Savala Nolan knows what it means to live in the in-between. Descended from a Black and Mexican father and a white mother, Nolan's mixed-race identity is obvious, for better and worse. At her mother's encouragement, she began her first diet at the age of three and has been both fat and painfully thin throughout her life. She has experienced both the discomfort of generational poverty and the ease of wealth and privilege. It is these liminal spaces--of race, class, and body type--that the essays in Don't Let It Get You Down excavate, presenting an understanding of our society's most intractable points of tension.
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.