‘This is Claude
He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter.
He also loves wearing a dress, growing his hair long, and dreams of being a princess.’
This is How It Always Is is a novel by American writer Laurie Frankel. Published by Headline Review in February 2017, this is a novel that will rip at your heartstrings, so be prepared!!
I was so so lucky to receive an advance copy of This Is How It Always Is from Caitlin Raynor of Headline publishing and feel very honoured to have been given the opportunity to read such a very special book.
Please continue reading for my full thoughts…
Rosie and Penn always wanted a daughter. Four sons later, they decide to try one last time – and their beautiful little boy Claude is born. Life continues happily for this big, loving family until the day when Claude says that, when he grows up, he wants to be a girl.
As far as Rosie and Penn are concerned, bright, funny and wonderful Claude can be whoever he or she wants. But as problems begin at school and in the community, the family faces a seemingly impossible dilemma: should Claude change, or should they and Claude try to change the world?
Warm, touching and bittersweet, THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS is a novel about families, love and how we choose to define ourselves. It will make you laugh and cry – and see the world differently.
With very mixed emotions I write this review…
There have been times, I am ashamed to admit, I have been quite dismissive of Gender Dysphoria. How prevalent is it really in our society? Is it a choice or is it just like any other illness that possibly can be cured? These and many more questions have run through my mind as I have tried to get my head around the true meaning of it.
Wikipedia defines Gender Dysphoria as ‘(distress) a person experiences as a result of the sex and gender they were assigned at birth. In these cases, the assigned sex and gender do not match the person’s gender identity, and the person is transgender.’
What I will say, for me, is that all the definitions in the world really mean nothing.
To truly start to understand Gender Dysphoria as a lay person, I recommend you read the following article from the New York Times, written by Laurie Frankel about her own child
Then, I recommend you pick up a copy of This Is How It Always Is and get a glimpse, though fictional, of a much broader picture.
‘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?
Never. Not ever. Not once. You never know. You only guess. This is how it always is….It’s impossible. It’s heartbreaking. It’s maddening. But there’s no alternative.’
What a wonderful snippet of conversation between parents, Rosie and Penn, as they try to come to terms with how to move forward with some very difficult decisions.
Up to this point Penn and Rosie and all their boys have managed.
Claude, their five-year-old boy, loves nothing better than dressing up as a fairy. As parents, Penn and Rosie have spoken in depth about how best to deal with this and, up to this point, they have let Claude wear what he wishes and when.
Is it a phase? Will he grow out of it? Questions any parent would have.
Yes, life has been complicated, but as a family they have all adapted well. But things are now changing. Claude is about start school and the foreseen difficulties of Claude dressing in girls clothes while attending school, has raised it’s inevitable head.
The school are quite willing to adjust and comply with any decision taken by Penn, Rosie or Claude but it is the wider picture that causes them all concern
What happens when kids start calling him names? Will Claude be bullied? Will he be treated differently to the other children? How will he adapt to this new world? Will his brothers be bullied by association?
So begins a very emotional journey of joy and pain, of life-changing decisions and beautiful family moments.
Laurie Frankel, in my eyes, is beyond brave to have written such a book. She has put her family in the spotlight in a way many of us could never truly imagine.
Although, the characters in this book are fictional, I feel that we are, in part, witnessing many real-life experiences that Laurie Frankel and her family endured and no doubt will continue to endure for quite some time.
This Is How It Always Is is an inspirational and captivating novel. It is a very unique and elegantly written story, every sentence, every word written with such care and such love.
I’m getting goosebumps even as I write this and I sincerely wish Laurie Frankel and her family all the joy in the world.
This Is How It Always Is is quite simply a novel that everyone should read. I’ll leave you with this quote
‘I just feel a little sad. Sad isn’t bleeding. Sad is okay’~ Claude Age 5
Purchase Link : This Is How It Always Is
Meet Laurie Frankel:
Laurie writes novels (reads novels, teaches other people to write novels, raises a small person who reads and would like someday to write novels) in Seattle, Washington. She and her husband and daughter she live on a nearly vertical hill from which Laurie can watch three different bridges while she’s staring out her windows between words.
She’s originally from Maryland and makes good soup.
Laurie’s earlier novels are ‘The Atlas of Love’ and ‘Goodbye for Now’. ‘This is How it Always Is’ is her third novel.