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

S. & S.. Jul. 2021. 208p. ISBN 9781982137267. $26. SOC SCI
In her book of vulnerable yet voluble personal essays on weight and multiracial identity, Nolan (executive director, Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, Univ. of California Berkeley Sch. of Law) shares her experiences of feeling “like a spy,” an outsider in the relationships she formed with people whose privilege invests them with “layers of meaning even they didn’t understand because fish never fully understand the water.” She describes her writing as a new cartography—a body mapping of sorts, through which she takes the relentless dislocations that created her identity and transforms them into her own narratives. 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. Nolan writes that her self-loathing led to a series of destructive romantic and platonic relationships. 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.
VERDICT Nolan’s writing on identity and self-worth is captivating from start to finish; her words will resonate long after the last page.
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