PLEASANTON, Calif. — Oh no, she didn't!
Local mother Siah Fried, 40, compiled her anecdotal essays of kids, school, scouts and sports — in short, all things holy in Pleasanton — in her new book set in the fictional town of "Swankville."
But now the swank has hit the fan, and her irked neighbors are fuming over what they say is a thinly veiled critique of their parenting.
"It's kind of a pointless attack," said one parent, who read the book but did not want to be named and further dragged into the fray.
But Fried insists her book is fiction and its point was to spotlight what she sees as a troubling trend of overly meddlesome parents.
The newly published hot topic, entitled "Tales From Swankville — The Town May Be Fictional But The Problem Is For Real," is a breezy, 20-chapter read of various trials and tribulations of childrearing in an upscale town of overbearing, competitive parents.
Swankville stands in for Pleasanton, and Fried's main character, Sasha, is a mother of three who struggles with rivaling Girl Scout cookie booths, one-upmanship of kids' Halloween costumes, dance-to-near-death recitals, and the very likely possibility that her toddler accidentally killed the neighbor's pet rabbit.
Fried, herself a mother of three, jabs at what she calls "bad parenting," and is well aware that her book is causing a ruckus among residents in her Birdland subdivision.
"Oh, did you notice?" she half-joked, referring to the anti-Swankville banner covering the garage of her neighbors directly across the street.
It's hard to miss the garage-turned-billboard that encourages passersby to "honk" if they agree with its scathing comments on the fictional Sasha.
Among the garage's spray-painted commentary: "I am Sasha the town witch"; "I bring misery to all I meet"; "I am fictional — hee hee."
"Swankville" detractors have also taken to the Internet, lobbing harsh, one-star reviews on the book's Amazon page, deriding the author and her writings as evil, vindictive, gossipy and hypocritical.
"To have issues with everyone else, maybe she should look in the mirror and check herself," writes one critic.
Fried and her editor, Georgie Ikuma, a Castro Valley parent and writer, admit they were caught off guard by the local firestorm, particularly since the book is only about two weeks old. And both insist the tales and characters are fictional composites.
Over-the-top parenting is not unique to Pleasanton, and "Swankville" represents "Suburbia, U.S.A.," Fried said. It was, in fact, the neighbors who outed themselves and Pleasanton, she said.
"It was the neighbors who I.D.'d the town," Fried said.
"I don't know why they would announce, 'This is me,'" added Ikuma.
And Fried and Ikuma are dismayed the book's message may be overshadowed by the local brouhaha.
Fried's gist is that today's parents, who are trying to do well by their children, may be damaging them instead, by pushing competitive sports at young ages, private lessons, tutors and a boondoggle of extra-curricular activities.
The effects are borne out, she says, with a rise in stressed-out kids, sports injuries, eating disorders and general nastiness among peers.
"My parents ... that generation did not push too hard," said Ikuma, 42. "Not every kid got a trophy. And parents didn't complain."
"I know my parents didn't fight my battles," Fried said. "But the ante has been upped by this generation."
Fried does have supporters, however, with several Amazon reviewers praising "Swankville" as an insightful portrayal of pushy parenting.
"It was a thought-provoking book for sure, with some nice humor mixed in," writes a fan.
Fried said she has heard from moms and dads, including two past presidents of local PTAs, who say the book is dead-on and relatable.
As for Fried's Birdland neighbors, they let their decorated garage speak for them and did not wish to be interviewed.
Were they insulted by something Fried wrote? "It's our friends and family" in the book, said the anonymous homeowner.
"But oh, wait," he deadpanned. "It's fictional."