Book Review

This Is How It Always Is


What should a parent do when her three-year-old son announces that he’s a girl and then validates it by dressing the part, acting the part, dreaming the part?

I was drawn to this book for its premise, but only until I started reading.  Then the style, the sensitivity, the sheer goodness of its characters took over and held me rapt.

The meaning of the title is spelled out early on – that parenting involves making decisions without ever fully knowing whether what you’re doing is right.  It’s trying to do what is best for your child with a roadmap that is murky and often shifting.  “You never know,” the dad says during one soulful discussion with the mom. “You only guess.  This is how it always is.”  Is there anything more true?

This Is How It Always Is explores an issue that is as current as any.  My grandchildren are in three different states and twice as many different classrooms, but in each of those classrooms, there is at least one child with gender dysphoria.  This Is How It Always Is tells of one such child and the efforts of his parents, his four brothers, and grandmother to accommodate his need to be a she.  The story is at times painful, at times joyful, but always presented with such knowledge, such wit, such classiness and spunk that I found myself smiling in admiration time and again.

The author, Laurie Frankel, swears this is a work of fiction, though she acknowledges that she has a child who used to be a boy and is now a girl.  I read this in the Author’s Note, only when I was done reading the book, and while I do believe that she and her child are not these specific characters, her personal experience surely informs the emotions presented.  Hand in hand with that, though, goes exquisite writing.  Frankel’s style is witty and sweet, honest and crisp, thoughtful and thought-provoking.

I often write about reaching forks in the road and having to turn left or right.  This Is How It Always Is suggests that there are times when neither right nor left works and, instead, you have to go straight ahead, through the great unknown of the middle.  Think about it.

This Is How It Always Is is one of the best books I’ve read in months.  It is a story with an ending that isn’t really an ending, simply a point en route to something more.  I highly recommend it.

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