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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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Conclusion: Why Black Women’s Stories Matter


← 138 | 139 →



Why Black Women’s Stories Matter

The stories in this book include an everyday backdrop of inconspicuous violence, insidious social oppression, and limited options. Sweetwateran women’s lives are a combination of ugly myths, debilitating stereotypes, visceral realities, and temporary escapes. Their negotiation of subjugation shows their fragility and vulnerability as well as their strength. It is their shared responses to pain and disappointment, not the conditions that cause their pain and disappointment, that generate their resilience.

The black women in these stories organize their lives in response to life’s circumstances. The multiplicative nature of their raced, gendered, and class oppression makes their stories intersectional and involuntary. They confront stereotypes by resisting them, and sometimes adapting to them, because in many ways our environment informs our choices. The self-segregation of Sweetwater provides an insulated and isolated space where stories are passed back and forth without restraint. Sweetwater is also a place where families recycle bad habits, daughters inherit their mothers’ fears and dreams, and romantic love feels fleeting, if not impossible. Davis (2007) says “Black women’s collective experience is a cultural performance of survival and resistance” (p. 124), and these stories carry a performative impulse that reinforces what it looks like when women are constantly negotiating how to make a way out of no way, or a dollar out of fifteen cents. ← 139 | 140 → Reconceptualizing rural black women’s lived realities urges us to see rural black women’s stories as...

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