Award-Winning Young Adult Novelist
Facilitator, Literary Fellow and Youth Advocate
Travels from: Philadelphia, PA

“Iloh delivers another electric novel in verse. … A necessary reminder to young adults that there’s no shame in standing up for yourself.” — Booklist, starred review

Candice Iloh (they/them) is the award-winning author of young adult novels, Every Body Looking, Break This House, and Salt the Water. A 2020 National Book Award Finalist and 2021 Printz Honoree, Iloh is a first-generation Nigerian-American writer whose books center home. In 2018, they were awarded a Critical Breaks residency with Hi-ARTS to develop and perform a one-night-only stage production of ADA: On Stage, a multi-media one-person-show, introducing the audience to in-progress themes of their now critically-acclaimed debut novel. They are a proud alum of the Rhode Island Writers Colony and their work has earned fellowships from Lambda Literary, VONA, Kimbilio Fiction and, most recently, The PEW Center for Arts & Heritage for 2023-2025. Iloh is a former high school creative writing teacher who has previously taught young people of every age, from pre-K through high school. Their debut picture book, EMEKA: EAT EGUSI! will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2026.

In 2013, Iloh earned a fellowship to study with Ruth Forman at the Voices of Our Nation Arts (VONA) Foundation poetry workshop for writers of color. In 2015, they studied with Cathy Park Hong at the Home School Writer’s Conference, which they attended as a Lambda Literary fellow. In 2016, they were invited to the Rhode Island Writers Colony, a residency for writers of color under the Artistic Directorship of Jason Reynolds, to work on their debut novel. The Howard University alum holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People from Lesley University during which they debuted their first one-person-show.

With 10+ years under their belt as an educator, Iloh has served as a workshop facilitator with Voices UnBroken, a slam coach with Split This Rock, and teaching artist with The American Poetry Museum. Most recently, they completed a three-year residency (2016 – 2019) as a Writer-in-Residence at the Bronx Academy of Letters supporting high school students in the production of new and fresh youth-centered magazine content. Throughout their work, Iloh has remained engaged with the communities they work and live in by mentoring young people creatively within public school classrooms, athletic programs, detention centers, and youth shelters.

Candice is currently touring their third novel, Salt the Water, and will be teaching Introduction to Nontraditional Contemporary Young Adult Fiction at Penn University in Fall 2024. They live in Philadelphia with their partner and two cats, Charlie & Maxinne.

Candice's Featured Titles

Salt the Water

Dutton Books for Young Readers |
Teen/Young Adult

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book

Cerulean Gene is free everywhere except school, where they’re known for repeatedly challenging authority. Raised in a free-spirited home by two loving parents who encourage Cerulean to be their full self, they’ve got big dreams of moving cross-country to live off the grid with their friends after graduation. But a fight with a teacher spirals out of control, and Cerulean impulsively drops out to avoid the punishment they fear is coming. Why wait for graduation to leave an oppressive capitalist system and live their dreams?

Break This House

Dutton Books for Young Readers |
Teen/Young Adult

From Printz honoree and National Book Award Finalist Candice Iloh, a prose novel about a teenager reckoning with her family’s—and her home town’s—secrets.

Yaminah Okar left Obsidian and the wreckage of her family years ago. She and her father have made lives for themselves in Brooklyn. She thinks she’s moved on to bigger and better things. She thinks she’s finally left behind that city she would rather forget. But when a Facebook message about her estranged mother pierces Yaminah’s new bubble, memories of everything that happened before her parents’ divorce come roaring back. Now, Yaminah must finally reckon with the truth about her mother and the growing collapse of a place she once called home.

Every Body Looking

Dutton Books for Young Readers |
Teen/Young Adult Fiction

A Finalist for the National Book Award

When Ada leaves home for her freshman year at a Historically Black College, it’s the first time she’s ever been so far from her family—and the first time that she’s been able to make her own choices and to seek her place in this new world. As she stumbles deeper into the world of dance and explores her sexuality, she also begins to wrestle with her past—her mother’s struggle with addiction, her Nigerian father’s attempts to make a home for her. Ultimately, Ada discovers she needs to brush off the destiny others have chosen for her and claim full ownership of her body and her future.

“Candice Iloh’s beautifully crafted narrative about family, belonging, sexuality, and telling our deepest truths in order to be whole is at once immensely readable and ultimately healing.”—Jacqueline Woodson, New York Times Bestselling Author of Brown Girl Dreaming

“An essential—and emotionally gripping and masterfully written and compulsively readable—addition to the coming-of-age canon.”—Nic Stone, New York Times Bestselling Author of Dear Martin

“This is a story about the sometimes toxic and heavy expectations set onthe backs of first-generation children, the pressures woven into the familydynamic, culturally and socially. About childhood secrets with sharp teeth. And ultimately, about a liberation that taunts every young person.” —Jason Reynolds, New York Times Bestselling Author of Long Way Down


Imagine It All Ends Tonight: A Craft Talk on Breaking Form With Intention

This is a craft talk on what it means to create tension, heighten emotional stakes, and shift perspective while telling coming of age stories by disrupting traditional literary form . What possibilities lie ahead when you allow a story to lose composure and break character? Using pivotal scenes from Break This House & Salt the Water, Candice Iloh will discuss and engage with scenes that take unexpected turns, provoking an evocative immersive reader experience.

This talk is for any and everybody who wants to keep it interesting and/or who find traditional literature approaches to be uninspiring. (Themes: poetic devices, character-driven plot, novels in verse, story structure)


Blowing Your Own Mind: How to Find Inspiration Outside of the Page

This is a craft talk that is equal parts sharing as it is exploration. It answers: where did you get that idea from? It is an interactive workshop-style talk that invites readers to draw creative writing inspiration from everyday life outside of the page. The talk is best for reluctant readers and anybody who finds their attention being pulled toward everything but writing. This talk is also ideal for artists of other genres who’d like to dip their toes into the world of creative writing for young people. (Themes/tools: visual thinking strategy, visual art, personal narratives)


I Hear Voices: A Talk on Dialogue and Voice

As a writer who favors writing coming of age stories from the 1st person POV, I am often deemed a “voice-y” writer who centers the narrative of the protagonist. This is a talk centered on developing a character’s voice and making it an unmistakable force in a noisy world that often drowns out the voices of young people. What makes a character’s voice distinct? How do you create consistency with that voice on the page? How can we use dialogue to move a plot forward and keep the reader wanting to know what comes next? (Themes: dialogue, dialect, culture)


Remaining Nameless: Anonymous Personal Narratives for High School Students

From 2016-2019 I revitalized a high school magazine as a Writer-in-Residence teaching creative non-fiction in the Bronx. I introduced a magazine issue called “The Anonymous” issue wherein I published personal narratives written by high schools grades 9-12 without any identifying information attached. We were able to develop this issue through an in-class project that I called “Defining Moments” where I asked the students to think of an experience they’ve had that shaped who they are, how they perceive the world, and/or how they now navigate life. The experience or person they wrote about had to be one that they had never talked to anyone about before and it had to be something that they felt changed them.

The project served three purposes: 1) To give my students an opportunity to release unexpressed emotions; 2) Help students identify something unique about themselves or what they want and 3) A potential draft of of an essay that can be used for various applications in the next stages of their lives where they might be asked about their skills, experience levels, and/or how they identify within the world at large.

The in-class assignment wouldn’t have been possible without me first building an environment of safety and trust. And that required proof that only I would know who each essay belonged to. I spent several weeks facilitating exercises that made the students feel comfortable talking about themselves, recanting personal memories, and writing in their only vernacular.

I offer parents and other adults who maintain relationship with young people a space to hear about what it was like to cultivate this space, what the project revealed about young people, and how they can employ similar strategies in their learning spaces and homes to form supportive bonds with their teens. (Hybrid Talk/Workshop for Educators, Parents, & other Guardians of Young People)

“Remaining Nameless: How writing anonymous personal narrative essays transformed a Bronx classroom”

Honors, Awards & Recognition

2020 National Book Award Finalist for Every Body Looking
2021 Printz Award Honoree for Every Body Looking
2022 Junior Library Guild Honor for Break This House
2023 PEW Fellowship
2024 Printz Award Honoree for Salt the Water
Three Starred reviews for Every Body Looking
Two Starred reviews for Salt the Water

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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