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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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Prologue: Telling


← xxviii | xxix →




Overhearing the gossip of strangers in my mama’s living room, I learned that you don’t want your business in the street. It was the mantra of grown folk/who met at fences/and stood across ditches/and sat on porches and waved/and spoke into phone receivers/and exchanged knowing glances/and used their children to spy/and whispered possibilities into the air/and made up endings to dry stories/and made judgments and justifications/and talked shit while shooting the breeze/and knew the comings and goings/beatings and leavings/badass kids and abortions/and arrests/and grades/and girl did you know so and so was pregnant by such and such/and the bad credit and the repossessions/and the court dates and the bad checks/and the illegitimate children and the unfaithful wives/and the layoffs and the drop outs/and the fights and the fists and the tears and the spit/and the lovehatelove/and the husbands who left/and the incest/and the crimes and the schemes and scandals/and the drug money hidden in vents with more money than the neighbor left to her family when she died/and the donation the church made to help pay for the funeral cause they didn’t have enough money to bury her right/to the deaths in the threes/and the births from fish dreams.

To know everybody’s business while holding your tongue takes everything you got—

it robs you of the story you long to tell ← xxix | xxx → the story that makes you feel something The story comes when...

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