I wrote in my review on Goodreads that this is a book to read for all parents and their friends and teacher and really for everyone. It is worth and very important to read stories of so big and important topic of gender dysphoria in that genius way Laurie Frankel did.
Author has a son who, in first grade, decided he was a girl. Is this book a real story then? Laurie Frankel answer straight: “This story is fiction, pretend. […] Writing a novel is like making soup. The base is a broth we make up wholesale - for instance, I have one child, not five, and am not only not a doctor but, in fact, I made woozy by paper cuts. Then, to that entirely made-up broth, we add a sprinkling of research, some chunks of childhood memories, a handful of sautéed morels overheard at the playground, a few diced bits we weren’t planning on but turned out to need depth of flavour, and some finely chopped pieces of our own lives. Simmer until all the disparate parts mellow and blend but still enhance and augment one another. This is how you cook novel. Some made up, some real life, all true“.
This answer question I think for all the stories when we ponder if that is or could be true. But coming back to This Is How It Always Is, this is, thanks to a base writer’s experience with his own child, a story which could not be more true and realistic.
Yet it is a beautiful story of Rose - a doctor, and Penn - a writer who are trying to bring up their five boys. They live in Seattle, where they decided to move in order to start a new life with new identity for their youngest child, then already Poppy - a very happy 5 years old girl with penis in her pants.
They accept, love and try to understand everything what is going on in Poppy’s head. Rose as a doctor is more pragmatic with feet on the ground when her husband is a writer and dreamer. He researches penis - masking underwear which Poppy could wear for ballet, thinking about her future in the school sport teams and research plastic vagina.
All family with teenage boys demonstrate kindness and love and Rosie and Penn wisdom creates a family full of trust and real values.
But not acceptance of family can help Poppy to find her true herself. There is also a tension hanging over all them, as they had decided to not tell anyone around them about Poppy, but they know that world outside is not so tolerant like they are. Poppy needs to get through all her doubts and the questions about identity in gender dysphoria is something what we tend to read more often but still need to learn a lot about it. And this story is very inspiring, open-minding and moving.
I guess some people might think that this book is controversial but we should not avoid such a moving topics. I really enjoyed relationship Rosie and Penn had, they doubts, conversations and love to each other. Or when they woke up in the night as some kid screamed and they were happy that this was NOT their kid :) Or Penn’s never ending and constantly growing concerns about his children: “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?”
This Is How It Always Is is a well written book, funny yet very smart and full of touching moments, which I truly enjoyed and would recommend to read if you need to beat a reading slump or just for getting to know really lovely author.
I recommend also to watch this video where William Kenower interviews Laurie Frankel and she talks about writing process.
Date published: 28 January 2018
Publisher: Flatrion Books, Kindle Edition, 338 pages
Genre: Fiction, LGBT, Contemporary
ISBN: ISBN-10 9781472241610
Reviewer: Monika Barrera
Review rating: 4.5/5