This Is How It Always Is

In light of recent strides by the transgender community in the U.S., Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is, which charts how a child born Claude becomes Poppy, comes at the perfect time. But unlike TV shows like Transparent, in which an adult transitions after years in hiding, This Is How It Always Is depicts the moments before, tracking how Poppy and her parents navigate gender-fluidity and whether she should undergo hormone therapy or surgery, or remain as she is.

Rosie and Penn are learning how to support their trans child even as they raise Poppy's four older brothers, now going through puberty and teenage angst. Frankel (Goodbye for Now) nicely mixes typical issues of growing up with those that may concern a trans child, giving a full sense of a family not so much in shambles as having to figure everything out all at once. The novel is careful not to take sides as the parents' opinions diverge in how to best raise Poppy, instead showing how a middle way may be the best option. Frankel's handling of Rosie and Penn's family rightfully shows how Poppy is simply another member of their little clan, with her own worries. That is ultimately the sly and charming point: how normal Rosie, Penn and Poppy's struggles truly are. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

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