The Social Worker—A Novel: The Advantages of Fictional Re-Presentations of Life Narratives
AbstractPublication of The Social Worker: A Novel (Ungar, 2011b) is an example of how fiction can be used to re-present life narratives from qualitative research. Contrasting samples of text from multiple modes of my writing (fiction, trade nonfiction, professional, and academic), I highlight four aspects of the novel that are congruent with qualitative inquiry: (a) fiction challenges writers and readers to shed assumptions by immersing us in the world of the other; (b) fiction exposes that which is not named or too intuitive to be crisply identified, opening possibilities to articulate discursively marginal points of view; (c) fiction makes clear the presence of the narrator; and (d) fiction acknowledges that the reader is actively present, interpreting that which is read. Discussion of each of these four aspects of re-presentation suggests congruence between the goals of qualitative research and the performance of writing fiction. The complex relationship between subjectivity and this performance is explored.