“A standout collection…a brutal, beautifully rendered narrative.”— The New York Times Book Review

Savala Nolan is the author of Don’t Let It Get You Down: Essays on Race, Gender and the Body. She and her writing have been featured in The New York Times Book Review, Vogue, Harper’s Magazine, Time, NPR, Forbes and more. She is a regular keynote speaker and panelist on social justice issues including implicit bias, structural racism, understanding Whiteness, and the importance of social justice work for all lawyers.

Savala Nolan joined the Henderson Center in January 2016, where she leads over 50 lectures, symposia, teach-ins, and skills-building workshops a year for law students, scholars, and activists. She spearheaded the creation of a Race and Law concentration, successfully endowed a new racial justice fellowship, and works closely with affinity groups and law journals to prepare students for a thriving social justice practice.

Prior to joining the Henderson Center, Nolan was Associate Director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University’s Law School in Detroit, Michigan. She practiced law at Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP (then Keker & Van Nest) in San Francisco. Nolan also clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and, in 2010, served as a law clerk in the Obama Administration’s Office of White House Counsel, where she prepared research memoranda on constitutional matters. Before law school, Nolan worked at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy.

Savala's Featured Titles

Don’t Let It Get You Down: Essays on Race, Gender, and the Body

Simon & Schuster |

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.


Talks with Savala Nolan

Each talk can be presented in a conversation/interview format or as a lecture. Savala enjoys the opportunity to present these ideas in an informal manner, when it makes sense for your audience!

Both include audience Q & A.


Bodies, Race, and Gender: Excavating Our Stories, Telling Our Truths

Drawing from the essays in her critically acclaimed first collection, this interactive book talk explores the challenges, surprises, and critical importance of honoring our bodies as sites of profound knowledge, epiphany, truth, and connection. Perfect for writers and storytellers of all kinds, and also for people seeking greater joy and groundedness in their relationship with their bodies.


What is Whiteness?

In this interactive, exploratory session, we’ll consider the legal and personal components of “whiteness,” moving together toward a shared articulation of what whiteness is, how it functions, and why it matters.  Perfect for those who hold white privilege or those who are eager to explore the workings of American racial hierarchy.


A Closer Look at Fatphobia: Why it Exists and What it Costs Us

Fatphobia (or anti-fat bias) is widespread and has deep roots in the United States—but it isn’t inevitable or innate.  It’s learned, and it’s particular to specific times, places, and cultures.  Why do some cultures regard fat bodies as positive or neutral while others regard fat bodies as problems to be avoided and solved?  In this multimedia, interactive presentation, we’ll explore the ideas that create and flow from fatphobia, from anti-black racism to patriarchy, from the BMI to core concepts of the fat liberations/body neutrality movements.  We’ll consider the uses of fatphobia—what work it does in the culture—and consider what it might be like to have a world free from this learned and harmful bias.


How to Love Law School When You Love Social Justice

Many people come to law school thinking their studies will focus on how to make the world a better place.  It is a shock to discover that, in fact, American law is deeply rooted in—and still supporting—systems of racial dominance, capitalism, and hierarchy.  Students who want to lawyer on behalf of the marginalized often find themselves alienated and depressed before the end of their first law school semester.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  In this multimedia, interactive presentation, we’ll identify and articulate the normative problems in legal education and co-create a set of tools for not only surviving but loving law school.


The Motivations of Memoir

Writing memoir requires us to consider what we want to reveal—and why.  Do we write to set the record straight?  To confront the past—and the people in it?  How do we know when we’ve revealed too much, or not enough?  Drawing on the process of writing an acclaimed memoir in essays (called “unflinching and revelatory” by the San Francisco Chronicle, “deeply personal” by Publishers Weekly and “eloquently provocative” by Kirkus), Nolan shares her insights into the tricky business of telling our stories and the stories of others.

Politics and Prose | Author Spotlight: Savala Nolan

#GoodAncestor Savala Nolan – ‘Don’t Let It Get You Down’

Savala Nolan – HBS Channel – Harvard Book Store

The Indigo Press | Don’t Let It Get You Down: Essays on Race, Gender & the Body by Savala Nolan

Book Club Resources

Savala Nolan’s Upcoming Events

Savala Nolan’s Blog

Savala Nolan’s Medium Page

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Director, Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
Advisor to Peabody-award-winning podcast “The Promise”
Shortlisted for William Saroyan Prize


Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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