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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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Epilogue: BitterSweet(water): A Meta-Autoethnography


When I wrote Sweetwater, I never imagined it would be read beyond the few hundred people who may have stumbled upon my dissertation looking for something else. I never expected it to become a book. I never thought my book would sit on people’s coffee tables. I never knew my words would be taught in classrooms. I am honored that what began as an attempt at understanding my community, and thereby myself, has inspired and instigated other stories and considerations of place-specific autoethnographies.

Shortly after Sweetwater was first published I revisited the community to talk to people who were interviewed about their impressions of the book. I planned to use their feedback to consider what, if any, follow up projects I would pursue, related to Sweetwater. Three of the nine women I interviewed passed away between the time I completed my dissertation in 2009 and published the book in 2013. When I approached the other women I interviewed about Sweetwater, only a few of them were interested in talking about the book. While I initially felt their ambivalence may have been a result of dissatisfaction with how they were represented, I later realized that three of them had not read the book and had no interest or intention in doing so because they did not have the luxury of time or interest in pleasure reading. One woman read the book but felt intimidated discussing it with me, saying she would feel more comfortable if she read...

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