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"Swankville" Authors Finally Speak About Book Controversy

Tales From Swankville authors Siah Fried and Georgie Ikuma talk to Patch about the backlash, intentions, and overwhelming nationwide support.

Siah Fried and Georgie Ikuma, the authors of Tales from Swankville, made national news last week when the Pleasanton Patch of their new book was picked up by the Huffington Post.

The novel, narrated by the fictional character "Sasha," tells stories about over-the-top parenting in a town called Swankville, which many people in the community say doubles as Pleasanton. Though the book is fiction, some in the community — including Fried's neighbors — say they are mentioned in it, and believe it is a thinly veiled attempt to malign their character.

The original drew almost 300 emotionally charged comments — more than any other story in the website's history.

I followed up with Siah Fried this week to get her take on the firestorm. 

When I arrived at her home, I was greeted by Fried’s mother. She had a sweet disposition and was genuinely kind, but it was obvious her role was to act as gatekeeper to the Fried household.  After giving her my name and letting her know I had an appointment, she welcomed me in.

After some time, Fried greeted me with a weary look on her face as exhaustion had begun to settle in, a stark difference from the excitement her toddler son and dog had greeted me with at the door.

She apologized for her delay and explained she had been on the phone with multiple media outlets who were vying to secure her first televised interview.

Georgie Ikuma, a Castro Valley resident, arrived within minutes looking well-rested and alert. I commented on the noticeable difference between their energy levels.

Ikuma said that both authors had contributed equally to the voice of "Sasha," the narrator of the story. The characters, she said, were a compilation of mixed personality traits that both authors had observed among suburban parents — they were not based on any one parent, or more specifically, on any neighbor of Fried's.

However, within days of the original Patch report, Fried said her family became targets of animosity not only by Patch readers but also throughout town. She has a daughter in middle school, a daughter in elementary school and a two-year-old son. 

Meanwhile, Ikuma had escaped the negative attention.

According to Fried, her Healthy Starts Makes Healthy Hearts program came under fire last Wednesday when she was asked to leave by a teacher after Fried arrived at to teach her class. The teacher, whom Fried didn't want to name, asked for understanding — she said she was required to consult the school principal after she was approached by a parent upset with the author.

That same day, Fried said her home was egged and her daughter had been the target of disapproving comments about the book by parents of other students. Fried said her daughter felt that she had been singled out in front of her peers.

Ikuma explained that although she was equally responsible for the stories, her neighbors, friends, and local parents had not retaliated but instead had thrown their support behind her.

“The backlash was fast and furious, and sadly a few of the sideliners got hurt,” shared Ikuma.

She referred to a couple businesses in town — a restaurant and a book store — for supporting the authors. 

Aside from the direct disapproval of the book by some, Ikuma pointed out that ultimately the comments from the Patch article came down to a social class war.

“When reading through the comments on the initial Patch article, I noticed they degenerated into an argument on not just who is the better person, or the better parent,” she said. 

“It actually became a contest regarding who lives in the better city. I found it surprising since the book clearly states the inclusion of all parents who currently find themselves in the midst of raising children today, regardless of geography or socio-economic status."

Some Pleasanton residents voiced concern in their comments about damaging Pleasanton's reputation. They worried about the long-term effects.

“That was not my intention," Fried said. "It was a select few who proclaimed to know it was Pleasanton. Even though in the book Swankville is billed as ‘Suburbia USA’, Pleasanton called first dibs.  Someone announced 'Swankville is Pleasanton' on Amazon and no one seemed inclined to argue the point.”

Several commenters have questioned Fried’s intention for writing the book suggesting that it was a means to hurt her neighbors and former friends for past confrontations.

“That was not our intention at all," she said.

"It was written to ultimately help parents help their kids to become the best they can without expecting perfection from them,” said Fried. 

“The children are portrayed in a positive light throughout the book.  Our reason for writing the book was to get parents to take a step back and re-evaluate how hard they push their kids.” 

“The book clearly puts the onus on us as parents. We all need to look in the mirror, check our behavior, and decide if we need to make some changes,” Ikuma added.

I asked both authors why they believed that there was a need for a book like this to be written and how receiving the message of the book could actually help children.

“My student responses to a newspaper article on teen stress and self-harm really shocked me,” Fried said referring to students from a class she teaches at . 

“These kids are crying out and sending us a message that the stress is too much. We need to take the time to listen and hear them. I’ve personally walked too many students to the health office for eating disorder concerns, stress, and depression.”

Aside from the handful of residents that have voiced their negative opinions, Fried and Ikuma say that they’ve received numerous calls, emails, and visits by those who have purchased the book and support the authors’ message.

“We have had an overwhelming positive reaction from people all across the country,” said Ikuma.  “Both moms and dads can completely relate to the stories within the book. They see themselves and their friends in these stories. The reactions have been overwhelmingly positive as people recognize these same types of behaviors in their town and they can relate.”

“And really, it’s only a small percentage of parents in my own town that behave this way,” said Fried.  “I wouldn’t say its ‘parents behaving badly’ but it’s more about pushing your kids too hard to be perfect."

"Even I have fallen into the proverbial Swankvillian trap of being an over-the-top mom and it was because of my own short-comings that I wrote the book.  I had to take a look in the mirror and evaluate how hard I was willing to push my own kids.”

Fried’s mom escorted me to the door after an hour of speaking to the women. 

She thanked me for my time while the authors busily went about returning the several media calls they had missed during the time I spent with them.

Whether a sequel of Tales from Swankville will be on bookstore shelves in the near future remains to be seen but for now, both Siah Fried and Georgie Ikuma seemed to have to their hands full with the media swarm.

Pleasanton Mom November 13, 2011 at 08:03 AM
Oh Sue, this is what happens when you click on "delete". It would seem that you deleted it because it proved that Siah's book is not fiction like you are trying to convince others is the case. Can't blame you. You clearly have a mission and your comment didn't support the desired outcome. I'd be careful about making other mistakes though as Siah has a reputation for handling certain things, and well..................
Long Time Resident November 13, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Pleasanton, you need to learn your place. You all are acting like you're Danville. And we can't have that, after all, you are just P-towners. We don't want the Danvillers getting upset, do you? Now that would be some serious commenting.
Pleasanton Mom November 14, 2011 at 02:32 AM
Hmmmmm. Unless it's to post this information, I'm not going to comment further on this situation. I didn't do my own homework and have just learned that Patch sites are somehow part of AOL which of course owns the Huffington Post. This has to be why the Huffington Post picked up this story. By posting on here, we are increasing revenues for AOL/Huffington Post and they are laughing at us all the way to the bank. It's my opinion that Pleasanton Patch was a local and hometown sort of effort, but now I know different. No thanks. I'm not going to support this and let them profit from this city being ridiculed. And by the way, I contact the Editor directly and asked her to do a story on the school district's anonymous student support line because it's such a valuable resource for those in this community. I didn't even receive a response from her, yet she has written about this trashy book since I made this request. I ask you, is this really a hometown site devoted to our community, or is it just a revenue stream for the likes of AOL/Huffington Post? Please stop posting on here and don't support this. Siah's family and friends will likely continue because their comments have kept this alive which is what gained them exposure with AOL/Huffington Post.
John November 14, 2011 at 02:41 AM
I hope Fried and Ikuma do NOT get discouraged by the negativity thrown their way. They have stumbled upon a wonderful, powerful, beautiful theme in their book, and altogether do a LOT more good and service to the community than harm (if any), in at least getting people to THINK, to reflect, on their upbringing, and the way THEY are bringing up their children. Siah Fied and Georgie Ikuma - get an AGENT, and for goodness sake, START writing that SEQUEL!! LOL ... We want MORE "Swankville" stories now!! You have far, far more supporters and fans than you have enemies, do know that. You've truly struck a nerve, and I do think in the long run, it'll be a good one. Please don't be discouraged, and don't be afraid. FIGHT for what you believe in. FIGHT for your children. Do NOT let them be bullied or cowed. Continue to be BRAVE. If there's one thing that kids and the younger generation can learn from their parents, it's MORAL COURAGE, and the strength to say what needs to be said, without fear.
Sue November 14, 2011 at 03:12 AM
Thank you John-I want to give you a big Virtual hug! agree with you 100%.
Kate November 14, 2011 at 03:55 AM
I'll bet a Meadowlark Frosty that we haven't heard the last word from Lisa...
Evie November 14, 2011 at 04:56 AM
Oh, Lisa, why is it that as soon as someone disagrees with you they automatically are part of a conspiracy with the other side? I doubt very much that the authors put people up to posting positive comments on their behalf. My husband and I graduated from Amador and after college returned to Pleasanton to raise our children. In 2000 we moved away to retire because Pleasanton had become too swank and snooty for our tastes. A wonderful middle-class community of equality had turned into a Swankville. If the shoe fits, folks, wear it. I do not know either author. With all the publicity I certainly do now want to read the book, so what have you gained? Also, who says an author has to be well-liked to be good at writing a good story? May you all get back to living "normal" lives. Peace
Sue November 14, 2011 at 05:05 AM
LMAO Kate-Have to agree with you on this one.
Sue November 14, 2011 at 05:07 AM
Evie-well said-it's funny since I told Lisa that I liked the book and because I liked the book Lisa Assumes I am friends with the author. hummm-I love Beethoven-does that mean I knew him too?
Pleasanton Mom November 14, 2011 at 05:23 AM
Hi Evie: You have your opinnion and I have mine. And we're both entitled to them. It's not really a conpiracy sort of thing, it's a FACT that they are an AOL/Huffginton Post company which makes the non-stop coerage of this book from what they claim are "limited resources of the patch" make alot more sense because their Huffington Post operation (same company) is also profiting from it.. A FACT. Their constant coverage on here is creating content for their more profitable operation so they will likely continue to coverage to drive traffic. I think its important for folks to know this so they can make their own decision as to whether or not they want to support this site and AOL/Huffington Post. I think it's very telling that when I clicked on this page to post that a big fat "BANK OF AMERICA" ad came up. When I read local news, I personally want to see local advertising, not companies like Bank of America. And I really want to support local companies, not billion dollar corporations like AOL/Huffing Post, that AOL bought for $315 million or some insane amount like that, and not companies like Bani of America. This is my personal opinion that those reading can do what they want with. I feel it's fair to mention that they are an AOL/Huffington Post company since they don't seem to mention this anywhere. Full disclosure is a good thing.
Pleasanton Mom November 14, 2011 at 05:44 AM
Go ahead and bring on the attacks. I don't care. I don't know you people and you don't know me. It's childish that when I don't agree with you that you then resort to personal attacks, but also telling that you can't argue on the content of what I am posting because you know I am right. Thank you for this as you are proving who you are. You can choose to put money in AOL/Huffington Post's pockets and companie's like Bank of America if you so choose. And others, like myself, can decide that we'd rather support local businesses and the families in our community that run them. This web site is not a local operation and not a local company and they are owned by AOL/Huffington Post which some will take issue with. Not everyone sees the Huffington Post as a company they would knowingly want to do business with for their own reasons. Even patch knows this which is why they don't state who they are boldly on their home page. Certainly I'm not saying they should or should not do business with them, but I do think it's correct for them to know that this is who they are doing business with. You do business with Bank of America and AOL and Huffington Post if you want to, but it's really unfair to personally attack those that might choose local businesses over companies like this. But keep it coming, I can take it. I realize you really can't argue on the merits of what I am saying and this is all you have left. P.S. Have you signed up for pleasantonweekly.com yet?
Sue November 14, 2011 at 06:01 AM
do you Lisa-realize every time you type on this site, you're giving AOL/Huffington Post revenue?
Elaine Elwick Barr November 14, 2011 at 04:52 PM
Wow. I just want to say what a great example for all of the KIDS. Remember them?
Kari Hulac (Editor) November 14, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Hello, I would like to clear up a few misleading comments made on this chain and ask that users stop the back and forth arguing & insults or we'll have to turn off the commenting. 1. Patch is an independent start-up that was bought by AOL. We are still in start-up mode, meaning we are inventing a new business model that does not exist in a new frontier of hyperlocal media. Our profits are not linked to Huffington Post, which was also bought by AOL, which also owns dozens of other brands. 2. No one has had their account banned due to these stories. Yes, we have deleted comments that we felt violated our terms of use. If users flag comments, it's possible for them to be automatically removed. We trust that the community in general will police itself. 3. Patch sites are run by one full-time local editor. Other content comes from paid freelance contributors, users like all of you and unpaid bloggers. We are not an online newspaper. We are a community platform. Writing and posting articles is about 25 percent of what we aim to do. Other services include: products for small businesses via advertising, videos & free business listings; offering a free platform for anyone to post events and announcements; and public service such as volunteering (we work five days a year in our towns). Anyone who lives in any Patch town who has read these comments and has felt frustrated that their voice, or the community's voice, is not adequately represented, is welcome to write a blog.
Gabrielle Cullen November 14, 2011 at 09:09 PM
I think a lot of these parents have too much time on their hands. Move on
TMAX November 14, 2011 at 11:45 PM
This is all just so entertaining. I was told last night that apparently the neighorbood this is all going on in, is my neighborhood. Frankly, I would have NEVER known about any of this, until the big fuss made by the parents who are upset by it as read in the Pleasanton Weekly. Are you vying for Real Housewives of Pleasanton Birdland or what? Should Bravo be coming to town soon for auditions? Too funny!
Karen E Sanchez November 15, 2011 at 12:36 AM
There are two authors names on this book, one from Pleasanton and one from Castro Valley. I don't see Castro Valley up in arms. Could it be that somehow some of the authors neighors from Pleasanton are a touch up tight. If the shoe fit wear it. If it doesn't take it for what it's worth. Learn from it and move on. Reflection is good for the soul. I live in and love Pleasanton/P-town. Believe me, this is not at all reflective of any of my neighbors, to attack another neighbor. To hate on an author and think just because she's from Pleasanton it has to be about Pleasanton is just silly. I don't live in Birdland or The Gates, and I don't know the Author's. The haters are giving an uncharacteristic view of our wonderful community and it residence. Maybe you're just jealous because you didn't write a good book. It's not to late, you to can take pen to paper and write whatever you want. Remember - it is a free country. Happy Thansgiving to all.
Ailish Mitchell-Rodriguez November 15, 2011 at 02:02 AM
Happy Thanksgiving to you too
LeeAnn Phillips November 15, 2011 at 12:13 PM
So, after hearing about the hoopla in the news I had to read the book. I am new to Swankville, even live in Birdland. Parents are the same everywhere - some are living through their children, others are more laid back. So what? To each their own. Where I used to live, parents had to take "spectator lessons" to attend their child's sports events - the class reminded them on how to be a decent human being while watching. The book is okay - nothing special, nothing new. However I would like to give input on a couple of situations described in the book: Sasha should have immediately sent an email to parents apologizing for naming the children her daughter accused of teasing her. It was inappropriate to include their names. Sasha also should have picked up the dog poop as soon as the dog pooped. I kinda felt like Sasha was justifying her actions, which were un-neighboorly. Also, shame on Sasha for implying that a student committed suicide because she had pushy parents. The book did not elaborate on emotions and situations enough, so the overall impression is that Sasha is eating sour grapes. She whines about other parents, but I have witnessed that same behavior all over the country. It is not unique to Swankville, and it certainly isn't anything new. However, I do find it hysterical that the people who identified themselves in the book are the very ones who are propelling the publicity and the sales of this book! LOL
Jay King November 15, 2011 at 06:23 PM
It sounds to me more like Lisa is not as upset about being portrayed as an overly pushy parent, as she is about being jealous that Liah Fried and Georgie Ikuma are being catapulted to a wealth status far above her own. Now Lisa, I live nowhere near "P-Town" and do not know either of the authors. Tell me I am on their side just because they recruited me, and I'll call you a liar to your face.
Sue November 16, 2011 at 02:18 AM
BRAVO Jay King.
PleasantonDad November 16, 2011 at 08:28 AM
If people who saw themselves in the book would have simply ignored it, nobody would have known or cared about it. Instead they provided free publicity for it. I read the Kindle version after all the hoopla and it could have taken place in any middle class suburb. The book has a well intended message, but I actually did not think it was well written or liked the disjointed stories approach. It was more of a blog or diary. Again, if you don't like it don't buy it, ignore it and get on with your life. This approach also works for the type of people described in the book.
Jay King November 16, 2011 at 02:37 PM
Amanda, that is the most appropriate song in this situation, you did great to think of that. Your lyrics are just a bit off though. You left out a few words here and there, but the one that really stick out is you said ice, instead of eyes. Mrs Taylor sure seems to use a lot of "eyes", you know, batting eyelashes, winking, the kind of things frisky women do to flirt when the husband is away, LOL. I know, I'm anal, I just can't help it.
melodiegal November 16, 2011 at 10:26 PM
Allow me to propose a theory; Lisa secretly works for the authors. She has done more to help promote this book, and I can argue, has encouraged more people to purchase it than any other marketing strategy the authors could buy. I grew up in Pleasanton, (don’t live there now), but couldn’t wait to get the book. Actually, I drove back to Pleasanton and marched right into Towne Center books (I had to personally support the store Lisa wanted us all to boycott) and bought it after reading her outrageous comments. (By the way, Towne Center Books can’t keep the book on the shelves quick enough to meet customer demands.) Lisa’s misspelled filled rants, mean spirited commentary, and un-classy outbursts are comical. Lisa, please don’t stop you are very entertaining! And before you dream up another conspiracy theory... I don’t know the authors, I didn’t receive an email from them and I don’t care about your personal experiences with Ms. Fried. I liked the book. The stories are relevant in most affluent suburban communities.
Yet another tri valley mom November 17, 2011 at 04:15 AM
I am glad that SOMEONE finally stood up in this town and said something!! I do not think it was the best written book...but still the message is there...loud and clear for all to hear! I too was enchanted with Pleasanton when I first moved here a little over 12 years ago! Great schools, no crime, family oriented, The perfect place to raise my child! I quickly learned otherwise.... although the schools are wonderful, the rest is just a facade.Over the past 12 years of living and working in this town, I have met and worked with ALOT of pleasanton parents who are snooty, rude and push their children to be perfect... in academics, sports and in their personal appearance. Completely oblivious to the troubled youth that they themselves are creating. As the kids grow older and become completeley stressed out, they often turn to drugs and alchohol to cope with the stressors that their loving parents and thier community created...In the past few years there have been many teen suicides (between Amador and Foothill) Often the reason behind the suicides being that the kids couldnt handle the stress that their parents or society had put upon them. What in the hell are we as a community teaching our children, when we continually push them to constantly be "the best" in everything while all along so many of the mothers that I have encountered are poppin Zanex and Pain pills....cuz they cant handle their "stressful lives"!! Oh Please! Lets let our kids be kids...
Jay King November 17, 2011 at 04:41 AM
Geez, I'd like to get this kind of publicity for my book. Maybe we can get controversy going between believers and atheists as to whether or not I'm nuts because my story tells of GOD communicating with me :-). Check out Amazon.com for the title "Walk A Mile In The Shoes I Wear" by Jay F King.
Sara November 30, 2011 at 06:54 PM
I was born and raised in the town that this book is supposedly written about. I am now raising my children in the same town and regretfully so. My hopes are to move out of this town by the time my oldest reaches high school. If you know the changes of this town like I do and the kids I grew up with, then you can relate and its a good read. If you find it offensive then you should probably not waste your time or energy being upset about it since you believe this author is out of line. I am not really sure she can fully explain how badly this town has changed since she did not know the farming, blue collar town it once was. My father helped build the sports park...those green back stops are thanks to him, years of Little League coaching and girls soccer, 25 years to be exact were all taken away from him because money came in and said we should have paid, trained coaches. He had girls move on to college soccer and to this day the kids he coached see him and stop him and ask to have a beer with him. He impacted them for FREE.
Sara November 30, 2011 at 06:55 PM
Yes the schools are great and the opportunities given our great, but at a very heavy cost. I attended Valley View....it was a good school with parent volunteers back then too. Our teacher was the one bringing in the lice and no one shunned her. Children are popping pills in middle school, and sexually assaulting eachother and getting away with it by mom and dads pocket books. It seems to be as long as your parents have the cash, you are free to go around as you please in schools, downtown hangouts and in sports. The lack of respect for teachers or parents in general is gross and sad. I am shocked by the lack of respect parents now have for there kids. No real consequences for actions, an extra $150 to get up a level in soccer, the pushing to be the top star in sports, yet not in grades, shorts so short they look like underwear, what are your kids learning by that...don't say its all that is out there, cause it isn't...you are just trying to hard to be a friend and the cool parent among your kids friends and there parents. The boys are able to sexually assault one way or the other and its just boys being boys.
Alex January 10, 2012 at 06:32 AM
As a teenage resident of this town, I have to say that sadly, this book undoubtedly speaks the truth. I commend Fried for her efforts to reveal the shameful aspects which have come to define Pleasanton. Underneath the petty issues that plague it, Pleasanton is a beautiful town. It is quite sad that we allow such insecure people to overshadow a place that could be as blissful to live in as it is beautiful. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Fried, you did a great job. Everyone else, let it be. To all the neurotic commenters who feel the need to govern and police every comment which appears on this thread, don't let the comments be fodder to your obsession, get a hobby. Cheers to a New Year!
Sue January 10, 2012 at 06:44 AM
Alex: WELL SAID. congrats. It takes a teenager of Swankville (oops P-town) to speak the truth. I agree Fried did a wonderful job on the book.

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