“In each picture, Claude seemed to be shrinking. He had a big family, yes, so it was hard to fit everyone on the page, and he was the littlest of them, true, but Claude got smaller and smaller.”
Penn and Rosie always wanted a daughter. But as life would have it—they had five sons. But one night their youngest, Claude informs them that he’d like to be a little girl when he grows up. While their
son is advanced, particularly in his vocabulary, they still write this off as the innocent musings of a preschooler. But Claude is persistent. He wants to wear dresses, and bikinis, and grow his hair. Caught between what is safe and what is right, Penn and Rosie try to curb their son’s wants, allowing him to exhibit his feminine side only at home. But soon they realize what this is doing to their child and revaluate. They decide to allow Claude to lead the way and show them how he most feels like himself. Before long, quiet, lonely Claude has disappeared and Poppy has replaced him—a happy, charismatic girl, with a penis.
“Maybe the transition from Claude had been daunting and fraught, but here was Poppy, loved, friended, present, no longer disappearing off the page.”
Poppy and her family navigate this new normal they have created, sometimes bumping up against societal pressure, moving away from dangerous situations, adjusting to life with a sister rather than another brother, and eventually having to confront “that one thing” and what decisions need to be made to ensure Poppy can life a safe and happy life.
“This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of your kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands. Who trusts you to know what’s good and right and then to be able to make that happen. You never have enough information. You don’t get to see the future. And if you screw up – if with your incomplete contradictory information you make the wrong call – nothing less than your child’s entire future and happiness is at stake. It’s impossible. It’s heartbreaking. It’s maddening. But there’s no alternative.”
There is a lot of this book that made me feel sad—but I wouldn’t say it was as sad book. It was a tough book that covers tough topics and tough situations. But by the end it was so hopeful. It shows the true struggle of parenthood, especially when what is best for your child may also put them at the most risk. I like that it approaches transgender identity from many different perspectives, not only the person, but her parents, brothers, teachers, and peers. While transitioning is a very personal experience, it is not something that happens in a vacuum and it was interesting to see the ripple effect, both good and bad. I think it was an incredible honest and true account. It was heavier than most things I read, but I did enjoy it and highly recommend it. It’s they type of book that grants you perspective and opens a window to a world you might not normally have access to.
This book qualifies as my “They/She/He” Bingo Square: The entire story revolves around gender nonconformity.