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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 5


Despite the foolishness going on in many households, Sweetwater women are devoted to religion. Some people attend church faithfully and with regularity, and others only go occasionally, but everybody believes in God. Even people who don’t ever go to church believe in God. Even women who sleep with other women’s husbands feel a little conviction on the inside when the loving is over because it is not pleasing to God. When Bread’s best friend, Ruth, told her she had a secret to share, Bread never imagined she would hear the whispered words, “I don’t believe in God.” They had been friends long enough for people to notice them together all the time. Twiggy had called them frick and frack because when you saw one you saw the other. Their friends said they went together like bread and butter, and so they started calling Ruth, Butter. The name fit because Butter was light skinned.

Butter’s mother had married Black Charles and moved into his small house with her eight children. Everybody called Butter’s stepfather Black Charles because there were two Charles’ in Sweetwater who were cousins and the same age. Black Charles is the dark-skinned one and Little Charles is the one named after his daddy (who is called Big Charles). No one ever just said Charles. The prefix was needed to let you know which Charles was being talked about. ← 55 | 56 →

“My real daddy used to beat on my mama all the time...

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