Title: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (70s), Literary Fiction
Length: 367 pages
Book Rating: A+ & A Recommended Read
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A searing and compassionate new novel about a young Black nurse’s shocking discovery and burning quest for justice in post-segregation Alabama, from the New York Times bestselling author of Wench.
Montgomery, Alabama, 1973. Fresh out of nursing school, Civil Townsend intends to make a difference, especially in her African American community. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she hopes to help women shape their destinies, to make their own choices for their lives and bodies.
But when her first week on the job takes her along a dusty country road to a worn-down one-room cabin, Civil is shocked to learn that her new patients, Erica and India, are children—just eleven and thirteen years old. Neither of the Williams sisters has even kissed a boy, but they are poor and Black, and for those handling the family’s welfare benefits, that’s reason enough to have the girls on birth control. As Civil grapples with her role, she takes India, Erica, and their family into her heart. Until one day she arrives at their door to learn the unthinkable has happened, and nothing will ever be the same for any of them.
Decades later, with her daughter grown and a long career in her wake, Dr. Civil Townsend is ready to retire, to find her peace, and to leave the past behind. But there are people and stories that refuse to be forgotten. That must not be forgotten.
Because history repeats what we don’t remember.
Inspired by true events and brimming with hope, Take My Hand is a stirring exploration of accountability and redemption.
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a poignant literary novel that is loosely based on real life events.
In 2016, Dr. Civil Townsend travels back to her hometown in Montgomery, Alabama after learning someone dear to her has been diagnosed with cancer. During her drive, she reflects on the events that changed so many lives during her first job as a nurse in 1973. Although she is from a middle-class Black family, Civil decides to work for a birth control clinic that services poor women in the area. Her first patients are India and Erica Williams, whose living conditions shock Civil. The young girls live with their father Mace and grandmother Patricia in a ramshackle shack out in the country. Although harboring doubts about giving birth control shots to girls of such young ages, Civil follows her boss’s orders. She is also moved by their plight and she successfully finds them a better place to live and assists Mace in finding employment. After a discussion with her childhood friend, Tyrell “Ty” Ralsey, Civil realizes she might be doing more harm than good by giving those shots. She then makes a decision that sets in motion events that define and haunt her throughout her life.
Civil does not realize how privileged she is until she meets the Williams family. Although aware poverty exists around her, her father has shielded her from witnessing it firsthand. Civil’s questions are not welcomed at the clinic and she quickly leans to keep her thoughts to herself. But after she learns the troubling information about the birth control shots, she and her friend Alicia take matters into their own hands. This sets off a chain of events that eventually exposes and alters common practices in federally funded birth control centers across the United States.
Take My Hand is an emotionally compelling novel that seamlessly moves back and forth in time. Civil is a compassionate young woman who firmly believes that women should be in charge of their reproductive health. India and Erica are wonderful young teenagers who quickly adapt to the changes in their lives. From the Williams’ filthy shack to government housing to the courtroom, the settings spring vividly to life. The storyline is incredibly moving and fully captures readers’ attention from beginning to end. With impeccable research, Dolen Perkins-Valdez shines a bright light on a shameful period in American history.