Film Blue: A Stunning Work of Sociological Fiction and a Must-Read in Book Clubs and College Classes

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As a child of the 80s, I hum Prince, Howard Jones, Michael Jackson, and Duran Duran songs while I’m cooking, can instantly remember the smell of the ditto machine, pegged my jeans, wore Out of Africa-inspired outfits, devoured John Hughes movies, and couldn’t wait to get Back to the Future. And, as with probably any teen who grew up in rural America, I longed for New York City, London, LA, or Tokyo—the lights, activities, enormous libraries, culture, theatre, museums, diversity, and more restaurants than the few our small town sported.

What is it about the bright lights in the big city that draws the imagination of so many? And what is it actually like, for those that make that life-changing move to New York City or LA?

Film Blue: A Stunning Work of Sociological Fiction and a Must-Read in Book Clubs and College Classes

Enter acclaimed sociologist and novelist, Dr. Patricia Leavy, with her incredible novel, Film Blue. Before I get into that, a little background. Dr. Leavy is the world’s most visible proponent of arts-based research—a research paradigm that merges the social sciences with the arts and humanities. In 2010, she coined the term social fiction to denote fiction that is grounded in scholarship. The method she delineated is now used by scholars across the disciplines and around the world. Her recent textbook, Re/Invention: Methods of Social Fiction (read our author interview here), offers accessible guidance to any student, researcher, or writer interested in writing fiction. She has received dozens of book awards for her 40 works of fiction and nonfiction, as well as career awards from the New England Sociological Association, the American Creativity Association, the American Educational Research Association, the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, and the National Art Education Association. That brings us to the present. Most recently, she has penned a brilliant novel entitled Film Blue. It is a treasure. 

Film Blue is the quintessential novel of young adults in NYC and LA– building chosen families, exploring creative pursuits, following their dreams, and finding themselves. It’s very much about obstacles, disappointments, mistakes, possibilities, and magic. Set in current times with a love of the 1980s, it’s both a nostalgic look back (for those of us who grew up then, as well as those, like my daughter, who can’t get enough of that time period) and a deeply researched sociological novel about growing up and finding your place in the world. 

While it’s a book that will stand the test of time, it’s also timely, and very much of the moment. In the age of #MeToo and girls and women both speaking out and facing clear backlash, Film Blue is an important contribution to the ongoing cultural conversation we’re having about the lives of girls and women, and what the pursuit of happiness is like for them. There’s a subtext about incidents of harassment and assault the female characters have experienced, and how those impact the trajectory of their lives, including their ability to pursue happiness. The characters push us to ask, “Is a girl with a dream really on her own?”

Yes, this is a book that should be read for pleasure. There is glitz, glamour, and plenty of laughs. 

But if ever there was a novel that ought to be adopted in college courses, this is it. 

I’m not alone in thinking Film Blue is the ideal novel to incorporate into a range of college classes—sociology, psychology, communication, women’s studies (really any class that deals with social life, pop culture, privilege, gender, or the American dream). More than 10 leading scholars—and I mean leading—have offered rave endorsements, encouraging class use. Among them, Jean Kilbourne, Sut Jhally, Norman Denzin, and Laurel Richardson! How many novels receive praise from scholars of this caliber? Dr. Leavy clearly sees teaching potential, too, and has included further engagement for class use, making it easy for any professor to integrate it into their class. As Jean Kilbourne remarked, it “is sure to stimulate reflection.” Sut Jhally similarly noted it would be “a useful and fun teaching tool.” I concur. 

Here’s the thing: it’s an eminently readable, thoughtful, satisfying novel—the kind of book where you start and then just read until you’re done, no interruptions and much joy. It can – and should – be used in university classrooms for a variety of subjects, but it is also meant to be read outside of the university – for yourself, or with your book club. There’s much to ponder, and discuss, but also much to ingest, reflect upon, and relate to your own life. 

I couldn’t put it down, absolutely loved it, and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Highly recommended! 

Learn more:

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Film Blue: A Stunning Work of Sociological Fiction and a Must-Read in Book Clubs and College Classes