Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh

 Brilliant isn't enough.

Neither is Breathtaking.

Stunning? Amazing? Spectacular?

I am hardly at a loss for words when it comes to reviewing a book I've read, especially one by a Black female author, but this one ,this heavy, weighted, artistically rendered word on paper that reminds me why I love words on print, this is one that has me searching through my dictionary and thesaurus to give an ounce of justice to the work of Candice Iloh in her debut piece.

This  is a book about a girl, a teenager, first daughter, Ada, who is coming to terms with herself, her heritage, and her place in a world not readily made for Black girls who imagine something different for themselves and want to discover life. It is written in her voice, alternating between these current moments of change in her life - high school graduation and the first year of college at a noted HBCU - and the memories of what has shaped her becoming.

This is a story, all 403 pages, that does not leave one feeling like they will never make it to the end to know what happens to her. It is in verse. The entire work is in verse and while I've read and reviewed other books in verse that seemed more chapters of themes and less a cohesive story with a beginning-middle-end, Candice Iloh has shifted the expectation of how poetry and prose can meet together in the growing canon of literary works for Black teens. For that reason alone, one should buy the book.

My literary circle will engage with the themes resonate in this story of not only coming-of-age, but the inner voice of a Black girl who does not have the weight of African American history holding her down but the centuries of expectations of an ancient culture that can feel just as heavy and familiar. She is an only child, carrying the hopes and dreams and works of people who want her to succeed so think the very. American thing to do is what she should do.

But she is a dreamer, an artist, a creative, whose body holds the drumbeat of the djembe ready to make rhythm poetic. I love how she has come to herself and invites us with her to take a moment to discover that you can choose your own path, even if it is not what your parents or your society expects of you, if you are brave enough to learn to listen to your heart.

I closed this book and held my breath. Just wanted to hold in the magic of this story, like the dancer she drew in her childhood imaginations, wanting to just be present in this space. You will feel it, too.

You can learn more about Candice Iloh by visiting www.becomeher.com

You can visit the Black independent bookstore at Harrietts Bookshop in Philadelphiawith their orders fulfilled by www.bookshop.org

You can follow me on IG @literarydove2020 or on Twitter  @lattegriot.

I am Tayé Foster Bradshaw and I Read.Write.Think.Connect

All rights reserved. Copyright 2021 by Antona Brent Smith


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