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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 3


“Lord, did you hear about Patience?” Mae June was talking before she got in the house good and came in making herself at home. She spent as much time at her cousin Twiggy’s as she did in her own dollar down house, which was more than 1000 footsteps away. She walked in catching her breath and starting something. She grabbed a mixed matched plate from the cabinet and spooned out some piping hot grits in the center of the plate. Twiggy was cracking an egg in a hot skillet full of pork grease and Cake, her husband, was already sitting at the table, rubbing his hands against his knees as if he was trying to warm them up. Mae June was Twiggy’s second or third cousin (they didn’t know which or how) and the town gossip. She sat at the table next to Cake, nodding without speaking. “You know she married that out-of-town man with the shifty eyes and done gone plum crazy. Shot his ass dead at the breakfast table.”

“She ain’t go crazy,” Twiggy said, shaking the pan so that grease would slide all over the frying egg. “She got sense. Got his ass back for beating her half to death.” Twiggy poured the cooked egg in a plate that was waiting by the stove, fried with the yellow running. “Mae, you want eggs?”

“Nawl, girl, I ain’t hungry.” Mae seasoned her grits with salt and pepper and tasted a small bite...

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