Allene Symons is the author of three books and a veteran journalist whose work has appeared in consumer and trade magazines. She served as a senior editor for Publishers Weekly in New York, and wrote articles for Details, the Los Angeles Times (book reviews and travel), and other publications. She also created the travel lit review column “Great Reads for the Restless” for msnbc.com.
Born in Long Beach, California, Allene has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Manhattan, N.Y., and currently lives in Santa Ana, where she is an instructor in communications and media studies at Santa Ana College. She earned her bachelor’s in philosophy from San Francisco State University, and master’s degrees in the fields of Communications (Journalism) from Cal State Fullerton, and in History of Religions (Buddhism) from Claremont Graduate University.
After working in publishing on the West Coast as a bookstore manager and publishers’ representative, Allene followed a midlife career to Manhattan. A decade later, family responsibilities brought her back to her home state. She is the third generation owner of a Craftsman bungalow purchased by her Midwest migrant grandparents.
In the 1950s, her parents cultivated unusual interests on the fringe of science that drew the attention of Aldous Huxley, who subsequently befriended her father. Half a century later, the story behind this friendship gave rise to her current book, Aldous Huxley’s Hands: His Quest for Perception and the Origin and Return of Psychedelic Science (Prometheus Books).
Along with Aldous Huxley’s Hands, she has written two other books. Nostradamus, Vagabond Prophet: A Novel of His Life and Time (Forked Road Press, 2011) is a revised edition of Vagabond Prophet (Avon Books, 1983). She is co-author with Jane Parker of the nonfiction title Adventures Abroad: Exploring the Travel/ Retirement Option (Gateway Books/ Globe Pequot, 1991).
Allene’s undergraduate years in San Francisco gave her a personal perspective on a central theme in Aldous Huxley’s Hands—the psychedelic era. The early 1960s also saw burgeoning new age religions that recalled Allene’s parent’s occult pursuits during her childhood. This merging stream of past and present led to her pursuit of a master’s in the History of Religions with a specialty in Ch’an Buddhism. These days she practices Pa Kua, a Tai Chi form of Chinese martial arts.
After a childhood of both conventional and oddball pets, including a well-mannered skunk, local wildlife now serve as surrogate pets—primarily the Monarch butterflies that she and her husband encourage to propagate in a milkweed garden extending along three sides of the perimeter of their home. The underappreciated pleasure of foster-parenting Monarchs, she says, turns out to be watching the antics of the caterpillars, even though the iconic moment, and preservation of the species, turns on the fascinating transformation that enables them to take flight.
With the publication of her new book, Allene is looking forward to where the winds might take her.