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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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Series Editor’s Preface (Mary E. Weems)


← xiv | xv →


  Series Editor’s Preface

Sweetwater: Country Stories With Ties to the City

“If ignorance is bliss then my life has been tragic, marked by the realization that despite my attempts to define myself, I’m often reduced to what the world says I am.” When I read these words by Black woman–scholar Robin Boylorn, I was spun back through my own life, like a Black girl fast dancing with time. Although I was born and raised in the inner city, my ancestors on both my mother’s and father’s sides moved here from the south in the early 1900s, and the Sweetwater stories helped me revisit the connection between my southern ancestry and northern self.

I remembered all of the times we were out of Koolaide, soda, juice, and milk in one roach-infested apartment or another and the only thing I could fix my sisters and brother to drink was sugar water, something sweet seasoned with the taste of being poor—a fact I didn’t realize until I started attending school. I remembered all of the times I watched programming in black and white that reinforced blatant stereotypes about Black people—and Black women in particular—and laughed.

Most important, this quote reminded me of the fact that even today, twelve years into the twenty-first century, media stereotypes about Black women are alive and well thanks to TV commercials that feature Black women cleaning houses and kitchens and...

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