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Sweetwater

Black Women and Narratives of Resilience, Revised Edition

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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 11

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From the outside looking in, it was evident that being in Sweetwater was hard on a man. There were few opportunities for advancement or escape, so men had to rely on mother wit and sound judgment to make it. It was no surprise that the boys chased any opportunity for distraction, be that the bottom of a liquor bottle, between some pretty woman’s legs, or smoking dope. Women were forgiving of the vices and somehow took on the scorn of their men, blaming themselves and white folk for black male anger and indifference. Women were prepared to believe anything men said to them, even barefaced lies.

Country boys have honey-dipped tongues and their sweet talk is not all wasted on love interests. They manage to lull all of the women in their life, mothers and sisters, church mothers, and grandmothers included, into believing that every bad thing that befalls them is the result of hard luck or somebody else’s fault. It was not uncommon in Sweetwater for grown men to live with their mothers or grandmothers or to go back and forth between multiple households and children. Mothers raised their daughters and let their sons grow up.

I don’t remember many men, other than my uncles, whom I saw almost every day in my life. The men in church were ancient. They were handsome if you looked at them long enough and imagined them young. Their faces, like masks, held disappointments and trials. Many...

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