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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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Three of the nine women I interviewed are now deceased. Collectively, they lived over twenty decades. I selected them to participate in my study because they lived extraordinary lives and were leaders of/in their communities and families, and because their lives remained grounded in rural roots. They were engaged citizens, wives, mothers, educators, healers, friends, and survivors. They lived consciously, courageously, intentionally, and fully. They lost loved ones over the years and resurrected them through the narratives they told. I am honored to have that same opportunity to bring them back to life through storytelling.


Ms. M., her name, calm waiting her Mama’s last child full of memories and strength known for making black woman’s history educated but not high minded proud but not arrogant an activist, educator, and politician ← 203 | 204 →


Butter to my Mama’s Bread. tears chasing pain remembering hard things not often spoken. The room filled with best-friend laughter between grown women who share childhood and secrets


Aunt H., alive almost 100 years Greensboro-born brown-skinned brown-eyed girl chosen by high yellow, green-eyed, boy married at 17 in the country mother of 14 babies a beautiful wonder

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