The essays in Savala Nolan’s first collection, Don’t Let It Get You Down, unfold out of her complex relationship with being a big-bodied, mixed-race Black woman ... Nolan is a law professor at Berkeley who clerked in the Obama administration’s office of White House counsel; but these 12 essays are concerned less with her legal career than with her origin story and personal development ... Nolan is writing into a long tradition, and its contemporary renaissance ... This embrace of the heterogeneity of Black womanhood is part of this book’s charm. Another part is the author’s voice — vulnerable, but rarely veering into self-indulgence ... Don’t Let It Get You Down dances in the spaces between binaries of Black womanhood.
In 12 probing essays, Savala Nolan explores her intersectionality of race, gender and body awareness with an unflinching honesty that is both revelatory and unsettling. The essays are personal and confessional but informed by an awareness of larger historical narratives rooted in American culture ... Nolan is keenly aware of how her body is read by others, how her mixed-cultural heritage—Black, Mexican and white—places her at the nexus of differing cultural narratives ... At the heart of the book is Nolan’s insistence that she must firmly stand in her truth and not be roped into needlessly debating it. That conviction does not, however, detract from her ability to embrace uncertainty as she seeks to understand herself and the society around her.
Like the 12 essays in Don’t Let It Get You Down: Essays on Race, Gender, and the Body, Savala Nolan is powerful and complex ... Like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, written as a letter to his son, Nolan’s essays speak to both young and old Americans about our country’s pervasive history of racism.
... vulnerable yet voluble personal essays ... She writes with humor and power about seeking approval from white men because of their aura of authority, and she telescopes out of specific experiences to explore how we uncomfortably navigate society to carve out our own valuable space within a social hierarchy ... She's notably honest about navigating various contradictions in her life and demonstrates how the insistence on 'either/or' rigidity limits relationships, both between and within individuals ... Nolan's writing on identity and self-worth is captivating from start to finish; her words will resonate long after the last page.
This fierce and intelligent book is important not just for how it celebrates hard-won pride in one’s identity, but also for how Nolan articulates the complicated—and too often overlooked—nature of personal and cultural in-betweenness. An eloquently provocative memoir in essays.
... deeply personal ... At times, the episodic nature can lack immediacy: 'On Dating White Guys While Me' boils down to a sort of list of men. Still, the mix of cultural criticism and thoughtful personal writing will be just right for fans of Roxane Gay.