To articulate in writing a practice that is utterly metaphysical is an
exercise of faith. Thankfully, I have not walked this faith journey
alone. To the seven women who took part in this project—Ruth,
Yenenga, Roberta, Lucille, Beatrice, Lucinda, and Faye—your sacred
memories, stories, and selves are the heart of this work. I cannot
thank you enough for allowing me into your homes and hearts, and
I hope that you fi nd my humble attempts to capture the depth and
complexity of your stories to be an accurate glimpse into your fasci-
nating lives.
A substantial part of this project unfolded during my years of
graduate study at Emory University. My graduate mentors Don See-
man, Gary Laderman, and Dianne Diakité supported me and con-
tinue to encourage me with their wisdom, advice, and willingness
to engage. Don, thank you for helping me construct my own meth-
odological language. Gary, you always reminded me not to get too
hung up on death—I am so glad that you were “the death guy” for a
time. Dianne, you have been an incomparable advocate. Thank you
for all of your support, and especially the intangibles that coincide
with mentoring graduate students. Many others who were at Emory
during my tenure there—Luther Smith, Theresa Fry- Brown, Alton B.
Pollard III, Sonja Jackson, and the incomparable Pescha Penso—
made being a graduate student a humanizing experience for me.
My comrades Kent Brintnall, BaSean Jackson, Wylin Dassie Wilson,
Anjulet “Nina” Tucker, Claudette Anderson, and my best sister friend
Stephanie Sears helped me remain sane with lots of laughter, great
food and drink, sustaining conversation, and, of course, karaoke.
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