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Sweetwater

Black Women and Narratives of Resilience, Revised Edition

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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 4

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There was no such thing as domestic violence when Patience killed her husband in self-defense. Husbands and wives fought all the time. It was like a religion and they were faithful to it. Death was intermittent but beating, hitting, kicking, cutting, choking, and cussing was commonplace. The fighting seemed normal and was an expected exchange in intimate relationships. Girls learned that if a boy threatened to kill them or throw them in a ditch, that meant he loved them.

Fighting was just “one of those things” and you learned to live with it. In Sweetwater, people rarely intervened or interfered with public fights. Men often beat their wives out in the open, on front porches, at family gatherings, and even in church vestibules. Some men beat their wives the way they beat their children, with a belt or switch, full force of open hand, and for her own good. They felt it was their right and responsibility as men to discipline their wives and believed that the Bible supported their beliefs. It was the one scripture all the men in Sweetwater knew by heart that wives are supposed to submit to their husbands. When a preacher slapped his wife in the pulpit, people silently wondered what she had done to inspire such anger in a man of God.

There was nothing romantic about how they loved, no sweet around their hearts or softness in their voices. They didn’t know how to love and not...

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