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Black Women and Narratives of Resilience, Revised Edition


Robin Boylorn

Sweetwater: Black Women and Narratives of Resilience is a multi-generational story of growing up black and female in the rural south. At times heartbreaking, at times humorous, Sweetwater captures the artistry, strength, language and creativity shared by first-hand accounts of black women in small-town North Carolina during the twentieth century. The book uncovers the versatility and universality of black women’s experiences and their exceptional capacity to love in the face of adversity, and hope in the midst of calamity. Sweetwater is about the black female experience as it relates to friendship, family, spirituality, poverty, education, addiction, mental illness, romantic relationships, and everyday survival. The merging themes show the resilience and resistance that black women exhibit while negotiating the intersecting oppressions of racism, classism, and sexism.

Written from field notes and memory, the author reveals the complexities of black women’s lived experiences by exposing the communicative and interpersonal choices black women make through storytelling. Narrative inquiry and black feminism are offered as creative educational tools for discussing how and why black women’s singular and interior lives are culturally and globally significant.

This revised edition preserves the original narratives but features new content including re-views, re-visions and re-considerations for re-writing autoethnography.

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Appendix B: Sweetwater Summaries


← 192 | 193 →


  Appendix B

Sweetwater Summaries

The narrative chapters of Sweetwater are numbered and not named. I wanted to expand, not limit, what the stories teach and tell us about black women, their communication practices, their relational negotiations, and their resilience. Because I expected each reader to have a separate relationship to Sweetwater based on their own lived experiences and background, I decided not to identify survival strategies and themes, in an effort to allow them to surface through reflection and discussion. This appendix offers brief chapter summaries in order to introduce the corresponding chapter themes. The themes included here are not exclusive or exhaustive, but outline the most observable topics addressed in the chapters.

Part 1: (DAILY) “BREAD”

The opening chapter of Sweetwater introduces the town and situates its race and class politics, alongside its demographic makeup. Sweetwater is described as a self-segregated community wherein black folk are bonded by biological kinship, religious faith, socioeconomic circumstances, and proximity. Chapter 1 describes what Sweetwater is like and what it is like to live there. ← 193 | 194 →

Chapters 2 through 4 discuss the ubiquity of intimate partner violence and infidelity in marriages, how romantic relationships are shaped and understood, and the persistence of alcoholism/substance abuse. In Chapter 2, Patience, a Sweetwater woman who moved away, kills her husband after he beats her. In Chapter 3, Twiggy is introduced, reinforcing assumed or preferred gender scripts for marriage and...

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