In Every Body Looking, Candice Iloh writes the story of Ada, a young black girl finding her place in the world amidst unhealed emotional wounds. With an overbearing Nigerian father and mentally ill American mother, Ada struggles to rid herself of the weight of their lives. Every Body Looking is a powerful coming of age story written in verse.
Each poetic line offers a beautiful insight into Ada’s complex world. As Ada navigates her first year of college, she recalls past childhood trauma like the abuse she experiences from her cousin and the rejection she faces from her mother.
While satisfying her father’s wishes, trying to live through these traumas presents Ada with feelings of uncertainty and sadness. Throughout the book, we see Ada trying to make her stamp in the world, as many college students set out to do.
But the scars of sexual molestation manifest into Ada’s confusion about her sexuality. And her mother’s rejection fosters issues of self-worth. In college, Ada experiences many firsts that force her to confront the pains of her past.
Though the brevity of Every Body Looking leaves readers with many unanswered questions, Candice Iloh writes Ada’s story with care, concentration, and honesty. Every Body Looking shines a spotlight on a very necessary storyline in literature.
Through writing Ada’s story, Candice Iloh makes space for young black girls to explore their sexuality aside from societal pressures that often discourage them from doing such. From Every Body Looking, we learn about emotional healing, freedom, and the courage it takes to live an authentic life.
Coming of age; black girl magic; sexuality; freedom; healing; poetry; trauma; emotional healing
“They tell me there’s a big world out there/ and they tell me there’s so much I can do/ and I know nothing but this city/ but my father/ but these schools/ where I’ve always been one of few specks of dingy brown in a sea of perfect white.”