Cover Image: Take My Hand

Take My Hand

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This book is powerful, it is striking it is unputdownable, (i don’t think that’s a word) but anyway Take my hand is a true gem. 

Civil Townsend is a recent nursing school graduate eager to begin her career and make a difference at the Montgomery Alabama Planning Clinic. In her new role, she’s tasked with traveling to rural Alabama to help young girls by providing them with shots of Depo Provera, a birth control. After meeting two young, poor girls India and Erica she begins to ask questions about what exactly she is injecting into these young girls. From there the story unravels and it is both eye-opening and shocking. 

Difficult to read at times but this is such an important story.
Was this review helpful?
Stunning and riveting story. I'm not normally one for historical fiction but this one gripped me. I bet people will be talking about this one all year, and it deserves all that and more!! I'm speechless.
Was this review helpful?
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is an absolutely riveting story about a time in the seventies when government funded health services were administering Depo-Provera birth control shots, which had known links to cancer. This in and of itself is horrible, but Civil, our main protagonist, soon learns the government is giving these shots to children and even performing sterilization on young girls.

Told in two time periods, mostly in the 70s as Civil is a young nurse and then later in 2016, when Civil goes back to Alabama to see the young girls that she feels and incredible bond with.

Civil is a character that readers will adore. She represents the future of her generation by trying to fix what was wronged. She is  strong, smart and scared of what she can’t control. Her love for the young girls, India and Erica, had me in tears. I love the love she bestowed on them but I can understand the family’s POV of not wanting charity. 

I enjoyed learning about the attorney Lou Feldman, who was inspired by the real-life lawyer, Joseph Levin that took on this case. This was definitely a book where I found myself googling my way through it because I just couldn’t believe it was based on truth. The author’s note gives details about this drug, the law, similar atrocities and how her story is  completely fictional, wrapped around the truths of what happened in the south, mostly to Black women. 

Overall, Perkins-Valdez has brought to life a horrifying fact about our nation’s history that I would never have learned otherwise. Book clubs are going to love this one!
Was this review helpful?
Take My Hand is timely look at the injustice and inequality of reproductive rights in America based on true events.
Was this review helpful?
Content warning: racism, sterilization of minors, ableism, depression, abortion

Never has the past felt so close as it does with Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s latest release Take My Hand. Set concurrently in 2016 and 1973, Take My Hand takes inspiration from a legal case that took place in 1973, Relf v. Weinberger. By creating a main character that has a hand in the medical malpractice covered within this case, forced sterilization of poor women and adolescent girls within the same year that the Tuskegee case gained notoriety, the reader holds a vantage point on the injustice felt within this time period while also understanding the contemplation behind several aspects of the Black community. 

As an avid reader who meanders through a higher than average amount of books every year, I’ve found that I’m able to best ground myself in books—even when I work through them in quick succession—when they’re aligned with supplemental media. This holds true with my experience reading Take My Hand which is told from the perspective of an upper middle class Black woman, Civil Townsend. Her parents are a doctor and artist, and she lands her first job as a nurse servicing poor Black families in rural Alabama right after gaining her certifications and degree. Through this job Civil is introduced to the lack of care provided to the Williams sisters— Erica, 13 and India, 11—who have both been receiving birth control shots from the government-funded Montgomery Family Planning Clinic where she feels great pride working at. This pride begins to shrink as she realizes that neither sister is sexually active and that India is not even eligible for birth control. The shock of learning this parallels Civil’s astonishment at the conditions the Williams family lives under—namely living on a white man’s property whom the father provides labor for in exchange for the one-room shack that the father, two sisters, and their grandmother are forced to share. Coincidentally, my YouTube algorithm recently recommended a video wherein a Black reporter and genealogist travel to rural Georgia where they find a man living in similar conditions in the present-day. Having watched this video roughly three weeks prior to reading Take My Hand, I was able to grasp the level of dismay, then recognition that not only are there levels of privilege that keep us from seeing how little has changed over time (in 2022 and for Civil in 1973) but also that as time goes on we lose connection with people as we embrace ‘modernity’—often truly whiteness disguised as progress. The way Civil interacts with the Williams family after learning about their situation reminds me a lot of my experience learning about family history from a great aunt who is currently researching our family’s history. She learned that some of our family lived with a white family after emancipation in Tennessee, though she remains unsure about what the nature of the living arrangement was, as it does not seem to be a typical sharecropping arrangement. In watching the video and reading Take My Hand, I’ve come to a better understanding of what that could look like and what it means for where we are now.

With passages like: 

My daddy had made sure that I was educated not only in my books but also, as he had once described it, in the code that dictated our lives in Alabama. Knowing when to keep your mouth shut. Picking your battles. Letting them think what they wanted because you weren’t going to change their minds about certain things.

Now, you know how some white folks feel about Black bodies. They think we can tolerate pain better than them. According to some of these documents I’m about to show you, some of them even thought syphilis couldn’t kill us. It was as much an experiment about the effects of the disease as it was a crazy white man’s idea of a laboratory game with Black bodies.

While I admired his demeanor, it was still difficult for me to listen to Lou declare that Mace and his mother had been outsmarted by Mrs. Seager. Yes, it was true, neither of them could read, but his portrayal of them as simple country people whose priority was day-to-day survival fell short. These people were smarter than that. Mrs. Williams could put a piece of sweet potato pie in her mouth and know exactly how much nutmeg was used. Mace could stick his finger in the soil and tell you what would and would not grow in it, could recall the name of trees I had never even known existed. They were more than illiterate farmers, more than victims who’d been duped by the federal government. They were a family who, given other opportunities, could have accomplished much more.

Take My Hand showcases the agency and wherewithal that Black people approach injustice with, a theme throughout the novel. Prejudices could easily lead Civil to remain in a mindset of privilege but her instincts and the support group around her keeps her from invalidating the experiences of others.

Civil’s growing understanding as a fresh college graduate reminds me so much of how my friends and I grew in understanding of the injustices wrought against Black people, possibly including our relatives, while also feeling that we stood on a level of professional proficiency that simultaneously holds us responsible for maintaining knowledge of the world around us and sharing it with people who may not have the same access to veritable information. As the book moves on, Civil’s attachment to the sisters goes from one of disillusionment and guilt to checked savior complex and love. Her emotional detachment from a love interest and other important people in her life makes her relationship with the Williams family that much more intense and seems unsustainable right up to the one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the book. By showing us flashes of the thoughts that continue to plague Civil in 2016 after the events of 1973 have led her down a path she resisted, we see that the guilt she carries for what happens to the Williams’ is wrapped up in her love and sense of justice. This mixture of love, guilt, and justice is pervasive in each of Civil’s important relationships—including her relationship with herself. Perkins-Valdez keeps this aspect of her character consistent throughout the story and Civil’s development as a character, which makes Civil feel like someone the reader knows. With the supporting characters similarly realized in the novel, one can’t help but feel you’ve been dropped into these families’ lives chapter after chapter. 

I would be remiss if I did not warn you that this book is not for anyone seeking a light-hearted read. Take My Hand swims in the deep issues surrounding medicine, Black people, and poverty. 

Pick up this book:
if the content warnings and review do not put you off;
if you want representation of many facets of Blackness not long after the passage of multiple Civil Rights amendments in the U.S.; 
if you want a starting point for discussion with the relatives you know who lived through this period;
if you’re used to embracing the harsh realities of what being voiceless in a country that does not care about who it oppresses looks like;
if you have a strong sense of justice and love for community.

Take My Hand is an April 2022 release that already feels like one of my favorites of the year. I do not often feel this represented by any form of media. Somehow this wondrous novel has found a way to represent pieces of me that I did not know needed light.
Was this review helpful?
“I had a hand in breaking all of this. I had to have a hand in fixing it.”

Civil has started her new job as a nurse at the Clinic. At her first off site visit, she is shocked to see how Erica and India are living, and horrified when she finds out she gave a birth control shot to an 11 year old that hasn’t even started her period yet. When some questions come up about the safety of the shots, Civil decides to take matters into her own hands to help the girls and their family. No good deed goes unpunished however, and when her boss sees what she has done, the consequences for the young girls are horrifying. Now Civil must fight to make sure what happens to them never happens to anyone else.

Talk about a book that will make you cry and infuriate you all at the same time. I really loved Civil, and definitely saw where she was coming from in wanting to give India and Erica a better life. I feel like I would have done the same thing, but the consequences of those actions were just absolutely heartbreaking. It is so infuriating to think that these things really happened, and honestly, not that long ago. This is one I think everyone should read, if only to understand the horrific things that have been done to the poor, and specifically the Black poor in this country. Civil was so full of love and empathy and I think everyone could learn something from her.
Was this review helpful?
Well, this was a great book. Obviously an emotional read but it's so important to read these stories. Being (a younger) Canadian, this particular case of sterilization was never taught in our history classes so I learned a lot from this book. I will definitely be recommending this title.

Thanks to Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for the chance to read an advanced copy.
Was this review helpful?
This was a beautiful book. Unfortunately, it filled me with sadness but it was a story that needed telling. This story also served as a history lesson for me because I was unaware of the original courtcase of legalized sterilization.

 Each character was well-developed by the author. I felt as if these were people I knew, which made it all the more difficult as I got to the end.

Thanks to the publisher for the gifted e-ARC.
Was this review helpful?
10/10 for the subject matter, 5/10 for the execution. I learned so much reading this book about a horrifying and unknown to me piece of US history. As this country awaits the Supreme Court verdict on the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a book about women’s healthcare and reproductive rights could not be more timely, and it cast an eerie shadow over the whole book (in a good way). However, I found the actual execution of the book sadly lacking, and I was bored for the majority of the book. I didn’t feel like we got to know Civil at all. Why was she even writing this all down for Anne? It just unfortunately didn’t work for me. I still recommend the book for the subject matter and hope that I’m in the minority here.
Was this review helpful?
{@BerkleyPub #gifted. Thank you for my free copy to read and share}⁣

My overall reading during the last couple of years has not included many historical fiction novels, I just could not get into them. And so when I kept seeing some of my trusted book recommendation sources proclaiming this was a five start read, I knew Take My Hand would be my next read. 

Given that this is a fictionalized account of actual events, this book proved to be a deeply powerful (and sometimes quite uncomfortable) look at inequality and the rights of reproductive consent. Books like this are so important, because as we all know too well, "...history repeats what we don’t remember". 

Take My Hand is deeply empathetic but also a blunt reminder of how we may feel like we know what's best for someone else, when we haven't ever walked a day in their shoes. It explores responsibility, the power of CHOICE and is a raw and unfiltered look at human rights.⁣
⁣
I finished this book last week and I know it will truly be a book I will never forget. It would also make an incredibly powerful book club discussion.
Was this review helpful?
Wow! What a fantastic story and amazing historical fiction novel. Take My Hand is heartbreaking and heart warming at the same time as it tells the story based on true events of the sterilization of poor women of color the south in the 1970’s. What Civil was willing to do for her patients to bring this atrocious crime to an end was so powerful and inspiring!

Take My Hand has robust characters and a effortless storytelling style that made this novel immersive and hard to put down. I enjoyed reading about how Civil and  her patient’s relationships deepened over time, and also learning about this injustice from the past. Touching on a lot of tough subjects, while still maintaining the softness if a fictional story, this is a novel you won’t want to miss!

I received a free digital copy from the publisher, all opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Having recently finished “Take My Hand” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, I am happy to have had the chance for the e-copy; thank you NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group!  

This is a story that informed me of events from the past that I never learned about in history class and was too young to be aware of at the time. I am so grateful for fiction novels, inspired by actual facts, like this one. Without them, or the extensive Author’s Notes and research, I would remain in the dark about some of the sad and disturbing injustices that occurred, and continue to occur, in our society. Medical ethics and racism remain a concern today, and this novel reminds anyone reading it to be aware… and to care.

“Our bodies belonged to us. Poor, disabled, it didn’t matter. These were our bodies, and we had the right to decide what to do with them.”
Was this review helpful?
"I had a hand in breaking all of this. I had to have a hand in fixing it."

When does helping become controlling? When does loving become smothering? When does zeal become interference? How does one do what one knows is best without crossing the line? Civil Townsend, a 23-year-old nurse in the Montgomery Alabama of 1973 has to figure all that out. Working for a federally funded family planning clinic, Civil is one of several nurses responsible for administering Depo-Provera shots to young women patients. The Williams family is her first case. They live in a cabin that is little more than a shack on a farmer’s property, Mace, the father, Mrs Williams, his mother, and two girls, Erica and India. Civil does her job, but after having administered the shots learns that neither eleven-year-old India nor thirteen-year-old Erika has had her first period. In fact, neither of the girls has even kissed a boy yet. So why are they receiving birth-control shots? She learns as well that there are questions about the safety of the shots, which had been found to cause cancer in test animals. She starts looking into what might be done about this. 

Civil has the hard-charging enthusiasm of a rookie, eager to do all in her power to help those in need. Her background is nothing like that of her patients. Her father is a doctor, and her mother an artist. They raised her to do good, even named her for their aspirations of achieving civil rights for black people.

"Civil learns how hard it is to go up against authority
She is complicated. She does not always do the right thing. She stumbles in her zeal". - from the Politics and Prose interview

Civil does everything she can to help the family, gets them some public services, a decent place to live, schooling. And she has an impact, but, on a day when Civil is not working, the head nurse at the clinic tricks the family into signing papers agreeing to the girls’ sterilization. Civil’s alarm turns to rage, and then to fighting for change, so this outrage can never happen again to other unsuspecting girls and young women. 

It is 1973, only a year since the infamous, forty-years-long Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment was finally shut down. In that one, hundreds of black men were supposedly being treated for syphilis, but in fact no one was being treated. Of the four hundred who were diagnosed with the disease, one hundred died of syphilis directly or complications from the disease. Dozens of wives were infected, and children were born already afflicted. All this, to see how syphilis ran its course in the untreated.

Civil’s activity gets a lawsuit started locally. But soon a young civil rights lawyer, Lou Feldman, is brought in. He transforms it into a national cause célèbre, as the case shifts from looking at the individual harm done to the Williams family to the national disgrace of the forced sterilization of tens thousands.

"Our research reveals that over the past few years, nearly one hundred fifty thousand low-income women from all over the nation have been sterilized under federally funded programs."

He wants the laws changed, to end this practice. It is a huge concern for the Black community, but the novel makes clear that there were other groups who were victimized by this heinous practice. 

The story take place in two, very unequal timelines. The frame is Civil at sixty-seven, a doctor in 2016, returning to Montgomery after a long absence to see the Williams girls. India is dying. This offers us an ongoing where-are-they-now report. The bulk of the novel takes place in 1973 and immediately after. 

Civil struggles with her guilt over having played a part in this horror. It is clear that the notions that had supported legislators allowing such things were not entirely unfamiliar. Civil talks with Lou about the history of eugenics.

"'So the idea was what . . . to stop us from having children because we were inferior?' I whispered.
'Well, the ideas were often aimed at specific populations that included Black people, yes. But also the poor, the mentally retarded, the disabled, the insane…' Mrs. Seager probably put the girls in three of these misguided categories: poor, Black, and mentally unfit. Had I done the same? I had initially deemed the girls unfit to be mothers, too. Because they were poor and Black. Because they were young. Because they were illiterate. My head spun with shame.
'Did they target poor white folks, too?' Ty asked.
Lou nodded. “Back in 1927, the US Supreme Court ruled that compulsory sterilization of people deemed unfit was constitutional. People in asylums all over this country were sterilized.'"

Perkins-Valdez offers a most welcome maturity of perspective. Lou, a young, white lawyer, is viewed with suspicion to begin, but earns the community’s trust with his dedication, brilliance, grueling work habits, and effectiveness. He is lauded as a hero, while Mrs Seager, the head nurse, is shown as a flawed person who, though she was doing something terrible, thought she was doing the right thing. Characters take or avoid difficult decisions for understandable reasons. Even a black Tuskegee librarian whom Civil admires has a hard time understanding how she did not see what was going on right under her nose. There is very little good vs evil going on here in the character portrayals, only in the broader horror of a dark-hearted, racist and classist policy. 

One of the many joys of the book is the portrayal of a time and place. There are details that add to the touch and feel.

"The first thing that hit me was the odor. Urine. Body funk. Dog. All mixed with the stench of something salty stewing in a pot. A one-room house encased in rotted boards. A single window with a piece of sheet hanging over it. It was dark except for the sun streaming through the screen door and peeking through the holes in the walls. As my eyes adjusted, I saw that there were clothes piled on the bed, as if somebody had stopped by and dumped them. Pots, pans, and shoes lay strewn about on the dirt floor. Flies buzzed and circled the air. Four people lived in one room, and there wasn’t enough space. A lot of people in Montgomery didn’t have running water, but this went beyond that. I had to fight back vomit."

Some are more cultural, like the perceptions middle class black people in Montgomery had of poor black people, and the less fraught parallel football culture in which Alabama vs Auburn, followed by white people, is replaced for the black population with Alabama A&M vs Alabama State. News to me. We also get a taste of the segregation of the time, how bathroom accessibility while on the road could be problematic for those of the wrong skin color, how a beach that used to be open to all, and featured black-owned businesses, now required one to pay a park ranger and display a piece of paper on your car, the businesses now long gone. 

The case on which Perkins-Valdez based her novel was a real one, Relf vs Weinberger, filed in July, 1973 in Washington D.C. by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Joseph Levin, one of the Center’s founders, was the young lawyer who prosecuted the case.

"Mary Alice was 14 and Minnie was 12 when they became victims of the abusive practice of sterilizing poor, black women in the South. Their mother, who had very little education and was illiterate, signed an "X" on a piece of paper, expecting her daughters, who were both mentally disabled, would be given birth control shots. Instead, the young women were surgically sterilized and robbed of their right to ever bear children of their own." - from the SPLC

The story ultimately is about the horror of forced sterilization on poor black people and other classes deemed unfit to breed. You will learn a lot about a crime against humanity that was perpetrated by our own government, and the story of how this injustice was fought. But if the story does not engage, you may not get the benefit of the new knowledge it delivers. Thankfully, there need be no concern on that score. While we may echo the commentary of others to Civil that she did not bear any responsibility for what was done, that her guilt was helping no one, here is a very full-bodied portrait, of a flawed character. One who makes mistakes. A young person who has not yet learned when to push forward, when to take a step back. We see her learning this and can applaud when she takes steps in the proper direction. We also get to see the difficult family dynamic she must negotiate with her own parents, the burden of expectation that has been fitted to her broad shoulders, and the challenge of loving the Williams family, but not too much. And we have a front row seat to her relationships, her struggles, with friends and colleagues. 

Take My Hand is a wonderful addition to the Perkins-Valdez oeuvre, begun with her outstanding 2009 novel, Wench, and followed by Balm in 2015. She has a fourth in the works, due to her publisher in October 2022, set in early 1900s North Carolina. So maybe a 2023 release? 

A helping hand is often that, kindly meant, but maybe, sometimes, before you put your hand in another’s, you might want to know where it has been, and where it might be taking you. If the hand is attached to Dolen Perklins-Valdez, grasp it and hold on. It will take you somewhere wonderful.

"I had never known that good intentions could be just as destructive as bad ones."

Review posted – April 22, 2022

Publication date – April 12, 2022

I received an ARE of Take my Hand from Berkley in return for a fair review. Thanks to Elisha K., and thanks to NetGalley for facilitating. 

To see the entire review, with links and all, please head over to my site, Coots Reviews, or Goodreads
Was this review helpful?
This was such a powerful read! Based on real events, the book focuses on Civil Townsend, a young Black nurse, recently graduated and her role in the forced sterilization of two young girls in Montgomery, Alabama. 

Told in alternating timelines of 1973 and 2016, we get to learn about Civil's early career working for a Family Planning Clinic handing out birth control to mainly poor, rural Black women. Two of her first patients are young sisters, India and Erica. Neither girl has even begun menstruating but the fear is they could be taken advantage of so the government takes it upon themselves to help prevent unwanted pregnancies, using misinformation to deceive the girls' family.

It was eye-opening getting such a detailed look at this dark part of women's reproductive history - the injustices of which are still happening today. The author does such a good job humanizing the characters and basing the story on actual cases. I especially loved the author's note included at the end where she says:

"My hope is that this novel will provoke discussions about culpability in a society that still deems poor, Black and disabled as categories unfit for motherhood. In a world inundated by information about these tragedies and more, I still passionately believe in the power of the novel and its readers to raise the alarm, influence hearts and impact lives."

Perfect for fans of books like Heather Marshall's Looking for Jane and great on audio too narrated by Lauren J. Daggett. Much thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my advance digital copy in exchange for and honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a gripping, important book, but brutally difficult to read.

Civil Townsend narrates the tale in two timelines. In 2016, she is a middle-aged Black OB-GYN, looking back and trying to make sense of her life. In 1973, she is a newly-graduated nurse, determined to help people. Her first job, at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, initially seemed perfect. Knowing firsthand the importance of reproductive health, of reproductive choice, she believes in the mission: giving Black women living in poverty some control over their bodies and their futures.

Unfortunately, the clinic was not what it seemed. Early on, Civil was assigned to give birth control shots to two sisters – hormone treatments that had not been FDA-approved. Worse, the sisters were 11 and 13 years old and were not sexually active. The opinion of the head of the clinic, a white woman who saw herself as a do-gooder, was that if they weren’t yet, they soon would be, based on their race.

Civil is appalled by their living conditions. She inserts herself into their lives, finds them government housing, supplements their food stamps, buys them clothes, even teaches their father to read. Her intentions are good. But...

The sisters are essentially abducted from their home by the clinic supervisor and sterilized without informed consent. 

When Civil finds out, she seeks justice for the girls. With the help of a family friend, the other clinic nurses, and an idealistic young white lawyer, a lawsuit is filed against the clinic. However, as they uncover information about the scope of the government’s forced sterilization project, the lawyer takes on the Federal government instead. Tens of thousands of women of color were forcibly sterilized.

The novel dramatizes these events in a horrifying fashion. Yet there is nuance to the story. Civil, too, realizes that she steps across boundaries she shouldn’t in her eagerness to help.

There is a lot to absorb in this novel. It’s based on true historical events. Because the history is so recent, it’s raw and difficult to take in. Difficult too are comparisons with ongoing efforts to restrict women’s access to reproductive health and to deny women bodily autonomy.

In some ways, the book reminds me of The Illness Lesson, another novel where young women were exploited and used as guinea pigs. So much trauma.

Even though it’s difficult to read, Take My Hand is not to be missed.
Was this review helpful?
In the 1970s, nurse Civil hopes to make a difference for the African American community by working at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic. There, she hopes to educate women about how to make their own birth control choices, but what happens when she discovers that women and even young girls are being coerced into using it?

"Medicine has taught me, really taught me, to accept the things I cannot change."

Based on a true story and court case (Reif v. Weinberger), this story about nurse Civil and her patients, 13 year old Erica and 11 year old India, was disheartening and disturbing. How or why would anyone think they have the right, the GALL, to take away the reproductive rights for anyone else?

If I hadn't already read a book about this subject matter, Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain (4 stars), then I think I would have found this story more powerful. For this reason, the ultimate misdeed done to Erica and India wasn't as shocking of a revelation for me as it might be for other readers. From the very first pages, I'd guessed it was coming. Regardless, this was a terrible time in U.S. history, and it's important for it to remembered. At the end, the author notes that unfortunately, this atrocity occurred yet again in California on female prisoners from 2006-2010 and on immigrants in 2020.

Location: Montgomery, Alabama

I received an advance copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
I had learned about forced sterilization of people of color in college and reading this book put my classroom knowledge to good use. I also learned a ton.

Take My Hand follows Civil Townsend, a new nurse, in her first post-grad job at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic. She’s soon assigned to care for Erica and India. The girls are only 11 and 13, but Civil is tasked with ensuring the girls stay on birth control. The more and more involved in their lives she becomes, the more she realizes that something is wrong.

Then one day, the unthinkable happens, and her morals are put to the test.

Perkins-Valdez does an amazing job setting up the story, crafting the characters, and pacing the story. I loved how we really got into Civil’s head and were able to really know the characters.

I could tell a ton of research and love went into this novel, and hope those that pick it up sense that too. This is a super important book about a part of history that isn’t super well known.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book from start to finish. It pulls you in from the very first word. Take My Hand is a true tale of two sisters which is loosely based on the Relf sisters experience with involuntary sterilization. This is a horrible thing to be done to anyone, but especially children. The author does a phenomenal job telling this story. So much so, that it inspired me to do some research on the Relf sister. If you are into fiction stories based on real people and situations then this is the book for you!
Was this review helpful?
Take My Hand is inspired by the real-life Relf v. Weinberger, a 1973 court case that sought restitution for the forced non-consensual sterilization and medical experimentation on three young Black American girls in Montgomery, Alabama. The novel imagines the inciting events through the eyes of a nurse working for the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic. This is a novel to shed light on this period in history and to prompt conversation about medical ethics and racism. It is a well-written book with richly drawn characters and nuanced exploration of right and wrong. In a perfect blend of history and fiction, Dolen Perkins-Valdez has created an entertaining, enlightening, provocative read. 

[Thanks to Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for an opportunity to read an advanced reader copy of this book.]
Was this review helpful?
This is an excellent book that I think everyone needs to read.  It is inspired by true events that took place in the early 1970's. Having been born in the 1980's, I was unaware of the forced sterilization that took place in the 70's, which was primarily forced on young, poor and Black women and girls.  I was shocked to read about the things that took place, especially knowing it was based on true events.  I was even more shocked to read the author's note and learn that sterilization is still being forced on women, even as recently as 2020.  

The book is told in dual timelines, focusing most heavily on the 1970's timeline.  It tells the story of Civil Townsend, a nurse who is working for a local clinic in Montgomery, Alabama.  She thinks she is helping women in the community, with the story primarily focusing on her treatment of and relationship with two young girls, India and Erica.  I won't go into too much detail, but it is truly a heartbreaking story that you will find yourself wishing was fiction.  

Take My Hand is a very engrossing book that will make you feel some strong emotions.  It really tackles issues both big and small, including having to learn that even when trying to help someone, it's not up to you to decide what is best for them.  

I thought the characters were written with depth and grace and the relationships in this book were very realistic, believable and emotionally charged.  This book made me feel, and I enjoyed every moment of it.  The only thing I would've liked is a little more time with the ending, in the last "present day" (2016) chapter.  But that's not a complaint; rather, it's a compliment that I liked the book so much I wish it had gone on a little longer. 

Thank you to Berkley Books and NetGalley for the e-arc in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?