really are,” said Rosie.

“No, it’s the opposite.” Her daughter shook her head happily. “It’s like they know exactly.”

“You have only to tell me: who do you want to be?”

“It doesn’t matter who I want to be.”

“Nothing matters but,”  Rosie insisted.

“It only matters who I am.”

“And who is that?”

“Claude.” He spat the name. “I have to be Claude.”

“You don’t, sweetheart-”

“I do. Claude is my punishment.”

Laurie Frankel had a little boy, that is now a little girl. She makes it clear that this is not her story, nor her daughter’s story. She clearly has had many experiences with gender dysphoria and uses that as a jumping off point to write this terrific book.

This book is thought provoking, vulnerable, and done with a sense of humor. I highly recommend this book to everyone, regardless of your genre preference. Not everyone will like it or agree with it, but my hope is that everyone that reads it will have a little more insight into gender dysphoria.

*If you enjoy audio books I highly recommend this one for your listening pleasure. I listened to this book, via Overdrive, over the past few weeks. I also have the hardback version so I was able to mark passages that I liked.

My Rating: 5/5

Genre: Fiction

Series: None

Publisher: Flatiron

Publication Date: 1/24/2017

Pages: 327 (Audio and Hardback)

Have you read this book?

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Happy Reading!

16 thoughts on “Book Review – This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

  1. I just picked this up at the library but I’m also going to see if I can get it on audiobook since I’m in need of something for driving and house cleaning times:) Great review, I love that you used quotes, it gave me a good idea of the writing style

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve only done maybe three audio books in my life and feel like I hit a homerun with this one! I working on warming up to them. Next month I’m going to try Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine while on vacation, I though it may be a good one for the flight 🙂


  2. fascinating Sounding book. I know this is something I have seen TV shows on and what children go through to be themselves is very brave and what the parents do to support them very loving. I really would like to read this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review. I also loved This Is How It Always is. Frankel gave her readers SO much to think about and did it in such a gentle way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I so want to read this book!
    Yvo referred me here after she discovered this book via your review and I discovered the book on her blog so… Thank you for the quotes and the review… I shall add this book to my list!

    Liked by 1 person

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