Candace Allen (author)

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Candace Allen is an American novelist, political activist, cultural critic and screenwriter, who is based in London. She was the first African-American woman to be a member of the Directors Guild of America.[1] She is the niece of actress and drama coach Billie Allen,[2] and the former wife of British conductor Sir Simon Rattle.[3][4]


Born in Boston, Massachusetts,[5] in 1950,[6] she received her BA from Harvard University, where in the late '60s–early '70s she was instrumental in the establishment of the African and African-American Studies Department (now headed by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.).[7] before attending the New York University School of Film and Television. She became the first African-American female member of the Directors Guild of America. In the 1970s, she moved to Los Angeles, where for twenty years she worked as an assistant director on feature and television films, and later as a screenwriter.[8] She was a founder of Reel Black Women, a professional organization for African-American women in film.[9] She also set up and ran for four years a counselling group for young black women at Jordan High School in Watts.

Allen moved to the UK in 1994, and was married (8 January 1996 – 2004) to British conductor Simon Rattle.[10]

Writing career[edit]

Her first book, a fictionalized biography about the African-American female jazz trumpeter Valaida Snow, was published by Virago Press in 2004.[11] Reviewing the novel for JazzTimes, Gwen Ansell wrote: "Allen engages with what it might feel like to think through and play a solo; tour depressing, racist Southern towns; haggle with agents and managers. She treats Snow first and foremost as a musician. The wry, weary wit of backstage conversation rings true and the details play out before a fascinating panorama of pre-1960s jazz and vaudeville stages. In this use of close-up against rich, intensely visual backdrop, in frequent crosscutting and flashback scenes, Allen the screenwriter is very evident. And while the book remains a romance, it's tougher than most and definitely worth reading."[12]

Allen's must recent work, the acclaimed Soul Music: the Pulse of Race and Music, which has been described as "part-travelogue, part-memoir, part-manifesto",[13] was published by Gibson Square Press in 2012.[14]

She writes regularly for The Guardian[1] of London and other newspapers.[15]

Other activities[edit]

Through the organization "Americans Abroad for Obama" Allen was an active campaigner for the election of Barack Obama in 2008,[16][17] and subsequently became a frequent commentator on US culture, race and politics on radio and television.[8]

She is a board member of the Chineke! Foundation.[18]


  • Valaida (London: Virago, 2004), ISBN 1-86049-944-9
  • Soul Music: The Pulse of Race and Music (London: Gibson Square Books, 2012), ISBN 9781908096210


  1. ^ a b Candace Allen page at The Guardian.
  2. ^ Candace Allen at IMDb.
  3. ^ Michael White, "Second fiddle? Not a chance", The Telegraph, 14 January 2004.
  4. ^ Guy Dammann, "How it feels to be free", New Statesman, 27 June 2012.
  5. ^ Candace Allen biography, International Literature Festival Berlin.
  6. ^ Elizabeth Day and Chris Hastings, "Simon Rattle 'bewitched' by glamorous Czech opera star", The Telegraph, 18 July 2004.
  7. ^ "Candace Allen" at Chineke! Foundation.
  8. ^ a b Candace Allen biography, RSA.
  9. ^ The Cave, Lorraine O'Grady on Black Women Film Directors, Artforum International Magazine, vol. 30, no. 5, January 1991, pp. 22–24.
  10. ^ Simon Rattle - Biography, IMDb.
  11. ^ "Candace Allen - Valaida", Meet the Author.
  12. ^ Gwen Ansell, "Candace Allen - Valaida: A Novel" (review), JazzTimes, January/February 2006.
  13. ^ Clive Davis, "Soul Music: The Pulse of Race and Music, By Candace Allen" (review), The Independent, 21 July 2012.
  14. ^ Shirley Apthorp, "Notes on identity", The Financial Times, 20 July 2012.
  15. ^ Candace Allen page at Journalisted.
  16. ^ Candace Allen, "Marching on Washington", The Guardian, 25 January 2008.
  17. ^ Candace Allen, "I have encountered social apartheid as well as hostility", The Guardian, 7 November 2008
  18. ^ "Our Board", Chineke Foundation.


  • Candace Allen (2004), Valaida (back cover).

External links[edit]