By Piyali C.
Most people at their workplaces dream of moving up in the chain. They aspire to be assistant managers, managers, or chiefs of staff, and hopefully rise to the top. I dream of starting new book clubs. I already co-facilitate two book clubs at the library – Global Reads and Strictly Historical Fiction. But if I am allowed and time permits, I dream of starting yet another one that I will name “Light but not Fluffy.’ And Laurie Gelman’s Class Mom along with its sequels will surely feature as some of the chosen titles.
My love affair with Gelman’s writing started when I discovered Class Mom on the shelves while I was shelving a cart at the library. The jacket looked interesting, so I took it home and read it in two sittings. I met Jennifer Dixon in Class Mom for the first time and fell head over heels in love with her character. In Class Mom, Jennifer Dixon raised two daughters as a single parent before she met Ron, fell in love, married him, and had an adorable baby boy, Max. The story of Class Mom (as the name suggests) revolves around Jen assuming the role of class parent when Max enters kindergarten. Jen is a different kind of class mom than, most likely, you or I have encountered. Her emails to the parents are funny, irreverent, snarky, and raise some eyebrows. Although Jen’s best friend, the PTA president, thinks Jen is perfect for the job, there are many parents who disagree. As we read about Jen’s never-ending commitments to both her child’s school and her own personal life, we wonder how Jen will possibly get everything done. But she does, with an inordinate amount of humor, grace, and – yes – snark.
In the sequel, You’ve Been Volunteered, Max is in third grade and Jen has been roped into being the class parent again. But this time she must deal with not only the micromanaging PTA president, but also extremely difficult parents who are not charmed by Jennifer’s management of parental politics or the tone of her emails, which remain tongue in cheek, irreverent, and sassy. Apart from the drama in school, Jen’s personal life goes through some turbulence as well, as she deals with her overworked husband and helps her older daughters navigate adulthood. On top of all that, Jen’s elderly parents may also need some supervision. In this book, yet again, Jen juggles all her responsibilities with humor, empathy, sometimes failure, but mostly humor.
Yoga Pant Nation is the third hilarious book in this funny series. Max is in fifth grade, so this is Jen’s last year as a class parent in William Taft Elementary school. This year may be her most challenging one yet as she has been entrusted to raise 10,000 dollars to buy devices for fourth and fifth graders. Jen has no idea how she will raise such immense funds with her team of parent volunteers. She is also aspiring to be a spin instructor as well as caring for her two-year-old granddaughter Maud (yes, 53-year-old Jen is a grandmother now). On top of that, her dynamic parents Ray and Kay seem lethargic and forgetful. Jen wonders if it is time for them to move to an assisted living facility. Read this book to find out if Jen Dixon will finally admit defeat.
Jennifer Dixon is sure to make you laugh as you read about her life. Laurie Gelman puts just the right blend of insanity, charm, love, and sarcasm in Jennifer Dixon to make her readers fall in love with this high-achieving, super snarky, well-meaning mom. If you were or are a class parent or an active member of the PTA, you will relate to Jen. If you have not participated in any of that, you will look at her life with awe and perhaps thank your lucky stars that you have never had to deal with her challenges. No matter which side you are on, one thing is certain: you will laugh. And we all could use some laughter in our lives.
Piyali is an instructor and research specialist at the Miller Branch of HCLS, where she co-facilitates both Global Reads and Strictly Historical Fiction and keeps the hope alive that someday she will reach the bottom of her to-read list.