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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 8


Bread fell in love when she was eighteen years old and newly out of school. There was nothing extraordinary about the boy, other than that he was not from Sweetwater. His citified ways reminded her of Ray-Ray. It was his smile, bright and magnificent, that caused Bread to feel so drawn to him. He had seduced her by accident, not knowing that all he had to do was look at her for a long time and she would be hooked. His sweet smile, unintentional and automatic when he met anyone’s gaze, would make you feel like he had never shown anybody else in the world his teeth before. And that is how Bread felt around Uli, silly, foolish, and like there wasn’t anybody else in the world except her. And him.

The broken bottles and her broken heart and her parents’ broken marriage and the broken-down cars and the broken windows and the broken fences and the broken-down signs and the broken dreams, and the broken promises of Sweetwater all seemed to mend themselves when Uli was around. He made her life better but she was too young and too naïve to know, at first, that the ache in her chest and the ache in her middle parts might be love, or lust, or a combination of those feelings.

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With peach fuzz growing over and under his lips, Uli stood in the doorway after knocking. Bread wasn’t sure she...

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