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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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Interlude: Porch Premonitions


← 80 | 81 →



Porch Premonitions

In Sweetwater, when men fix on cars, smoke cigarettes, and tell lies, with boys watching them from a distance, and girl children sit across from each other touching hands and singing Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack all dressed in black, black, black, womenfolk foreshadow the future in lustful whispers loud enough for passersby to hear. They sit around from morning ’til evening, rocking in chairs, snapping beans, fanning flies, and dipping snuff. They talk religion, relationships, work, children, secret lovers, and the goings-on of Sweetwater.

Unmarried and unrelated, Sweetie Pie and Peewee live three houses down from the Lately house. Stubborn and set in their ways, they keep mostly to themselves, holding hands behind closed doors, and breathing hard on each other’s necks at night. It is almost August so they are burning trash in the trash pile and watching the smoke rise while sitting on the porch catching a breeze. Sweetie Pie wears a housecoat and house shoes at all times while she is at home, and red lipstick. The pink sponge rollers in her hair are daily accessories, promising tight curls for her return to work the next day. She doesn’t worry about the smell of burnt garbage hanging in the air and settling on her skin because she will bathe with Clorox and white vinegar before bed, neutralizing the smell of heat, sweat, and poverty. ← 81 | 82 →

Peewee is known...

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