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Leave a Comment. Patricia Leavy, Ph. Frequently called on by the media, she has appeared on national television, radio, is regularly quoted by the news media, publishes op-eds and is a blogger for The Huffington Post and The Creativity Post. She just released a special anniversary edition of her best-selling novel, Low-Fat Love. We had a chance to chat with Patricia about the concept behind Low-Fat Love and what this anniversary edition means to her. Feminist chick-lit, which I know may seem like an oxymoron.
Low-fat love is a concept. In relationships, including the relationship we have with ourselves, there is no substitute for the real thing. Faking it never works. It just increases the gap between our life as it is and our life as we truly wish it to be. So this idea of low-fat love as settling in life and love is really the guiding concept in the book. For me, this is linked to identity and self-concept.
How we see ourselves and how we think about ourselves impacts the extent to which we settle and the ways in which we settle, pretend or otherwise try to fake ourselves out. Both women are experiencing personal change relating to the men in their lives and they are each isolated in their own way.
She falls for Pete Rice, a non-committal artist who exacerbates her insecurities. While at first she thinks she is finally experiencing the big life she always sought, his unconventional, free-spirited views on relationships unsettle her, causing her to doubt herself and ultimately to start to unravel over the course of their relationship. Meanwhile, Janice, a workaholic, feminist in-name-only editor, overburdens and undermines Prilly.
Janice has tried to build an identity that denies her past but when her father is injured in a car accident she is forced to face her own demons.
In the end, Prilly and Janice are pushed to look honestly at themselves and the central male figures in their lives. Likewise, all of the characters have to find their voices or suffer the consequences. A combination of personal experiences and things I heard and observed from women I interviewed as well as my college students. On the personal front, I definitely suffered from self-esteem issues growing up and I think I looked to find myself through a romantic relationship, when of course you have to become yourself so that you have something to offer in a relationship.
I needed to learn to spark my own fire. I think my experiences probably pushed me in the direction of interviewing others and maybe even making myself open to students sharing their experiences, which for many years was a regular part of my life as an academic.
I was the professor many students sought out to talk about their personal issues ranging from body image struggles to boyfriend or girlfriend troubles to sexual assault and harassment. I heard so much. At the end of the day I think all of these personal and professional experiences have been a life roadmap for me. I think a lot of people avoid that honest look at self because it is scary but once we walk through that, our worlds expand. I know that has been true in my own life and I have seen it with others.
So I was motivated to write a novel with characters who need to confront their own issues in order to get un-stuck. Also, I have gained so much strength from friendships with strong women; friends who truly want the best for me and I for them. I think those relationships are vital and so I chose to write a novel about women who lack those kinds of relationships and as a result, their dysfunctional relationships with men who withhold, occupy a more prominent space in their lives.
Pop culture is really the subtext. There are loads of pop culture references throughout the book and each one was selected with intent. Our ideas about beauty, appearance, romance, love, and so forth, those ideas are shaped in a context not just in our own heads.
I wanted to show how that context can impact some people. As a feminist sociologist, I attempted to offer a critical commentary about popular culture and the social construction of femininity.
For instance, the main character Prilly is repeatedly engaged in consuming media targeted at women, such as tabloid TV, home shopping, Lifetime movies, plays, books, and even music videos. So, media culture, which is the macro level, impacts Prilly personally, which is the micro level.
I also used pop culture to mirror what was going on with the characters, including their relationship and life mistakes. I hope that readers are prompted to reflect on their own lives. I think our lives improve dramatically when we get really honest with ourselves about how we feel about ourselves and what we want out of our relationships. I hope the book offers readers a chance to do a personal inventory, a gut check of sorts.
I think scholars are charged with helping us to understand human experiences and the contexts in which we live our lives. Artists are charged with reflecting what others are feeling and experiencing. They hold up a mirror for us to look honestly at ourselves and others. So as a scholar-artist, my goal was to try to make sense of and reflect what many experience in their relationships with others and in their own psyches.
I hope readers use the book as a springboard for reflection and that ultimately it encourages people not to waste time and energy settling in life and love. Find and nurture your fire. Is the new edition a gift to fans? However, I feel a responsibility to put out the best work I am capable of. The novel needed a good copyediting and some other refinements. So I felt it was important to offer both dedicated readers and new readers a better version of the book.
Because the book is used in college classes it felt particularly important to put a stronger version out. I will say although I badly wanted to put out a new version of the novel, it was quite daunting to take on revising a novel that many people have already read. I had to walk through the fear which was sort of perfect, because the whole book is about walking through personal fears and finding our voices.
My process of going back and revising in some ways mirrors the very lessons of the book. I think at the end of the day the anniversary edition was really a gift to me and I am overjoyed to be able to share it with readers. You are so closely identified with this particular book. What does this book mean to you? What it means to me has changed over time and perhaps will continue to change.
This book changed my life in more than one way. When I first wrote it, I think I was sort of possessed in a way. No one except for the man who is now my husband knew about it. It was a secret project. I had developed ideas about identity, relationships and settling after years of interview experiences, teaching and my own personal battles.
I was compelled to get my ideas out in an uncensored way. There was no plan to publish the book or any thought about how people might receive it. I simply had to write it for myself. It was cathartic. I had no idea that the book would resonate with so many people.
As a result, people, and women in particular, started seeking me out to tell me their identity and relationship stories. So at book signings, after talks at conferences, in university hallways and in non-professional settings all over the place, women who had read the book wanted to share with me. Those conversations have forever changed me.
As a person and as a writer I feel like I am in a very different place than when I wrote the first edition so I am deeply grateful that I had this opportunity to go back and give it another go. I think now I am at peace with both the book and the stories that informed it, my own and those of others. So if I had to describe what the books means to me now in one word, I would say, healing. Work on the relationship you have with yourself.
When that is strong, your other choices will become vast and clear. You can find Patricia at www. Friday, June 5, News Feed Comments. Resources for HELP! RealDeal is a program of. United Way of Piedmont. White Elephant. Duo Web Solutions. Spartanburg County Foundation.
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An Interview with Renowned Feminist Author Patricia Leavy about Low-Fat Love
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This summer, I tried something new with my sociology of gender class. Rather than assigning a traditional textbook or a reader, I had the class read a work of fiction based on social science research along with a few topical nonfiction works. I was nervous to see if my students, who are used to big lecture halls and multiple choice tests, would feel comfortable discussing the novel and would come away from the class with a better understanding of the social scientific themes embedded throughout the text. But my fears quickly went away. In fact, the discussions the work of fiction inspired were some of the best of the semester. My sociology of gender class read Low Fat Love , a social science fiction novel by Dr.