Low-Fat Love Stories
Patricia Leavy and Victoria Scotti
Low-Fat Love Stories is a collection of short stories and visual portraits based on interview research with women about a dissatisfying relationship with a romantic partner or relative, or their body image. The stories focus on settling in relationships, the gap between fantasies and realities, relationship patterns, divorce, abuse, childhood pain, spirituality, feeling like a fraud, growing older, and daily struggles looking in the mirror. Once upon a time and happily ever after take on new meaning as the women’s stories reveal the underside of fairytales and toxic popular culture. Written in the first-person with language taken directly from each woman’s interview, the stories are raw, visceral, and inspirational. As a collection, the stories and art set you on an emotional rollercoaster and illustrate the different forms “low-fat love” may take, and the quest for self-worth in the context of popular culture that tells women they are never enough.
The authors developed an original method of “textual visual snapshots” for this book. Low-Fat Love Stories can be used in a range of courses in art education, gender/women’s studies, popular culture, psychology, relational communication, sociology and social work; or as an exemplar in research or qualitative methods, narrative inquiry, arts-based research or creative writing courses; or it can be read entirely for pleasure by individuals or in book clubs.
“A powerful book that explores the effect of living in the context of a commercial culture that tells women they are not enough. Through both the stories and portraits, Low-Fat Love Stories challenges the representations of women that dominate popular culture, offering alternative narratives and images grounded in women’s real experiences. This will be an engaging springboard for self and social reflection in classes.” – Sut Jhally, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Founder & Executive Director, Media Education Foundation
“Low-Fat Love Stories is wonderful! I love it. The images are glorious— emotionally compelling— those eyes, the pain, the fragility; the stories are captivating. The combination of visual images, handwritten journal entries, and stories captures the anguish and hope of women extraordinarily well. Each “textual-visual snapshot” takes you on a breathtaking journey. The methodology is original, exciting, and compelling. I am a writer and a visual artist. Bringing together the two modes has been a life-long challenge for me. Hurrah! This book models a way for me to at long last integrate my creative expressions. I think it will do that for others. I highly recommend Low-Fat Love Stories for general readers, book clubs, writing groups, and any number of college courses.” – Laurel Richardson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University and Cooley Book Award winner
“Low-Fat Love Stories places women’s experiences and words at the forefront. Through visual art and stories, this book challenges the representations of women we typically see in popular culture and offers alternatives. An important addition to the fields of gender and media studies that is certain to stimulate self-reflection and lively discussion.” – Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., author, feminist activist, and creator of the Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women film series
“A wonderful model of the infinite possibilities for art as research where conversations with fifty-six women are distilled and transformed into one compelling work proving that artistic expression is uniquely capable of offering transparent evidence and honest insights into complex human conditions. The book shows how fiction as a psychological medium can go where standard psychological formats simply cannot go in getting close to intimate experience. Text and drawings communicate the “dark truth” and make it into an inspirational affirmation of life for all people.” – Shaun McNiff, Ph.D., University Professor, Lesley University and author of Art as Research, Art Heals, and Imagination in Action
“Leavy’s words and Scotti’s images transform intimate interviews into captivating portraits of the unspoken inner lives of women— bringing to life the source of their insecurities and fears, and staying alongside these women as they find the courage and strength to change their circumstances. This is important reading for those who’ve experienced similar, and everyone who wants to better understand what is left invisible. A timely read for a growing national conversation.” – Nick Sousanis, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, San Francisco State University and award-winning author of Unflattening
“Powerful and riveting! Low-Fat Love Stories captures women’s struggles with self-esteem in very real and visceral ways through “textual-visual snapshots.” This innovative, collaborative practice between an author and a visual artist facilitates a uniquely conceptualized methodology that stretches our impressions and encourages women to reimagine their lives. Most importantly, women’s lives count! This collection of stories resonates with the experiences of all women and will assuredly benefit all women, and yes, the men in their lives.” – Rita L. Irwin, Ph.D., Professor and Associate Dean of Teacher Education, The University of British Columbia
“Low-Fat Love Stories is anything but low-fat. This gorgeous book is full of music; the images and stories of women’s relational lives will resonate long after you experience them. This work represents the best of arts-based research, collaborative work, and feminist research. It questions the damaging popular discourse that romance means happily ever after and that romance is women’s biggest achievement. I intend to buy this for all the women and men in my life.” – Sandra L. Faulkner, Ph.D., Director of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Bowling Green State University and coauthor of Writing the Personal
“Low-Fat Love Stories takes readers on a journey into women’s hearts, minds, bodies and relationships that is by turns heartbreaking, realistic, difficult, and inspirational. The stories and artwork ask women to consider how they can love, nurture, and grow in their work and their relationships in ways that resist and revise the seemingly endless stream of images and messages that devalue and demean us. In a time when women are shamed, blamed, violated, and told they deserve less, Low Fat Love Stories tells a new kind of fairy tale: one in which women are powerful, smart, beautiful and in charge of their own lives and loves.” – Stacy Holman Jones, Ph.D., Professor, Monash University and coauthor of Writing for Performance and Autoethnography: Understanding Qualitative Research
“Leavy and Scotti use interviews, techniques of fiction, and stunning visual art to identify and critique prominent cultural fairytales, problematic portrayals of women in popular culture, and unrealistic expectations about love. They also show how women might live through/with toxic relationships, abuse, aging, body image dissatisfaction, and (not) loving themselves. Methodologically and topically, Low-Fat Love Stories makes a noteworthy contribution to both gender and arts-based research.” – Tony E. Adams, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Northeastern Illinois University and award-winning author of Narrating the Closet
“In this deeply innovative work, Leavy and Scotti use visual art and story-telling to represent women’s lived experiences of “low-fat love.” Heartbreaking, raw, and beautifully executed, their unique approach to the doing of social science research will inspire scholars to further push the boundaries of what research might look like, and how it might touch and influence others.” – Jessica Smartt Gullion, Ph.D., Interim Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Texas Woman’s University
“With this collection of Low-Fat Love Stories, Leavy and Scotti continue to expand curriculum and strategies for teaching arts-and-research. Low-Fat Love Stories is also an excellent text for teaching education and sociology courses about gender, sexuality, and popular culture. Best of all, Low-Fat Love Stories is a great read and a joy for lay readers, instructors, and students alike.” – Susan Finley, Ph.D., Professor, Washington State University and acclaimed arts author and activist
“In Low-Fat Love Stories, we are found in each other’s stories and enter the syllables of our own becoming. Leavy and Scotti call us to honor both vulnerability and strength, and the ability to recreate a life, not hindered by patterns or limitations of one’s own perceptions. By integrating an arts-based practice and weaving textual-visual snapshots, the stories of the women in this book, catch us in an earthy and radiant tone, and we are beckoned to boldly live and celebrate our authentic lives.” – Celeste Snowber, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University and author of Embodied Prayer and Embodied Inquiry
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American Circumstance: Anniversary Edition
Paige Michaels comes from the kind of wealth that few experience. The daughter of a notoriously successful banker who wielded great political power, she grew up in an extraordinary world peopled by the political leaders of tomorrow. Now one mistake rooted in her past is threatening to unravel her perfect life. After years as a stay-at-home mother living in New Jersey, Mollie Johnston convinces her husband, Paul, to move back to New York to fulfill her dream of living amid the bright lights. Mollie is uncomfortable in her own body and is always worried about how others perceive her and Paul. Once she sees how the other half lives, will she come to see herself and her marriage more clearly? Gwen McAndrews is the ultimate New York socialite and is the envy of those impressed by her grandeur, but is there more than meets the eye? In addition to Paige, Mollie, and Gwen, a cast of characters’ stories are interwoven into the text – parents, children, caretakers, childhood friends, old lovers, and spouses. American Circumstance is a novel about appearance versus reality – how our lives and relationships appear to others versus how they are experienced, and the complex ways that social class shapes identity, relationships, and the codes of friendship. American Circumstance also provides a window into the replication of wealth, power, and privilege. The novel can be used as supplemental reading in courses across the disciplines that deal with gender, social class, inequality, power, family systems, relational communication, intimate relationships, identity, American culture, narrative or creative writing. It can also be read in book clubs or entirely for pleasure.
“American Circumstance kept me up! I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to see how the characters’ lives untangled. I loved how Leavy challenged my cultural assumptions. This book would be great to teach. Students will have a lot to talk about as they discover a ‘sociology of everyday life’ embedded in the fiction.” – Professor Laurel Richardson, The Ohio State University
“American Circumstance was hard to put down, once you start, you are drawn into in such a way that the world disappears and time seems to stand still. There was something about the characters that was so compelling that I couldn’t look away, couldn’t stop reading; even a bathroom trip seemed like an incomprehensible interruption. I needed to know if Paige, Mollie and Gwen, would resolve their issues. The open ending forces the story to stay with you for a long time afterwards as you try to imagine where their lives will end up. Leavy leaves so much unsaid because life is more about impressions of people, sketches of what we choose to see, rather than perfectly drawn archetypes. I could absolutely see this novel in a plethora of courses aimed at understanding the complexities and limits of life in the modern world. It is contemporary literature at its best, accessible and incredibly well written, with a prose that welcomes in a wide-ranging audience, short enough to consume quickly (attractive for students), but with enough depth to satisfy you. Its sociological issues are apparent yet not overwhelming. Its message useful for encouraging critical (deep) thinking, Ultimately, American Circumstance is a novel that I have recommended to all of my friends as a great beach read, and my colleagues teaching Contemporary American Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies.” – Professor U. Melissa Anyiwo, Curry College
“This one is a real page-turner. Just when you think you know what’s going on, it turns out that events aren’t at all what they seem.” – Professor Eve Spangler, Boston College
“Leavy shows that the lines between fiction and scholarship are beginning to merge, and that an academic can write an effective fictional account to represent the data of her sociological findings… Leavy writes it in an engaging way that helps the reader to ask important questions about class issues in America. This engaging story keeps the reader interested and wondering why women make the choices they do.” – Margaret A. Robbins, The Journal of Language & Literacy Education
“American Circumstance is wonderful! The characters and story invite you into a world that is both familiar and unfamiliar. While many urgent social issues are raised for thoughtful consideration, the heart of the novel pulses with the experiences and emotions of three women who, while marked by many differences, all share a commitment to living hopefully in love. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole novel—from the first inviting words to the exquisitely poignant conclusion. Highly recommended!!” – Professor, Carl Leggo, University of British Columbia
“American Circumstance had me hooked from page one. Patricia Leavy creates a compelling, enthralling world that beautifully illustrates what real love and partnership truly is while challenging our assumptions and pushing us to look at our own relationships. Expertly crafted and engagingly drawn. Pick this book up!” – Amy Leigh Mercree, Relationship Expert and author of The Spiritual Girl’s Guide to Dating: Your Enlightened Path to Love, Sex & Soul Mates
“American Circumstance has a chic-lit feel, but rather than it following the tired chic-lit formula, Leavy subverts the genre with characters that are multidimensional and events that are true-to-life. Paige, the central character, leads what on the surface seems to be a charmed life of wealth and privilege. But those characteristics do not define her. Leavy untangles the American circumstance in ways that are relatable and breathes depth into her characters. American Circumstance is grounded in both sociology and feminism and is a pleasure to read.” – Professor Jessica Smartt Gullion, Texas Woman’s University
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A Sense Publisher’s INSTANT BESTSELLER
Blue follows three roommates as they navigate life and love in their post-college years. Tash Daniels, the former party girl, falls for deejay Aidan. Always attracted to the wrong guy, what happens when the right one comes along? Jason Woo, a lighthearted model on the rise, uses the club scene as his personal playground. While he’s adept at helping Tash with her personal life, how does he deal with his own when he meets a man that defies his expectations? Penelope, a reserved and earnest graduate student slips under the radar, but she has a secret no one suspects. As the characters’ stories unfold, each is forced to confront their life choices or complacency and choose which version of themselves they want to be. Blue is a novel about identity, friendship, figuring out who we are during the “in-between” phases of life, and the search for people who “get us.” The characters in Blue show how our interactions with people often bump up against backstage struggles we know nothing of. Visual art, television and film, appear as signposts throughout the narrative, providing a context for how we each come to build our sense of self in the world. With a tribute to 1980s pop culture, set against the backdrop of contemporary New York, Blue both celebrates and questions the ever-changing cultural landscape against which we live our stories, frame by frame. Although fictional, Blue is grounded in interview research, teaching and personal observations. It can be read entirely for pleasure or used as supplemental reading in a variety of courses in women’s/gender studies, sociology, psychology, communication, popular culture, media studies, qualitative inquiry, narrative inquiry or arts-based research. The protagonist, Tash Daniels, originally appeared in the best-selling novel Low-Fat Love (Blue is set several years later). Blue can be read as a stand-alone novel.
“I love it. I just love it. I wasn’t planning on reading it this morning but once I started I couldn’t stop. Tash is so familiar and yet unique. I get her discontents and I am rooting for her as soon as she says her first words. She’s in NYC and I know she’s going to make it. I want her to. And I want her friends, including the homeless man, to make it, too. In the accolades of the 1980′s, I find the novel cool, hip and awesome! It would be fantastic in any number of college courses. Young adults should read this. BRAVO, Patricia Leavy!” - Laurel Richardson, Ph.D. The Ohio State University
“An engaging piece of public scholarship, Blue provides rich food for thought about the pop culture landscape and how its shapes our own stories. With a subtext about privilege, opportunity, sexual assault and gender, this would be a useful and fun teaching tool.” - Sut Jhally, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Founder & Executive Director, Media Education Foundation
“Blue is a joyful, inspiring and painfully beautiful novel written by gifted scholar and writer, Patricia Leavy. Blue shows all of us how to move forward through times of pain, crisis or complacency with hope and love.” - Norman Denzin, Ph.D. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“Blue is a tour de force! Leavy shines at her brightest in this little gem of a book. Authentic dialogue, fun but complex characters, and brilliant uses of pop culture make this book a must-read. I don’t want to give anything away, but the meaning of the title is genius. Beautiful! I love that we get to catch up with Tash from Low-Fat Love and be immersed in her sometimes endearing, sometimes frustrating, and all too relatable complexity again. The city is a refreshing character in this finely drawn book, transporting you to a hopeful, hip, vibrant New York. Blue inspires reflection and entertains. I highly recommend it!” - Amy Leigh Mercree, author of The Spiritual Girl’s Guide to Dating
Blue, Patricia Leavy’s latest journey into social fiction, reminds me of what it meant to live through the blue of young adulthood, a time spent working through the complexities of a life that’s constantly changing like the sky while struggling toward self-love, spiritual balance and happiness. Like Low-Fat Love I was immediately pulled in as a reader by Leavy’s refreshing use of language, her descriptions helping me see the world she’s creating, a world that feels as familiar as one I remember as if it were yesterday. - Mary E. Weems, Ph.D., author of Blackeyed: Plays and Monologues and Cleveland Arts Prize winner
“Patricia Leavy’s strength lies not just in writing relatable yet complex women, but also in the level of cultural and social research she puts into each page. Blue is more than a great read, it is the embodiment of sociological art, grounded in theory and method and mixed with all the fun pop culture has to offer. The result is stunning! I can’t wait to use it in the classroom!” - Adrienne Trier-Bieniek, Ph.D., Valencia College
“In her new novel Blue, Patricia Leavy maps the contemporary landscape of love by narrating a vibrant tale where complex and compelling characters dance with the possibilities of longing and romance like light and shadow dance a tango, full of wisdom, wit, and wonder, swirling with vibrant voices that conjure the hope and loss we all know is the heart and truth of love, always more confounding than found, always calling us forth with indefatigable desire. Blue is a novel we all need to read now!” - Carl Leggo, Ph.D., University of British Columbia; Poet
Patricia Leavy has done it again. Shimmering under a filmic haze of vintage mid-80s Greenwich Village, her latest novelBlue bursts to life with the elegance and electricity of a true New Yorker. Equal parts smart and funny, this book somehow also manages to be a love letter to anyone who has fallen in love, survived the death of a love affair, the death of a loved one, or walked with others through such profound loss. It is a work of immense empathy, a work of creative practice-led research about hope and loyalty, resilience and redemption. - Anne Harris, Ph.D. Monash University; Australian Research Fellow in Creativity and Arts in Education
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Low-Fat Love unfolds over three seasons as Prilly Greene and Janice Goldwyn, adversarial editors at a New York press, experience personal change relating to the men, and absence of women, in their lives. Ultimately, each woman is pushed to confront her own image of herself, exploring her insecurities, the stagnation in her life, and her reasons for having settled for low-fat love. Along with Prilly and Janice, the cast of characters’ stories are interwoven throughout the book. Low-Fat Love is underscored with a commentary about female identity-building and self-acceptance and how, too often, women become trapped in limited visions of themselves. Women’s media is used as a signpost throughout the book in order to make visible the context in which women come to think of themselves as well as the men and women in their lives.
In this respect, Low-Fat Love offers a critical commentary about popular culture and the social construction of femininity. Grounded in a decade of interview research with young women and written in a fun, chick-lit voice, the novel can be read for pleasure or used as supplemental reading in a variety of courses in women’s/gender studies, sociology, psychology, popular culture, media studies, communication, qualitative research, and arts-based research. This new, expanded anniversary edition has been thoroughly copy edited and revised for a cleaner version of the novel. It also includes new bonus content such as an afterword, a Q&A with the author answering reader questions, and ideas for classroom use.
“Sometimes, when I read an especially wonderful book I say to myself, “I wish I had written that!” And that is how I feel about Low-Fat Love. To write a page-turner of a book that teaches about contemporary gender relationships is a major feat. Patricia Leavy has done that with Low-Fat Love. Truth be told, I love Low-Fat Love because it creates a fictional world that mirrors the gendered one we live in. I can identify with all the different characters and their issues. I would love to be in any college class or book group that was fortunate enough to be reading and discussing it. Brilliant!” – Laurel Richardson, Ph.D., Cooley Book Award Winner and Emeritus Professor of Sociology The Ohio State University
“Patricia Leavy writes with passion, verve and skill. I loved the first edition of LFL, but this expanded edition exceeded my expectations. I would run, not stroll, to get a copy for yourself and all of the important people in your life. I will use this in my relational communication and women’s studies classes because it is beautiful, relatable, and offers smart critique of how pop-culture’s expectations for intimate relationships often lets us down. Leavy offers readers a way to think through their close relationships and demand better of themselves and others.” – Sandra L. Faulkner, Director of Women’s Studies and Associate Professor of Communication Ph.D., Bowling Green State University
“I couldn’t put it down! Low-Fat Love is a remarkable novel that every women’s studies class and interpersonal class would do well to read. The title is indicative of the search for meaningful, deep, enriching relationships beyond the artificial, low-fat love that is all too pervasive in society today. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.” – Robin Patric Clair, Award-Winning Researcher and Professor of Communication Ph.D., Purdue University
“Low-Fat Love is absolutely brilliant. This new edition is a must-read for anyone who has lived, loved, dreamed, and at times, settled for less than what we deserve – in other words, this is a book for everyone. Get it now, set it on your course reading lists, and give it away for birthday and holiday gifts. It will change the way you think about identity, the media and popular culture, gender, communication, feminism, education, emotion, relationships, and the sociology of human being-ism.” – Anne Harris, Ph.D., Monash University and Australian Research Fellow in Creativity and Arts in Education
“More than anything, Low-Fat Love proves the astonishing talent that Leavy possesses as both a writer and social commentator. This novel manages to synthesize years of research without ever feeling researched, and teaches so much without the reader feeling as if they were being educated. It’s a novel that appeals to multiple audiences, and I know that many of my students, both male and female, recommended this novel to their friends and siblings for the fun enlightenment they gained. In short, read it now. You definitely won’t be disappointed. It manages to be a short, ‘can’t put it down’ book to read on the beach or on a plane, while still inspiring the sort of reflection usually reserved for self-help novels and sociology tomes. A wonderful and inspiring read that I will be using for years to come. Every student should read this book.” – U. Melissa Anyiwo, Ph.D., Director of Diversity Studies and Professor of History and American Studies Curry College
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