I live in a small town, say 65,000 residents. It has good schools, lots of beautiful parks, (we even keep a naturalist on staff), great shopping, wonderful restaurants, … and of course, it goes without saying, nice, oh so very nice, people.
One would think.
Turns out, not so much.
One of our residents, Siah Fried, has written what I think is a very timely and amusing little book. Entertaining, but with a barbed edge, a sharp wit aimed at we parents. I mean, let’s face it, adults are simply kids with bigger egos and still larger paychecks. There are times when we act out. It’s not always pretty. Ms. Fried in her book Tales of Swankville takes aim at us all, herself included.
I enjoyed the book. Please note, Critics Corner, I actually read the book, unlike some, well, most of you. However, the blame and recriminations can wait for later, just scroll down if you are feeling frisky.
This morning I had no idea who Siah Fried was. I had never heard of Tales From Swankville. First, my walking partner brought the brew-ha-ha to my attention. Then a friend who writes for a local paper mentioned it. Naturally, once I was home I went straight to my computer and looked it up. Our local news outlet, The Patch, had published an article on the book. Then, as they say, the-you-know-what hit the fan.
I watched, first in delight (people discussing books, oh my- how fun!), then in growing mortification as the comments to the Patch website continued to be posted. I was horrified and when I’m saying the word I’m saying it like this, “hor-ri-FIED”.
Allow me to digress, as I so frequently do. Indulge me, my friends. This author has taken her observations over the last twelve years or so of child rearing, dealing with fellow parents, living in our town and then distilled them into a sort of Fractured Fairy Tales for the twenty-first century. It is a cautionary tale about parents who, though loving, go over the top, stage mom style. She recounts these fables of misguided suburban mentoring, parents acting out and then holds the mirror up to us all. What kind of parents are we? Who do we want to be? What could we do better? In fact, what could she do better?
I mentioned that she used her own observations. The experts tell us, “Write what you know”. So the author did. However, she made up an Anytown, USA. Her characters are composites. Her stories are essays, brief glimpses into her reality. There are no physical descriptions (well, I found two, both vague) and the characters are simply glimpses; we know nothing of their circumstances, their foibles or integral traits. It would seem; no harm, no foul.
Enter, The Neighbors. These people are shouting to the rooftops to anyone who will listen (or read online) that they are people mentioned in the book. These stories are about them. They have been spied upon, they have been victimized, their children have been mocked, their privacy invaded, in short, cry me a flipping river. The author does not mention, nor can one tell from reading the book, what town she was drawing her inspiration from. Of course, The Neighbors make sure to inform the world of that. I promise, because lordy, did I look, there’s no way to track down who these characters are- we simply don’t see enough of them. If you see yourself in this lighthearted urban fable then that says more about YOU and less about the author. As Yoda once told a young Luke Skywalker, the Cave holds only what you bring into it.
As for the kids, clearly, they’re the good guys. The book’s portrayal of children is very positive. They are the heroes and the victims. While we adults may blow it, it appears our kids are handling things far better than we are. (Well, thank goodness.)
Let’s get back to my, oh so lovely town, shall we? I really do love where I live. There’s nothing flippant about my tone when I say that. And there’s nothing flippant in my tone when I say, and I’m using small words on purpose:
I don’t care for bullies.
There is a modern-day lynching going on in my city. First, it was the author. She told a story that needed to be told, violated no one’s privacy and defended our children admirably. Her job has been attacked, her house has been egged and her kids are being targeted. I should specify, it is not other youngsters targeting her children; it is their parents who are going after these girls. Next, it was a local restaurant that was going to host a book signing for the author. A friend at the Patch informed me that the Neighbors and a few of their friends threatened the owner of Eddie Papas with a boycott if he dared host the signing. He canceled and it was moved a location in a neighboring town. Mind you, Ed, the folks at Birdland (yes, that’s the neighborhood’s actual name) might or might not have been eating at your restaurant anyway but I understand, you’re a small business owner. What can you do? Lastly, these nincompoops targeted the bookstore, our local, independent bookstore, Towne Center Books on Main Street. They said if Towne Center Books did not pull Tales From Swankville from their shelves then they would organize a boycott targeting the store. No mention was made of Amazon who has the book for purchase and the download available on your Kindle.
I don’t care for bullies.
Leave my bookstore alone. Leave Siah Fried alone. And definitely, definitely leave her kids out of this. Shame on you. Shame on you all.
My blog this week was going to be on a vastly different topic. I had been researching the twin topics of the death penalty debate and the recent oil companies quarterly profits when Hurricane Swankville hit. Once I read the comments, all sixty-plus pages of them, posted to the Patch’s website http://pleasanton.patch.com/articles/xx-36594f1f, I knew what I’d be talking about.
I said I live with nice people. Let me clarify, I live with mostly nice people. There are people on this link hiding behind pseudonyms (hello Birdland resident, EyeHeartPtown and others) who use their online anonymity to spew hateful rhetoric. Still, as bad they are, check out “Elizabeth” and “Lisa”. They’ve taken a book whose reputation they don’t like and clearly have NOT read and are systematically planning to target the author’s livelihood, her character, her children, start lawsuits and petition for restraining orders. But don’t worry, folks, they’re very “nice” upstanding citizens and if you’ve lived in town for at least thirty years, pay at least $3000+ per month in property taxes and support the Tea Party Movement, you’re allowed an opinion. Otherwise, shut up and surrender Dorothy. Ah shoot, that’s the Wicked Witch of the West, isn’t it? Funny, “Lisa”, I really can’t see the difference. Oh wait, the Wicked Witch isn’t real.
Of the sixty-plus pages of venomous diatribe on:
Forty-plus of it is from “Lisa” and “Elizabeth”. Who knows what their real names are. They hide behind the Internet’s shield, using cowards’ techniques to attack and hurt. They say they’re good neighbors and would never go after their fellow townspeople but they are targeting a family, hurting small business owners (whom I consider my “neighbors”) and have nurtured the perfect storm- one that would have NEVER existed had they not helped to create it.
There is more to this, of course. There always is. There’s the neighbor who put a banner on her garage door proclaiming her character in the book (hello, guilty conscience, just a bit?) while simultaneously attacking the author for her (the neighbor’s) loss of privacy. Are you KIDDING me? There are the adults who directed their angst at grade school girls today. There is the elementary school that asked the author to leave when she showed up for work today. They couldn’t have the controversy on campus. I mean, how dare Ms. Fried examine how the enormous stress we put on our children might be damaging our kids. We can’t have people in our schools who actually advocate for the students, right? What kind of message would that send?
I don’t care for bullies.
I need to apologize. I am angry. This anger has led me to use quotation marks way too many times in this post. I’m sorry that you all had to see me like this.