Every Body Looking | Candace IIoh


Every Body Looking is written by Candace IIoh.

Out now from Dutton Books; 403 pages
Content Warning: Addiction, sexual assault, molestation, racism, relational trauma, religious
trauma, manipulation, underage drinking, strong language, parental pressure, academic
pressure, sexism, sexual content, verbal abuse, intergenerational trauma, shame, and homophobia.

About the author: Canduce Iloh is a National Book Award finalist and a Michael L. Printz Award
honoree. They are a first-generation Nigerian-American writer and dancer from the Midwest by
way of Washington, DC, and Brooklyn, New York. They are a proud graduate of Howard University and an alumna of the Rhode Island Writers Colony. They received their MFA in Creative Writing for Young People at Lesley University. Their work has earned fellowships from Lambda Literary and VONA, and a residency with Hi-ARTS, where they debuted their first one-person show. They live in Philadelphia. This is their first novel. (Bio taken from book sleeve).

Find Candice Iloh on the following platforms:

“all I know is that I wanted to see
the girl in my reflection keep up for once
see her do the steps like they came
from somewhere

Ada is a recent high school graduate following the path her dad has mapped out for her: attend college, study accounting, remain loyal to God, and live a financially stable life. As the only daughter to her Nigerian father, there’s a lot of weight resting on her shoulders to maintain the honor of her family. Only now, for the first time, it’s a responsibility she must maintain alone as she leaves Chicago for D.C. and adjusts to life at a Historically Black College. Her newfound freedom is a catalyst for repressed emotions and aspirations to force themselves to the forefront of her mind, but one in particular refuses to be ignored any longer – she yearns to dance. Ada must decide who she will be, what freedom means to her, and who has ownership of her body all while reckoning with her past traumas. For Ada, her past is crucial in piecing together her future.

There’s something about novels in verse that feel like the most intimate way to get to know a character, and Every Body Looking is no exception. Each poem is filled with intentional detail that builds upon the former to culminate in a multidimensional portrait of a young Black woman so individual, yet somehow universal. She stands in front of the reader offering the vulnerability of her own experiences, while holding up a mirror for our own reflections. I appreciate the depth of this mirror most in terms of how Candice Iloh treats trauma. Ada, at the intersection of youth and adulthood, ultimately wrestles with agency as a result of lifelong religious, relational, and sexual traumas. However, instead of defining Ada by her traumas, Iloh makes a case for the opposite. Every Body Looking affirms that trauma does not shape our identities, and further demonstrates how trauma can be healed through nurturing an identity that’s independent of it. In a deeply traumatizing world (especially for young Black women), this is a read that honors our innate capacity for radical resilience.

PRR Writer & Editor, Megan Milton