Laurie Gelman’s debut novel, Class Mom, has mothers around the world hooked on this hilarious page-turner about a peppy parent.
In this satire about kindergarten parent politics, published in August, Gelman artfully captures a mother’s balancing act as the primary liaison between the teacher and the other parents, and explains how a grown woman can be driven to mainlining lattes over the ministrations for curriculum night, class picture day and the ever-looming year-end teacher’s gift.
In bringing to life Miss Ward’s kindergarten class, Gelman introduces readers to the protagonist, Jen Dixon, who, at 48, is a “senior mom” to her son, Max, alongside her partner, Ron, who’s baby daddy No. 3, but soul mate husband No. 1. Jen already has two college-age daughters by two different (she thinks) musicians, and it’s her second time around the class mom block with five-year-old Max.
“Jen Dixon is everything I would want to be if I had the guts. She is flawed, but she is funny, and she is honest and doesn’t hold back. She decides to shake things up a bit. She wanted parents to participate. She wasn’t going to take any crap from anybody and her way of doing it was through class emails,” said Gelman.
Gelman, who was born in Ottawa, moved to Toronto to study at Ryerson University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Before turning to writing, she spent 25 years working in broadcasting in Canada and the United States, including a stint with Good Morning America.
Gelman converted to Judaism 17 years ago, when she married her husband, Michael Gelman, the executive producer of Live with Kelly and Ryan. They live in New York City and raise their two teenage daughters in a Jewish home.
Gelman told The CJN that, “Converting to Judaism was one of the top … things I have ever done in my life.”
Both her daughters had their bat mitzvahs abroad. “Jamie celebrated in Israel, and Misha at the oldest synagogue in Barcelona, Spain,” she said with pride.
Class Mom was inspired by Gelman’s own experience as the class mom (until she was fired).
“When I was asked to be class mom, I said, ‘This is fantastic!’ I felt I had won something. I thought to be the class mom was really cool: she will know everybody and she will always have the inside scoop,” said Gelman.
Before taking on the role of class mom, Gelman called her friend Kelly Ripa with excitement.
“Kelly said, ‘No, for the love of God, say no!’ I said, ‘Why? I feel it’s going to be so much fun.’ Kelly said, ‘Trust me and just say no.’ But I didn’t, and when I was in my fifth year of doing it, I realized the reason they ask you is because nobody else wants to do it, and Kelly was right. She always lords that over me,” said Gelman with a laugh.
To research Class Mom, all Gelman had to do was close her eyes and recall her old emails. The missives throughout the novel are, in fact, replicas of the ones she wrote imploring parents to sign up for the endless succession of class treats, school supplies and chaperoning duties for field trips.
“I was so excited about being chosen as class mom, I thought I’m going to make everybody really excited to hear from me. I did things like recording parents’ response times – people got awards at the end of the year for being the quickest to respond. I gave a $10 Starbucks gift card to the funniest reply I got from a dad. I wanted to make the job my own and make it fun for me, as well as for them. I think Jen Dixon brings some of that to what she tries to do, as well, although hers comes from a place of cynicism, whereas mine came from a place of eagerness,” said Gelman.
“My frustration came from being fired as class mom in my fifth year. Most people loved my emails. It was flattering, but there was this one parent who complained, and then I was fired. That was the catalyst that made me think this might be an idea for a book. I am a creative person. What happens in the book did not happen to me and none of the characters are anybody who is in my life.”
What’s next for this first-time author?
“I’m working on the sequel. People are telling me they are not done with this character,” concluded Gelman.