Severed History in Nate Powell’s “Save it For Later”: Part I

Matthew Teutsch
17 min readMay 24, 2021

Nate Powell’s Save It For Later is a book for this moment. As a parent, as a white male Southerner, Powell’s book speaks to me in the same ways that Lillian Smith’s words speak to me across the decades. Both Powell and Smith know the intertangled webs that maintain systems of racism and oppression. Both Powell and Smith recognize their positions within those webs, and they interrogate themselves as they lay bare the poisonous roots that we continue to feed, the roots that burst forth from the ground and spread across the earth. Both Powell and Smith know ­­­that children do not enter the world seeing and understanding injustice even if they do not have a name for it. Both Powell and Smith know that children become entwined in the poisonous roots, and those roots pierce their psyches, poisoning them as well.

The full title of Powell’s book is Save It For Later: Promises, Parenthood, and the Urgency of Protest, and the cover depicts Powell and his daughter at a protest, her sitting on his shoulders as she holds up a sign reading “Save it For Later.” As I look at the cover and the title, two thoughts come to mind. One is the argument, which has been around since the Civil Rights Movement and before that we shouldn’t push for drastic change, we should be moderate. We should save the change for later. This is what Jack Marshall does in Ernest Gaines’ A Gathering of Old Men. He didn’t want the plantation, but he doesn’t change the system either. Instead, he merely gets drunk every day. This is what Lillian Smith argued against throughout her career. In “The Right Way is Not the Moderate Way,” she said that we must not be moderate or silent. Those moderates who keep silent, she says, “are suffering from moral and psychic paralysis. They are working harder to be moderates than they are working to meet the crisis.”

The other thought that comes to my mind when I see the title and the cover is that we must do everything we can possibly do to save this world for those who come after us. Powell’s five year-old daughter asks to participate in protests after the 2016 election, and he allows her, telling her, when protestors are marching to occupy city hall, “You lead the way, either way. I’ll follow.” In the chapter “Good Trouble, Bad Flags,” she asks to read March Book One as her bedtime story; she had seen…

Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.