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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 10


Grandma Twiggy was always cooking, always fussing, always moving. She was never young or old, and was intentional in the way she took care of us. She loved us without ever saying the words. Her favorite labor of love was cooking, though it was not without complaint. Nothing irritated her more than my ungratefulness for her gestures at making sure that I never knew what it felt like to be hungry, in the true sense of the word.

“Your black ass would make a preacher cuss,” she would tell me after giving me an ear full of grown up words. Knowing a few churchless preachers whose mouths were no more holy than ours, I didn’t doubt her, but I still felt inherently bad at the insinuation.

Saturdays were set aside for cleaning the house and making groceries. If we ran out of enough food to make a full meal before the weekend, we had to make do with what we had. The cabinets always had Pet’s milk, canned meat, and saltine crackers. Cali and I would split our favorite, Vienna sausages out of the can, or potted meat seasoned with vinegar, salt, and pepper on crackers, until Aunt Bebe told us we were eating cat’s tongue.

“You know what you eating don’t cha?”

“Ain’t nothin’ but some little weenies and potted meat,” Cali offered back, plopping a whole Vienna sausage in her mouth. ← 95 | 96 →

“No it ain’t,...

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