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Review: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Title: Take My Hand
Author: Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Year published: 2022
Category: Adult fiction (historical)
Pages: 368 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location: (my 2022 Google Reading map)USA (AL, TN)

SummaryInspired by true events that rocked the nation, a searing and compassionate new novel about a Black nurse in post-segregation Alabama who blows the whistle on a terrible injustice done to her patients, 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.

Review: I got this novel from Book of the Month and I'll be honest that the cover is what drew me to this book first. I think it is just gorgeous. And thank goodness it is because this book is stellar; it's everything I like in a book: based on true events, historically interesting, I learned a ton, the characters are well written, and the story is well told.

Anyone who reads this book should be outraged (if you aren't already). Forced sterilization is just so wrong. And on children? Who are these people who believe it is their right to control other people's bodies?! In the after word, the author points out that this is not merely an event from our nation's past, but is happening today to various groups. Of course, they are women of color who have fewer resources at their disposal.

It is easy to get on one's soapbox about issues such as these, but I want to be clear that this is also a novel of love, family, trying to do what is right in the face of adversity, and how we live with ourselves when we mess up. I highly recommend this book!

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Alphabet (Author): V

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