A few words on the inaugural edition of So Fi
Patricia Leavy, Ph.D.
I’ve loved creative writing since I was a little girl. I’ve loved it more than anything. There’s something magical that happens as we string words together to make sense of the world of which we are a part, chronicling or reimagining. We can crawl into a story-world where new possibilities emerge.
When I became a sociologist I had the aspirations many of us have—to jar people into thinking and seeing differently, to crystalize micro-macro connections so that people might reflect on their own lives and the society of which they are a part, to unsettle stereotypes and the ideologies that support them, and above all, to somehow, in some small way, make the world better. These goals didn’t seem out of reach. After all, I was endlessly conducting interview research or what we call “gathering data.” The more data I collected and analyzed, the more insights I developed. This stuff was interesting—to the people it was about, to me, and I knew to others who would be able to relate. Then reality came crashing in. Like most academic research, no one would ever read it. That’s when I returned to my childhood passion, but with grownup tools.
I wrote my first novel, Low-Fat Love, based on nearly a decade of interview research, as well as my own autoethnographic observations. I was determined to publish this subversive chick-lit as research that could be read by just about anyone – public scholarship in the form of a beach read. I coined the term “social fictions” so to explain it to the academic publishing world, and eventually to academia, and created the Social Fictions book series (partnering with Sense Publishers). It’s been amazing to see in the years following that students and scholars around the world have adopted the term. That shows me that what we’re all doing, what everyone who contributed to this edition is doing, is tapping into something that resonates deeply.
The reaction to Low-Fat Love forever transformed me. Readers inundated me with emails and lined hallways outside of book events to whisper their stories of “low-fat love” to me. I was finally realizing the promise of sociology.
Writing sociological fiction has made me a better thinker, writer, scholar, and human being. I’ve continued to publish novels and short stories and to build spaces for others to do the same, because I believe to my core that in this work we are all able to get closer to achieving the “sociological imagination.” I applaud Ashleigh Watson for having the vision and tenacity to create this zine, another important space for those of us wishing to embrace the blurriness between sociology and fiction. The authors have written exceptional pieces which taken together will provoke further discussion about the possibilities that emerge as we imagine new shapes with which to formulate or communicate sociological thinking. Moreover, it’s a fun read.
Patricia Leavy, Ph.D. is an independent scholar (formerly Associate Professor of Sociology, Chair of Sociology & Criminology, and Founding Director of Gender Studies at Stonehill College). She is the author or editor of more than twenty books, including Handbook of Arts-Based Research, Method Meets Art, Fiction as Research Practice, and the novels Blue, American Circumstance, and Low-Fat Love. Her latest book, Research Design: Quantitative, Qualitative, Mixed Methods, Arts-Based, and Community-Based Participatory Research Approaches, was the number one new release on Amazon in seven categories for eight consecutive weeks. She has earned critical and commercial success in both nonfiction and fiction and her books have been translated into many languages. She is also series creator and editor for seven book series with Oxford University Press and Sense Publishers/Brill, including the ground-breaking Social Fictions series. She is cofounder and co-editor-in-chief of Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal. She has received career awards from the New England Sociological Association, the American Creativity Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry. In 2016 Mogul, a global women’s empowerment network, named her an “Influencer.” Please visit www.patricialeavy.com or https://www.facebook.com/WomenWhoWrite/.