“The essays in Savala Nolan’s first collection ... unfold out of her complex relationship with being a big-bodied, mixed-race Black woman ... This embrace of the heterogeneity of Black womanhood is part of this book’s charm. Vulnerable, but rarely veering into self-indulgence…it is a brutal, beautifully rendered narrative. A standout collection.”
-Tressie McMillan Cottom, The New York Times Book Review
A powerful and provocative collection of essays that offers poignant reflections on living between society’s most charged, politicized, and intractably polar spaces—between black and white, rich and poor, thin and fat.
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 a clear and nuanced understanding of our society’s most intractable points of tension. The twelve essays that comprise this collection are rich with unforgettable anecdotes and are as humorous and as full of Nolan’s appetites as they are of anxieties. The result is lyrical and magnetic.
In “On Dating White Guys While Me,” Nolan realizes her early romantic pursuits of rich, preppy white guys weren’t about preference, but about self-erasure. In the titular essay “Don’t Let it Get You Down,” we traverse the cyclical richness and sorrow of being Black in America as Black children face police brutality, “large Black females” encounter unique stigma, and Black men carry the weight of other people’s fear. In “Bad Education,” we see how women learn to internalize rage and accept violence in order to participate in our culture. And in “To Wit and Also” we meet Filliss, Grace, and Peggy, the enslaved women owned by Nolan’s white ancestors, reckoning with the knowledge that America’s original sin lives intimately within our present stories. Over and over again, Nolan reminds us that our true identities are often most authentically lived not in the black and white, but in the grey of the in-between.
Perfect for fans of Heavy by Kiese Laymon and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Don’t Let It Get You Down delivers an essential perspective on race, class, bodies, and gender in America today.
“Savala Nolan is powerful and complex...Like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Nolan’s essays speak to both young and old Americans about our country’s pervasive history of racism.”
—BookPage, starred review
“A deeply personal debut collection…the mix of cultural criticism and thoughtful personal writing will be just right for fans of Roxane Gay.”
“In twelve 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’s essays on gender are critical continuations of conversations most recently shaped by writers such as Brittney Cooper and Roxane Gay…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.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
"An eloquently provocative memoir in essays...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."
"[A] book of vulnerable yet voluable personal essays on weight and multiracial identity...Nolan's writing on identity and self-worth is captivating from start to finish; her words will resonate long after the last page."
—Library Journal, starred review