Savala Nolan

The Indigo Press is an independent publisher of contemporary fiction and non-fiction, based in London. Guided by a spirit of internationalism, feminism and social justice, we publish books to make readers see the world afresh, question their behaviour and beliefs, and imagine a better future.

Savala Nolan

Savala Nolan is an essayist and director of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. She and her writing have been featured in Vogue, Time, Harper’s MagazineThe New York Times Book Review, NPR and more. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Author photograph © Andria Lo

Don’t Let It Get You Down: Essays on Race, Gender & The Body

A powerful and provocative collection of essays that offers poignant reflections on living between society’s most charged, politicised, and intractably polar spaces—between black and white, rich and poor, thin and fat. 

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.

In ‘On Dating White Guys While Me,’ Nolan realises 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.

In ‘Bad Education,’ we see how women learn to internalise rage and accept violence in order to participate in our culture.

Savala’s recommended reading…

HOW TO BE AN ARTIST by Jerry Saltz
Every writer should read this book. It changed my life. In particular, Saltz’s advice on handling the embarrassment of exposure, on the cure for procrastination, and on how to measure your success are game-changers. I can confidently say my book wouldn’t exist had I not read this one first.
The story is a gut-punch, with a mix of otherworldly and workaday scenes that Ward weaves together masterfully.  But, as a writer, it’s Ward’s creative strength that really got me.  There is writerly brawn and grit in these pages.  I can just feel her unwavering commitment to her vision, and I find that very exciting. 
MAUD MARTHA by Gwendolyn Brooks
Brooks dwells in her protagonist’s interior with leisurely, detailed, loving attention, and this is a rare treat.  Black women like Maud Martha are often depicted as being in constant conversation with the external forces of racism and sexism, and we therefore lose sight of their inner lives separate and apart from their oppressions.  Brooks’ approach reminded (and reminds) me to protect the private, non-political parts of myself even as I engage in political and public conversations.  (The Sovereignty of Quiet by Kevin Quashie includes a terrific meditation on Maud Martha.)

Nobody does a short story like Meloy!  The characters feel so real and rich that they seem to breathe through the pages, and her themes are the biggies—desire, love, loss, mortality.  She manages to leave so much unsaid—it’s like she sketches the empty space inside the bowl and lets us conjure the sides and bottom on our own.  How she creates penetrating stories with such spare architecture and such a light hand is a technical mystery to me.  I aspire to it! 
HEART BERRIES: A MEMOIR by Terese Marie Mailhot
The intimacy in this book is riveting.  It’s as though Mailhot is allowing us to watch her beating heart.  The metacognition in this book is fierce, too—she is well aware of the conundrums women of color, and Indigenous women in particular, face when it comes to speaking honestly and publicly about our trials.  How do we balance our need to speak with our need to protect ourselves from voyeurism?  Heart Berries is a masterclass on this question.
A joy to read.  Writing a daily diary of joys is a simple idea, which is part of the book’s appeal; it is also a special idea, to linger over life’s sweetness and etch the fleeting moments into prose. 
BELOVED by Toni Morrison
I turned to Beloved again and again, rereading it in its entirety and revisiting passages and lines. The language moves me as much as the story.  And Morrison’s was the only prose I could read during the drafting process that didn’t throw off my voice; I attribute this to her talent being lightyears beyond my reach, like a galaxy unto herself, and therefore having an unattainable gravity and gravitas.  In other words, she’s so magnificent and singular there was no chance of my voice drifting toward hers! Reading Beloved simply felt good, and it reminded me why writing matters.
Revelatory, in a word. Diaz knots together language with rhythm, clarity, and a lot of heart, and she’s never sentimental. I found this collection to be a bracing tonic, always opening my thinking about what’s possible with language.
NEGROLAND by Margo Jefferson
Nobody does it better!  If Jefferson wrote a recipe for toast, I’d read it.  Her writing has the sheen and polish of deep, careful attention and also the freshness of improvisation.  She assumes we, her readers, are as smart as she is.  She asks us to work a bit for the fruit of her labor, and because her writing and intellect are sharp as razors and rich as cream, the work is joyful, indeed. 

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