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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 12


Being popular and pretty is everything to little girls and I was neither. The mere sight of me inspired taunts from neighborhood children who took their insecurities out on me because of my desperate desire to be liked. The girls offered their friendship in exchange for my willingness to be humiliated. They made up games to ensure I always came in last. Who is the prettiest, tallest, lightest, with the longest hair? Their hierarchies always left me at the bottom, the black sheep of the group. The day the game was about beauty marks I felt relieved and worthy of attention.

There were three on my middle left finger, one right below my collarbone, and in my other places I hadn’t yet seen. When I realized, during lunchroom conversation, that the dark, sometimes lifted, sometimes flat, perfectly round dark circles on my body were beauty marks I was impressed with myself. I had more on one finger than my so-called friends had on their entire bodies.

“I have beauty marks! See!” I stretched out the third finger on my left hand, begging for approval from the popular girls at the table. They smirked, looking at each other and laughing to themselves.

Isis, the ringleader of the group, grabbed my hand to inspect the finger in question. She threw my hand away after glancing at the darkened marks on my ← 107 | 108 → finger. “They aren’t beauty marks on you Bird, you’re too ugly....

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