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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 7


Aunt Noisey was a woman of few words. She never talked about the things most present on people’s minds about her, like why she looked like a white woman, how she kept her hair so clean without washing it with water, or what happened to her left arm. She was the only person Bread knew with a missing limb, but no one seemed to notice because they were too busy being distracted by her good looks. Noisey was an attractive woman, and one arm or not, she had men lined up at her door begging to give her a few extra dollars and help her take care of her children. She shooed them away with her good arm and shook her head at their simplemindedness. Women saw her as a threat because, while they didn’t worry that their husbands would leave them outright to be with her, they wouldn’t put it past them to sleep with her out of pure curiosity. Men saw her as broken, desperate, vulnerable, and in need of help, as much for being a woman with no man in the house as for her disability. But Noisey was fully capable of taking care of herself and tending to all of her children alone. Her babies were by different men who had walked out, one by one, when she refused to be their wife.

“I tell you what,” she would say, sometimes to herself, sometimes to anybody walking close enough to hear, or...

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