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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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Chapter 2


There is not much in the Bottom on the outside, but many folk are dying on the inside or killing each other with meanness, spite, and unforgiveness. If it wasn’t for the sin of suicide, maybe they would kill themselves. Nobody seemed willing to take that chance. Self-inflicted murder was never immediate or deliberate. It happened slowly and softly—with liquor and bad habits. Unnatural dying happened by accident though there were the stories of women being murdered by drunken boyfriends, fed-up wives putting roots on deadbeat husbands, and men who owed money to bookies being set on fire. The thing about a community as small as Sweetwater is that there is no place to hide your secrets.

White clothes were still on the clothesline when Walter raised his hand at Patience. Towels, bras, socks, panties, and sheets were neatly hanging on the invisible line and held in place with wooden pins. She had put them out that morning, before she went out, and had gotten home too late to bring them in. She hoped the night wind would not carry any of the socks away.

For some reason it was those white clothes still on the line that crossed her mind when his fist pushed against her face that first time. Patience did not hear him coming. Walter had always been a quiet man. It was his stillness that made him so dangerous. ← 35 | 36 →

Earlier that day Patience had received...

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