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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.

“The stories in <> are like oxygen after held breath—exhilarating, satisfying, and sustaining. Twiggy, Bread, and Bird love and scold, teach and hold each other, the women in their community, and the reader through their stories, lives, and worlds. Robin M. Boylorn is a writer who breathes air and life into her inheritance and shares the stories of her mothers with honesty, care, hope, and strength.” —Stacy Holman Jones, Professor in the Centre for Theatre and Performance, Monash University, and Co-editor of <>

“Robin M. Boylorn takes you intimately and viscerally into her life growing up and into the lives of the southern black rural women in her hometown. You hear women whispering and talking women-talk, see them worshipping and getting the spirit, smell the ham hocks cooking, sense the passion and pain of their daily romantic and family lives, feel their hearts beating and bleeding, share their resentment and love for the men who don’t always do them right, and finally understand deeply the resilience it takes to get by no matter what challenges are thrown at you. Dr. Boylorn joins the creative genius of a Toni Morrison to the scholarship of black women’s lives, exemplifying the ethnographic eye/I and ethical consciousness of the best of qualitative research. This is a stunning autoethnographic and narrative tour de force that will captivate students and scholars alike.” –Carolyn Ellis, Professor of Communication Studies and Sociology, University of South Florida, and Author of <>

“Zora Neale Hurston is kicking dirt up out her grave! With Robin M. Boylorn’s brave work, dust tracks become lineage and lines of text become clotheslines again. All that we are is hung out here to dry, wave surrender, or see morning. In content and form Dr. Boylorn’s <> actualizes the black feminist imperative to lift up our stories, in this case the stories of rural black women, as catalysts towards a world better understood, more deeply held, and more transformatively loved.” —Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Founder of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind, Co-Creator of the Queer Black Mobile Homecoming Project, and Author of <>