Take My Hand: Book summary and reviews of Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Take My Hand

by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez X
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
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Book Summary

Inspired by true events that rocked the nation, a profoundly moving novel about a Black nurse in post-segregation Alabama who blows the whistle on a terrible wrong done to her patients, from the New York Times bestselling author of Wench.

Montgomery, Alabama, 1973. Fresh out of nursing school, Civil Townsend has big plans to make a difference, especially in her African American community. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she intends to help women make their own choices for their lives and bodies.

But when her first week on the job takes her down a dusty country road to a worn-down one-room cabin, she's 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 the 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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In her newest novel, Dolen Perkins-Valdez probes the many ways institutional racism and classism inflicts lasting scars, especially on young Black women—and the grace, courage, and love needed to begin to heal those wounds. Deeply empathetic yet unflinching in its gaze, Take My Hand is an unforgettable exploration of responsibility and redemption, the dangers of good intentions, and the folly of believing anyone can decide what's best for another's life." - Celeste Ng, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere

"Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a brilliant writer in a class all by herself. I love her voice and how she makes the past feel immediate and relevant, because it is." - Terry McMillan, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"Take My Hand is a gem: one of those rare and beautiful novels that walks the balance beam of heartbreak and hope.  Dolen Perkins-Valdez demonstrates once again the way she can breathe life into history through fiction that adds deep and profound meaning to the past — and makes its relevance to the present meaningful and clear." - Chris Bohjalian, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of The Flight Attendant and Hour of the Witch

"Perkins-Valdez's latest is a piercing look into a shameful moment in America's history, and could not be more timely. Her electrifying, masterful novel brims with fierce compassion and deserves attention and accolades galore. I will be recommending it to everyone I know." - Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue

"This powerful novel finds the humanity in one of the most inhumane chapters of American history. Take My Hand will enrage you. It will illuminate you. It just might redeem you. In the process, it will take your breath away. I don't say this often, but it's a must-read." - Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet


About the Author
Dolen Perkins-Valdez is the New York Times bestselling author of Wench and Balm. She was a finalist for two NAACP Image Awards and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction, and was awarded the First Novelist Award by the Black Caucus of the ALA.

This information about Take My Hand shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Ashleigh P. (Round Hill, VA)

As beautifully written as it is heartbreaking...
Take My Hand is a gut-wrenching fictionalized account of the almost unbelievable Relf v. Weinberger case – a modern nightmare bathed in racism, sexism, elitism, and ableism. The government was funding the sterilization of young women, some minors, primarily BIPOC, and mostly without their explicit consent under the guise of public good. The story is told through a first person account of a wealthy black nurse, new to her career, and utterly horrified by what she witnesses on the job.

The author, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, wrote such a compelling narrative that at times you forget who the first-person voice is because you feel what each character must be feeling so deeply. She has developed a thorough cast of characters to give a voice to this United States' atrocity. Her descriptions are raw, real and devoid of sugar-coating.

This is a novel that you will not be able to put down. This is a novel that will make you sick to your stomach. This is a novel that will make you cry. It will keep you up at night. Take My Hand is as beautifully written as it is heartbreaking.

Maureen M. (Springfield, OH)

Why was it allowed to happen?
Take My Hand is a memorable, thought-provoking tale with characters you will care about. It is a piece of historical fiction that speaks to the creation of wrongful norms and how they are changed. The opening of this story gave me pause because I feared it was a story about abortion and pro-choice but that's not the case.

Readers will come to know two young black sisters from Alabama who experienced a horrible injustice that took place in 1973…I was shocked to learn that kind of horrible wrong was allowed to happen as recently as 1973. Knowing that truth gave me deeper insight into the past and made me wonder how I would react to terrible injustices and daily disrespect. What kind of person would I be? A great read for book clubs!

While the story will break your heart, it will also renew your faith through the main character's deep commitment to creating a better world.

Shey C. (Morristown, TN)

Great historical fiction
This book is heart wrenching. It is fiction but highlights the inequalities women if color face, this time in the healthcare system. It is beautifully written, and stresses the importance of remembering the past.

Sheila B. (Danvers, MA)

An Important Story From the Jim Crow South
Take My Hand tells an important, and sadly, still timely story of the inequality and unevenness of how poor, uneducated minorities are treated in the USA. Written from the perspective of a privileged young black recent graduate of nursing school during the tumultuous '60s, and her experience with two young girls whose dirt poor illiterate guardians are taken advantage of and used for medical experimentation. Assumptions and decisions are made for them that have permanent life altering effects. Reminiscent of the Henrietta Lacks story, this book will educate you and stay with you for a long time to come.

Jennie W. (Denver, CO)

Must Read
Take My Hand is a must read. It delves into the history of forced sterilization on young, poor, black women. Based on true events, the author does an amazing job of bringing this real history to life. The story is told through the eyes of Civil Townsend, a young, black nurse who becomes entwined in her two patients' lives. The two sisters become more than just patients, they become family to Civil and she takes it upon herself to help them in more ways than even she thought possible. The book is split between 1973 and 2016 as Civil tells the story to her daughter. The only criticism I would have is that the 2016 story does not have as much emotion as the 1973 story. But this could be intentional, as Civil tends to keep her feelings bottle up inside.

Jo S. (Tonganoxie, KS)

Betrayed
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.

...37 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Dolen Perkins-Valdez is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Wench. Her fiction has appeared in The Kenyon Review, StoryQuarterly, StorySouth, and elsewhere. In 2011, she was a finalist for two NAACP Image Awards and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction. She was also awarded the First Novelist Award by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Dolen received a DC Commission on the Arts Grant for her second novel Balm. Dolen teaches in the Stonecoast MFA program in Maine. A graduate of Harvard and a former University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA, Dolen lives in Washington, DC with her family.

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