One Book, One Community is hosted each year by Vernon Area, Indian Trails,
and Cook Memorial public libraries. This winter’s series, the sixth annual, is
an opportunity to join your neighbors in reading and discussing This Is How It
Always Is by Laurie Frankel. The novel has drawn lots of praise, with the New
York Times Book Review calling it a “deeply satisfying...intimate family story.”
We had a chance to ask the author a few questions.
Q: Your writing centers on family — meeting challenges, making things work, come what may. Are there other authors with this focus who inspire you?
A: Some books I adore about families: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, The World According to Garp by John Irving, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (which famously starts off with musings on this very point), A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth L. Ozeki, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. There are threads of Shakespeare in all my novels, and Shakespeare (who, of course, is great on everything) is especially great on families.
Q: What are the challenges of portraying family dynamics in fiction today?
A: I love writing about families, especially unusual or nontraditional ones. I think, in fact, writing about families is getting easier rather than more challenging as we expand our definition of what and who we count as family. Of course family dynamics are endlessly complicated — by definition, they’re the people we’re stuck with, even if they’re people we’ve chosen to be stuck with — which sometimes makes for tough trips home or tough evenings around the dinner table or tough vacations but also makes for excellent novels.
Q: If a reader takes just one message from This Is How It Always Is, what would you like it to be?
A: Wider ranges of normal make the world better for everyone! Can you tell readers about the significance of the title? I can, but I can’t take credit for it. The line in the book is mine, but it was a sales rep reading an early draft who realized it wasn’t just a line but the titular line. It was certainly the idea with which I went into the book. Most parents won’t have a transgender child, but most parents will have a child who is sometimes gender nonconforming, and all parents will sometimes have a child who is nonconforming somehow.
Transgender kids are presented so often as so unusual and so anomalous, but in fact, I think this is how it always is. Every parent I know has had the experiences described in this novel, and if the particulars vary (and they do, endlessly) the core — that part where your kid needs something and you’re not sure what but you are sure you’ll go to the ends of the earth to do
the best you can to figure it out — remains the same.
A "One Book, One Community" finale event with author Laurie Frankel will take place on February 26. For more information, visit 1book.org or pick up a program booklet at the library.