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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 16

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Twiggy always dressed sharp and kept her hair fixed. She didn’t wear makeup, except lipstick, which was enough to show off her face. It was the same whether she was supervising housekeepers at the hospital or pulling heads off of chickens at the chicken plant. Her work clothes were dry cleaned and her jeans had a crease down the middle like a dividing white line. Her uniform shirt was the color of potato salad with too much mayonnaise, and she wore a name tag over her left titty. The tag said supervisor, with Sadie Lately on the bottom, because people at work didn’t know that nobody called her that at home. At home she was Twiggy, mama, or grah-mah. She would go so long sometimes without hearing her real name that it sounded strange when she heard it, and for a minute she would pause to wonder who was being talked about.

After working twenty years at a factory and another ten years at the hospital, people called her Ms. Lately or Ms. Sadie because she was old enough to be their mama. They respected her, feared her, and looked up to her. She expected the same behavior from her children and grandchildren.

Twiggy never wears anything but pants, with pockets in the back so she has somewhere to keep her pock-a-book, a men’s wallet she carries her money and driver’s license in. She has never carried a purse or had a checkbook. She...

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