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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 14


Women turn to loving God when they get tired of waiting on men to love them, and they turn to men when God’s love feels insufficient. The older they get the more frantic and obsessive their love. They trade men and church services until every other night is filled with sin and begging for forgiveness.

Cake-batter-colored men were a beautiful distraction while waiting on God. I had grown up finding men to be unfaithful and unreliable—yet irresistible. Being loved and left seemed an inevitable fate for women. I had never witnessed logical love. Women were never married in a way that made sense. Many of them did not live with or love their husbands. They often only shared children and last names. Unmarried women would claim they were married to Jesus, but his physical absence made their loneliness more palpable.


Sunday morning worship at Free Will Church was predictable. Sunday school lessons. Praise and worship. Testimony service. Choir marching. Hands clapping. Singing. Statement of faith. Call to worship. Announcements. Singing. Children’s sermonette. Singing again. Offering. Scripture reading. Sermon. Singing. The Holy Ghost. Speaking tongues. The laying on of hands. Tears. Hollering hallelujah. Running. Dancing. Shouting. Fainting. More singing. Getting happy. ← 119 | 120 →

I was mesmerized by the source of the sounds, hums escaping red lips covered in cheap lipstick. Church women sat with their arms folded in their lap, and their legs crossed at their ankles, with their pocketbooks...

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