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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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Author’s Preface to the Revised Edition (Robin M. Boylorn)


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  Author’s Preface to the Revised Edition


I was initially reluctant at the thought of doing a revised edition of Sweetwater. The first time I held the book in my hands, I inspected each page, fingering the edges and finding minor aesthetic errors that made me feel sick to my stomach. I had wanted it to be perfect. It wasn’t perfect. But it was mine, and its imperfections were my imperfections. Pieces and fragments of my story held together by memory, pages, and time.

Sweetwater is what happened after years of collecting stories, writing, witnessing, remembering, and telling. Many people have said to me after reading Sweetwater that they wished there was more, and of course there is more. There is always more. Telling a story is always telling a partial and partisan account (Goodall, 2000). Stories are fragments of larger narratives, snapshots of lives that keep going long after the telling.

When I was writing Sweetwater I was intentional about the stories I told, and while editing sometimes leaves things out, things you intended be left in, I felt Sweetwater was the story I needed to tell at the time. The story is timeless and resonant, representative and generalizable (and not only to black women). Sweetwater is about living with and through complicated circumstances that center race and gender without being limited to race and gender. It is a living witness and history, archived...

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