Rosie and Penn are a doctor and a writer, and loving parents to a big family of boys. Five boys to be exact. When their youngest, Claude, turns five, he tells his parents that he wants to be a girl when he grows up. On his own, Claude begins changing into a dress after school every day. One day, Claude decides he is ready to wear his dress to kindergarten. Frankel takes us through this family’s journey as Claude moves through elementary school and becomes an adolescent. During this time, Rosie and Penn grapple with how to best to let their young child express himself, while ultimately trying to protect him from others who may not understand.
I won’t give away what happens, but I will say that I found this book to be intensely poignant and interesting. This Is How It Always Is asks so many of the questions that keep parents up at night. Who is my child? How do I help my children love and appreciate their unique gifts? How do I keep my children safe when the world isn’t always a kind place?
While the author, Laurie Frankel, does have a transgender daughter in real life, the themes in this novel transcend gender identity or gender expression. No matter where someone falls on the issues, this novel ultimately tackles how and why families keep secrets, face fears, and either conform or create new ways of being in the world.