Video Book Review: This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Watch my video review of This is How it Always Is and other Read Remark reviews on my YouTube / Booktube channel here.

One-sentence summary:

Rosie and Penn aren’t new to parenting, so it’s surprising when their fifth son, Claude, declares he wants to be a girl when he grows up.

Rosie and Penn, the parents of This is How it Always Is, are already experts at parenting. Claude is their fifth go at it, another boy to add to the pile. But Claude is different.

When they discover their son identifies as a girl, their reactions exemplify the best-case scenario. They’re open-minded. They seek expert help. They work with the school to find solutions. They love and protect Claude as he becomes Poppy.

But even with the best intentions, it’s astonishingly difficult. The parents doubt themselves and each other. Poppy is still taunted. The brothers struggle with the juxtaposition of feeling pride in their sister and keeping her identity secret.

Every decision is both right and wrong.

In the middle is Poppy, this brilliant little kid whose childhood is tainted by people’s reactions.

Expectant parents often play an imaginary “what would you do?” game, thinking of how they would face different scenarios.

What will you do if your kid is gay?

What if he has a debilitating disease?

What if he’s a bad seed?

What if he’s a genius?

What if he becomes addicted to drugs?

What if he identifies as a she?

Smug parents may think they’ve considered all the options and know exactly how to react. These are, after all, plausible things that can and do happen in families every day. Others think they can prevent any of these scenarios from happening in the first place through the power of their parenting.

And then there are the scenarios no one considers because they’re too extreme to be possible.

Truth is, parents can never know how they’d react to a situation until they’re actually faced with it. And even then, it takes time to figure out the right reaction.

We’ve conquered so many types of discrimination and live now in a world where people’s identities are celebrated. It’s no longer taboo to be a different race or religion or have a different sexual preference.


Unfortunately, the trans community is still left out of the “full acceptance” circle.

They’ve been gaining support, but the prospect of transitioning to one’s true gender, or even identifying that gender as a child, is still fraught with drama and criticism.

Even in the best case scenario, such as the one Claude/Poppy is born into, the road can be treacherous. This is How it Always Is gives it a relatable human face.

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