Cover Image: Take My Hand

Take My Hand

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Member Reviews

Powerful read by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. It doesn't shy away from the ugly side or racism and the wounds it can inflict on young African American women. It is a needed book, African American women are often ignored victims of medical atrocities. Painful but inspiring read.
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This is a gorgeous book about not-so-gorgeous topics. The strong heroine never flinches from all she must overcome, and I like and admired her.
Gritty and gripping, with an arc of redemption.
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This book is the fictionalized story of 2 girls (and they were girls) sterilized, without consent, only after being used as human guinea pigs for a birth control drug. Sadly, it is based in truth and happened to tens of thousands more girls/women. The book's main character, Civil, was a nurse in a family planning clinic and she met the girls and their family as part of her job of ensuring they were on birth control, even though they weren't sexually active. She did her best to protect, support and uplift the little girls and their family while learning, sometimes painfully, that she was not the family's decider. There were lots of things I wish the book had included – why did Civil decide to become a physician, what caused her to adopt a child, how did she get her name, what were the aftereffects from the trial, etc. However, knowing, or not knowing, these details did not take away from the primary story. I believe this is an important book because of the subject matter. I am not sure why this isn't as well known as the Tuskegee experiment, but maybe this book will help to change that. It will be a great bookclub choice (I'll be recommending it to mine.)
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Thanks to NetGalley for this advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review!
Based on a true story, Dolen Perkins-Valdez introduces us to a bleak moment in our history, when black people were subjected to horrible medical experiments and procedures.  Brought to life during COVID and the debate over vaccinations, Perkins-Valdez weaves an historical fiction novel around the episode of a case that went from Alabama to the Capital and back again.
It's horrifying enough to think people felt justified in treating young people of any color this way.  No doubt this was much larger than described in this book.  I was riveted to the novel and want to learn more.  The pacing and characterization were good.  There was enough description to keep the reader interested without dragging us through too many details of the case.
I can't wait to recommend this to my book club.  It is sure to create some excellent discussion!
4*
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This book was one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years. As a history instructor, I’ve taught about the subject of forced sterilization and I will suggest or even assign this book for future classes.
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This book is written in a profound way that makes it heartbreaking yet hopeful, and will make you dig deep and explore uncomfortable truths about America and racism. The premise is of a Black Nurse who eventually discovers a terrible injustice done to her patients and fights for the truth to be known.  The tragedy of our nation’s shameful medical abuse of POC, class and socioeconomic level, especially women, is laid bare here. However, there are threads of hope that pull you along the storyline without diminishing the significance of the damage that has been perpetrated in these communities. It begs the reader to think about how relevant the mistrust in our society’s public health initiatives with POC is after being Betrayed so many times in the past and who are still being misrepresented in disproportionate ways today. 

Book clubs will love this book as it really invites deep thought and discussions about medical ethics and institutional racism. Anyone who enjoys truthful historical fiction will like this hard hitting and well written book for the warm characters and the unapologetic descriptions of past US medical abuses.

 My only criticism was I felt the main character who played  the black nurse often overstepped her authority on people she was trying to help, but thinking back now, maybe that was the authors intention as she in her own way was privileged in income and opportunity compared to the community she served. It seemed she blindly overstepped on the freedom of choice of the very people she was trying to help. 
People who like this book would probably also enjoy reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot 

I give this book 5 outstanding stars and wish to Thank BookBrowse  and Berkeley publishing for the digital copy on NetGalley of this ARC. This opinions are all my own without any other compensation.
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Montgomery Alabama 1973 Civil Townsend starts her first job as a newly graduated nurse at a family planning clinic. With fresh hope and the naivety of youth, she meets her first clients India and Erica Willam's. It is at this point that Civil begins to question why exactly they are giving birth control to an 11 and 13 year old's, who don't even go to school. As she begins to care about the family, she begins to ask questions that lead to uncovering a system of forced and coerced sterilizations on some of Alabama's most vulnerable citizens.

This story brings up so many discussion points, consent, coercion, poverty, mental health, justice, civil rights, medical experimentation, the Tuskegee syphilis study, and as much as I want to look at this as something that happened in the past and we can be confident that nothing like it will ever happen again, I know this is not the case. This would pair nicely with the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot as the ethical discussions about experimentation are important ones.

Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group for the netgalley.
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Inspired by true events, Take My Hand is a profoundly moving novel that moves between 2016 and 1973. Civil Townsend is a black nurse in 1970's Montgomery Alabama working at the Family Planning Clinic whose patients were mostly from poor black families. When Civil begins questioning whether India and Erica, just 11 and 13 years old, actually need birth control, she's reprimanded by the clinic's director. She also soon discovers that the non-FDA approved birth control (Depo-Provera) she is giving to the very young girls is controversial since it has shown links to cancer development. Throughout the chapters she worries about the young girls as if they were her own, even when the unthinkable has happens. Many years later, Civil needs to make peace with what happened forty some years earlier and retelling the story to her daughter Anne will hopefully bring it. Take My Hand is a well written, compelling, absorbing and captivating novel, were the protagonists refuse to be forgotten. Thank you Bookbrowse for the opportunity to read and review this advanced reader's copy!
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Heartwrenching
Take my hand is a heartwrenching and beautiful story of horrible medical experiments being performed on young black girls. Civil is a kind and caring nurse who discovers this atrocity and fights to shine a light on these acts. It's so sad to know that though this was based in 1970, our healthcare system still is full of bias and racism.
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I love historical fiction and this book rates at the top with the best of them.

Civil Townsend is a black nurse working at the Montgomery (AL) Family Planning Clinic in 1973. She is a dedicated woman and wants to change the world. When she starts out at the Clinic, little does she know how bad that world is.

She finds the federal government meddling in the lives of young black girls and she tries to change what they are doing.

Forty two years later, she is relating her story to Anne her daughter. Civil needs to make peace with what happened and retelling the story will hopefully bring it.

One of the morals of this story is how deeply her acts to change things have affected her.

The book is a compelling read and researched by the author to the nth degree. Extremely well worth the read.

5 stars
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Disturbing premise, but deeply moving story
It's 2016 and Civil Townsend, now in retirement, feels compelled to share with her daughter, a piece of dark history in her life that took place in the early 1970s, when she took a job at a family planning clinic in Alabama…

Civil is fresh out of school, with big dreams for her future, when she is introduced to her first patients- two young girls who are to receive birth control injections.

Civil is shocked by their near homeless living conditions, and by the age of the girls- one of which was only eleven years old and hadn't even started menstruating.

Believing she was doing the right thing, she intervenes on the family's behalf, pushing the boundaries of her job description.

But she also begins to question the healthcare decisions made on behalf of these girls and others like them, once again taking matters into her own hands.

This novel is based on shocking true events, where the government, through the guise of free healthcare, manipulated both the poor women the clinic catered to, as well as the healthcare professionals who thought they were doing the best thing for their patients.

Emotional, terrifying and powerful- this rich novel remembers shocking atrocities, but also serves as an eye-opening and poignant cautionary tale. A must read!
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Dolen Perkins-Valdez doesn’t wait to get to the meat of the story. The reader is forced to accept the gravity of the situation with the same trepidation as Civil. At the same time, the empathy and love is palpable, even if it comes from a place of naïveté. 

I could not put the book down, while simultaneously needing to pause to let myself recover from the events that transpire. I found myself wanting to see more come Civil and Mace’s relationship, but ultimately the story is perfect because of the way everything happens, or doesn’t. 

I will definitely be purchasing this for my library.
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Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a gut wrenching account, albeit fiction, based on true accounts of forced sterilization of girls and women of color. One might think that this takes place in the "dark ages", yet this happened in 1970, a mere 50 years ago. The recounting is voiced by a young nurse who works at a Federally run Family Planning Clinic in Montgomery, Alabama. The nurse, Civil, is a black woman, daughter of a physician, who wants nothing more than to bring the women she attends to the much needed medical care that they don't have. The realization of what is happening under her watch speers her to try to right an egregious wrong. Perkins-Valdez speaks in a voice that is straight forward without bleeding heart melodrama. This makes the telling even more poignant. Her characters and their interactions are direct, giving this book a powerful message.
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Well written historical fiction about another dark moment in American history.  This is an open look at medical malpractice brought upon the poor and under-educated among our populace.  I was unaware of the procedures that were done at this time in our history.  Good for all of us to know.

The fictional part of the story felt very real.  I could not stop reading this book.
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I really enjoyed this book, the characters were all really well developed and the story was very engaging. I liked the historic aspect of the novel; I had no idea that these events took place in the past. I think this would be a great book for a college course, it's so important to not forget about events like this.
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I was graduating from high school when Take My Hand takes place. I knew about Roe vs. Wade—but had no idea about the sterilizations of thousands of women. To read about a young nurse who recognized the inappropriate tubal ligations that her young patients are subjected to, and the court case that resulted from her protest of the practice, was a gripping narrative. Based on historical figures, the unfolding of events for the nurse, her coworkers, her patients, and their family make for a great, revealing read.  It was sad to read, in the author notes at the end, that the sterilization of women is still happening to groups in the United States today. Our history is not always our finest.
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This book blew me away with its emotional impact combined with historical details. From now on, I know that any book by this author will be a must read for me. The story begins mildly with Civil Townsend,  a 67-year-old Black female doctor looking back at the events that changed her life forever. Some of the  chapters take place in 1973 and others are 2016; however, the transitions are seamless and logical.

In 1973, Civil was one of 8 young, Black female nurses for the Montgomery,Alabama, Family Planning Clinic. They did nursing duties during the day and janitorial work in the clinic after closing. Their boss, a tightly wound, red headed woman was demanding and unfriendly, and she clearly wanted an attitude of subservience. The hints of a Nurse Ratched personality help to create some foreboding. The narration is always interesting, and Perkins-Valdez's style makes it easy to continue turning pages. Characters are realistic and well developed, so readers will feel as if they, too, know these people and are emotionally invested in their lives.

Like many young adults with a new career of their choosing, Civil is ready to really make a difference in the world. Her heart is set on fire when her first home-visit case is with two young sisters, India, age 11, and Erica,13. Their living conditions are unacceptable to Civil, a dilapidated shanty where they live with their widowed father and grandmother without any means to stay clean and no money for feminine hygiene products. The sensory descriptions are vivid and real, and there are no pretenses that Civil's dedication makes her oblivious to the grime and odors. She sees and smells it all, and she starts worrying about theyoung girls as if they were her own.

Throughout the chapters there is also the personal interest story of Civil's previous boyfriend with whom she is still in contact, partly because of an emotional experience that they shared a few years previously. This book is a blending of a lovely story of one woman's passage into adulthood with historical facts relating to infamous American history - medical experiments on people of color. With its focus on birth control in poor communities, this book is a timely gem.
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This is an excellent piece of historical fiction based on a dark time in US history, the forced sterilization of women who were deemed "lesser than." These women included WOC, the poor, the disabled, the mentally incapacitated, those who already had several children, and so on. The government and even health care workers justified this by saying they were doing women and children a favor. Even today there are ethical and legal debates being made about the forced sterilization of mentally disabled adults.

In this book, Civil is a black nurse who works for a government run family planning clinic. A large part of her job is going out into poor black communities and administering birth control shots. She meets the Williams sisters who are living in extreme poverty, both extremely young, and is required to give them non-FDA approved birth control shots. She refuses to do so, and what follows is essentially unimaginable.

This book not only highlights the struggle of women in history, particularly minority women, but it's also a stark reminder of why POC still distrust the medical community to this day. This event was exposed not long after the revelation of the Tuskegee experiments, which was just one of several crimes against the black community.

So here's the main issue I have with the book. Civil has a savior complex when it comes to the Williams family. It is wonderful that Civil is a nurse, a woman of color, an advocate, and has resources to help this family. What is NOT wonderful is the way she inserts herself into this family's life and assumes that she knows better than they do about how to take care of themselves and the children. I will cut Civil some slack for being young (22), naive, and wanting to atone for her mistakes. However, it has to be said that many times what she is doing is essentially what has already been done to them by the government, this sense of "now that you've accepted my help I have a say in your life." She has decided that because they have less financial resources, they need her assistance. Because they are less educated they can't make decisions for themselves. She swoops in and without asking what the family needs or even asking permission makes decisions for the children. She assumes a motherly role in their household that is most certainly unhealthy. I was shocked at times that the girl's father and grandmother did not call her out on it. I was also surprised that her own father, a doctor, did not tell her that her behavior was inappropriate.

While I found that extremely troublesome, I do think this book provides a good window into how the government was able to carry out this eugenics operation for so long by gaslighting well-meaning people into thinking they were providing real health care services, and that alone is a valuable lesson.
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Perkins-Valdez knows how to weave a captivating story into serious social issues. Set in the early 1970s a young nurse takes on the battle against forced sterilization. Idealist Civil, privileged daughter of a Black physician, lands her first professional job at a family planning clinic in the Deep South. Motivated in part by her own guilty secret, Civil rushes in only to create more complications. Using fluent time shifts to tell the story, the author develops Civil's complex personal life and the campaign to halt government control over reproductive rights, especially those of Black women and those with few resources. This expertly written historic novel will magnetize readers interested in civil rights and strong intelligent female characters.
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I tend to enjoy historical fiction based on true stories, and this novel did not disappoint. I quickly became engaged with the characters and the story, and I learned a lot about what went on in family planning clinics in the American south in the 60s and 70s. I also appreciated the portrayal of the very different lives led by wealthy and poor Black people in Alabama around that time, and I liked the way the book addressed the desire to "save" other people and how it can be damaging to everyone involved. 
I'll definitely be recommending it.
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