Cover Image: Take My Hand

Take My Hand

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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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Take My Hand is realistic fiction at its best.  A black nurse in 1970’s Montgomery Alabama takes a job at a family planning clinic where she becomes a beacon of hope for her poverty stricken patients.  Soon, she discovers she is giving injections of a controversial birth control drug, Depo-Provera, to girls and teens.  The nurse is Civil Townsend, and she wants to improve the lives of her patients, not realizing that her role is creating medical consequences for the young ladies. Ms Townsend is an excellent role model as she refuses to give more of the drug.  She also continues her personal schooling to become a doctor, which is admirable. Still today, Depo-Provera has not been approved for use in America because of its link to breast cancer.  This novel is based on actual events.
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Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez was a profound, enlightening and heartbreaking book. I will never be the same after reading this book. 

We have learned that many things in our history as a nation are unforgivable but yet they happened. We cannot forget these things otherwise, they may be repeated. Back in the early 70's it came out that our government run agencies for women were distributing birth control for women of color and poor families. In many instances women were sterilized without proper informed consent. In this book two young girls ages 11 and 13 were sterilized because they were poor and black even though they were not sexually active. There were more than 70,000 women who were victims of this abuse. I'm heartbroken that there are people who felt they knew what was best for the future of these women. 

I was a young adult back then and for the life of me I can't remember this happening or the trial that took place. We can't forget these things. This broke the summer after we learned of the Tuskegee experiments. How could this happen in our great nation? This is a book I will never forget. It has changed me for the better. 

I would highly recommend this book. Although, it is Fiction, it is based on a trial and a sad part of our American history. I hope you take some time to look up Relf v. Weinberger and another trial Buck v. Bell. You will be astounded.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from #BookBrowse #Netgalley and #BerkleyPublishingGroup. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Have you ever been so moved that you took to action? In Take My Hand, (inspired by true events) Civil Townsend becomes the catalyst for one of the biggest cases in American courts. This outstanding book holds no punches when relating another American tragedy propelled by Racism. 

The author did an amazing job at identifying all the issues, portraying all the feelings and delivering the facts to readers like myself who were unaware of the events in Mobile, Al. 

That this book should surface now as history is somewhat repeating itself is incredible. I was struck by the powerful feelings it evoked in me as I read. I kept asking myself “how” and “why” but at the same time thinking “yet” and “again”.  

I hope this book and this author get a lot of attention. Dolen Perkins-Valdez is as brave and courageous as her character Civil. As  This book needs to be read by everyone and shared again and again so that it’s powerful message ignites women everywhere to stand up for what’s right and just and fair.
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The story starts with Civil who is a nurse and her father a doctor. During 1970 abortion. Clinicis sent nurse around to homes in the South. This takes place in Alabama. Many poor young girls and mothers were sterilized not knowing this. This really is a story of our time with all that is going on. Civil meets two poor young girls ,Erica and India. Their mother is dead and they live with their dad and grandmother. These girls were unknowingly sterilized. What happens is so heartbreaking but probably so true ,A story that will stay with me forever! Extremely well written  and tears at your heart strings.
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This novel based on real events addresses a terrible injustice in our recent history that resonates in the present day. Set in 1973, it is the story of two poor Black girls who are sterilized without their consent, told through the perspective of a nurse who unwittingly becomes involved in their plight. 

Civil Townsend, a nurse at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, is from a well-to-do Black family, with a father who is a doctor and a home in the affluent Centennial Hill neighborhood. She is shocked to visit a family living in a dilapidated shack on a white man’s farm. She seems naive at first, despite her education and background, and goes along with giving birth control shots to girls who are 11 and 13. But when she learns they have been subjected to irreversible surgery, she is consumed with guilt that affects the rest of her life. 

The weight of the incident is shown to impact others to varying degrees, from the girls and their family, to the nurse who accompanied them to the hospital, down to the daughter of the white supervisor who ordered the surgery, haunted by her family legacy. The lawyer from the Southern Poverty Law Center is thoughtfully portrayed, and his potential role as a white savior is touched upon and rejected. 

While this is a fictional story with invented characters, some participants in the real events appear, including Senator Edward Kennedy and HEW Secretary Casper Weinberger, the defendant in the actual case. I had read something about involuntary sterilization in Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain, so it was interesting to learn about the case that brought the matter to national attention. As the author notes, the issue is relevant today in prisons and immigrant detention centers, and reproductive justice for Black women remains unequal. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.
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Thanks to BookBrowse and NetGalley for the digital loan of, Take My Hand, by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. 


Moving between the years of 2016 and 1973,, Civil Townsend is a young black nurse in her first job at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic.   This is a Federal agency that was free and whose clients were largely from poor black families.  The patients became fair game to the decisions of the government programs. They took advantage of the poor, knowing that many were illiterate due to not having the opportunities that others get. Sterilization operations for women and minor children of poverty-stricken families, particularly poor black families that was happening is abhorrent.  

In later life, Civil is telling her daughter about her past history.  She tells her about the Williams family  she became involved with due to her job at the the clinic. The two young black girls and their family fall upon this atrocity of our government making decisions that they deem necessary. 

This is inspired by true events and would be a profound book club read that would make for a tremendous discussion.
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As in many other fine novels about the south, the importance of remembering the past is stressed in Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez; in the very first paragraph, the narrator describes her story as "a reminder to never forget." And that story is a horrific one, made more appalling by the fact that it is based in truth—as any reader who reads the jacket material will know beforehand.

Moving between 2016 and 1973, first person narrator Civil Townsend tells the story of an experience some fifty years in her past that continues to haunt her life and to influence every decision she makes. The setting is Montgomery, Alabama, 1973, a time and place still steeped in prejudice and racial injustice. Civil is a young black nurse stepping into her first job at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, a Federal agency whose clients were mostly from poor black families.

The setting created by Perkins-Valdez is remarkable for its verisimilitude. A native Montgomerian myself, I was quickly drawn back to 1973, to a Montgomery inhabited by black families, many of them impoverished, a few relatively affluent; and by white people, many motivated by ingrained, often paternalistic, racism, others by idealistic passion for bringing real change to Alabama. The well-paced narrative moving between past and present kept me immersed in the unfolding events and in the development of Civil's character as she struggled to deal with them. And the theme of the destroying presence of racial and sexual injustice and its enduring impact on those caught up in it is as timely now as it was forty-eight years ago.

Take My Hand should be read and appreciated and remembered, not only because it is based on a significant landmark case that advanced women's fight for the right to control their own bodies, but also because it is a well written, compelling, highly readable novel. Anyone who enjoys reading southern fiction, reading about the civil rights movement and/or the women's movement, or just reading a good novel with strong character development and a heartrending plot should immediately add Take My Hand to their TBR.
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Thank you, Netgalley, for an ARC of Take My Hand. I hope the published edition includes author’s notes telling of the research conduct to tell this story. This fiction novel feels so authentic. It tells, with intimacy and compassion, about the horrific policy in the 1970s of sterilizing young, poor, black women in Alabama. These young women and girls were mutilated without their knowledge or informed consent. In Take My Hand, a string black nurse organizes a movement to hold the powerful white lawmakers to account and through her actions she brings about enormous changes. Although a work of fiction, I was reminded of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Our protagonist, Civil Townsend, is constantly made to tackle with the issue of doing good deeds that sometimes bring about unwanted outcomes. An older Civil is telling her daughter about her past. She was very young in this story and many of her actions and feelings show her immaturity. But as she matures, she can see her behaviors more objectively. Are acts of goodness altruistic or sometimes selfish? The characters come alive in this novel and I think you’ll love them as much as I did.
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